Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Old Dame From Brooklyn

Hey, guess what?

People were twats yesterday. 


Hard to believe that on a sweltering, humid New York City day at the end of June, the streets became a bubbling cesspool of hostility and displaced resentment? 

And I was right in the thick of it? 



Why am I spacing out my sentences this way? 

I don't know, it feels right!

Let me start the story, but first, a quote from the late, great, Dr. Suess:

What? Dr. Suess didn't say that? Oh. 

I've said this before - I'm not a religious man, by any means. Though, the older I get, the more I believe in there being an equalizer of sorts, something to restore balance whenever things get a little too lopsided. I see and deal with a lot of shit, but you know that by now. Though every once in a blue, something will fall on my lap to assure that everything will be okay. Some are less obvious (see here) (or here), and some make me straight-up question my faith (or lack thereof ). 

Yesterday was, yet again, a piece of shit day on the grotesque human behavior-front. If you've been reading this blog long enough, you don't need me to spell out what a bad day looks like for me, so I'll provide a little highlight reel of the things that happened less than two hours into my shift:

- A cabbie, a regular whom I'm very friendly with, got into a verbal spat with one of the hotel's town car drivers. As I loaded the guests, an already frightened German mother and son, into the town car, the 6'5 Haitian blocked them in with his taxi so he could continue whatever worthless little fight they'd been having. 

Apparently, while I wasn't there, the 5'3 Panamanian town car driver stood up to the big guy, telling to go fuck himself when the cabbie tried to bully him out of his parking spot. Good for him. The cabbie, still hot from the incident, refused to let the town car driver pull away with my guests in the car, fucking petrified

I intervened, because I had to get my guests out of there before the situation escalated into full-blown fisticuffs. All I wanted to do was defuse the situation and get rid of the people who had just stiffed me, but it's never that easy:


Doorman - "Dude, dude, dude! Let him get out. You can fight about it next time! There's people in the car!"

He ignores me keeps yelling. 


No bull shit - he went from threatening murder, to threatening to call the police in the the same breath. 

Doorman - "MY MAN!"

He looks at me. 

Doorman - "Please! Let it go. There are guests in the car and he can't get out. This isn't resolving anything."

It's nice being the diplomat, once in a while. 


Well, that's not the way you make allies. 

Doorman - "This is my business. He's our driver, with our guest in the car."

Cabbie - "GO DO YOUR JOB!!!"

More yelling between the two of them ensued, then finally another cabbie intervened and got him to move back. 

It was embarrassing - those two guests in the car, having the last moment of their New York City vacation be ruined by a bunch of street hustlers having a turf war. 

Oh, wait!!! I don't give a fuck about that! I want to confront him about how he spoke to me. 

As he vented to the other cabbie about what had happened, I ran over:

Doorman - "Hey, asshole..."

He turns to me, a fire still in his eyes. 

Doorman - "You think you're going to talk to me like that, and I'm going to give you an airport fare?" 

He straightens out his posture. Him and I had always been friendly with each other, but that means nothing in a situation like this. 


At that moment, it occurred to me that I had nothing else to say to him, but felt obligated to hold my ground:

Doorman - "YEAH!" 

Not sure why I said that. 


Ah! I got something.

Doorman - "Good. Go fuck yourself. That's two."

I have to admit - I'm sometimes grateful that I wear a uniform and work in the middle of a busy Manhattan avenue. It gives me the opportunity to act like the badass I always wanted to be without having to get my head kicked in by a man twice my size. 

He looks at me with homicide in his eyes. I stand my ground. He takes a step towards me. I pray he doesn't want to go to jail today. He hesitates. I get my last word in:

Doorman - "We done?"

Before he could answer, I walk away. 

He then, verbatim, yells this as I head back to me door:


We stared at each other, giving mean-mugs and mouthing "fuck you, motherfucker" at each other for at least thirty minutes. Then he took an airport fare from the hotel across the street. While I was still steamed from that altercation, it was a tame Doorman vs Taxi Driver exchange compared to the last one, so I was able to sort-of shake that off. 

But the universe wasn't done poking a stick at my love-handles:

- After getting a dollar for hailing a taxi, I carefully placed the single into my money wad. 

An older, civilian passer-by caught a glimpse of my cash. I wouldn't call him a homeless derelict, yet to call him a functioning member of society would be a gross overstatement. Kind of like that alcoholic family member you have that goes on a bi-yearly bender to sabotage everything around him. He had a fresh shiner with a bloodshot eye, wearing clothing that had obviously cooked in the summer sun for days over his flush, red skin. I'll call him "Fred". 

Fred - "You got a dollar?" 

I have a rule to not donate any money while on the door. If you give a dollar to one guy, you'll have homeless people popping out of manholes hitting you up for cash. It might sound fucked up, but you can't show any weakness when everyone knows how much cash you have on you. That's how you get a knife-wheeling visitor on the subway staircase after work.

Doorman - "No, sorry." 

I go about my business, opening the door for several ingrates who don't say thank you. Fred hadn't left:

Fred - "FUCK YOU!" 

Well, that's just unnecessary. 

I turn to see him picking up a stomped out cigarette from the ground. He shows it to me like a toddler with a clump of spaghetti in his hand:

Fred - "Got a light?" 

I had a light. 

Doorman - "No."

Fred - "Well... FUCK YOU! Cock sucker!" 

He gives me the finger and walks away.

Doorman - "Hey!"

He turns back.

Doorman - "You're still broke."

He nods "touche", then keeps walking.

On the surface, it looks I had two marginal victories. But let's be honest - how many times, per day, do you have someone in your office scream profanities at you like that? It takes it's toll.

Then this happened:

- After carrying in ten suitcases for three Saudi Arabian kids without so much as a brief moment of eye-contact, I miserably slumped back to the door, where I found my 97-year-old co-worker, Ms. Joan, sitting in her wheelchair, waiting for me to begin my daily fiasco of getting her a taxi during rush hour, and a town car out front with the trunk popped open.

Guest comes first, so I walk past her and head to the town car. Two large suitcases. The second one is so heavy, I accidentally let out a little bip fart as I pull it out.

I drag the suitcases towards the door without waiting for the guests to finish paying.

A little, old British man wearing a fanny-pack is holding door open for people with a shit-eating grin. I put my hand on the door handle:

Doorman - "Thank you, sir. Go ahead."

I know what's coming. I try counting backwards from ten, taking deep breaths, anything my anger management classes taught me to defuse the overwhelming wave of inconsolable rage that's about to wash over me:

British Man - "No, no! I'm just practicing my new career! I'm doing your job, mate!"

I've covered this in a post before, so I won't go too deeply into this, but that is the absolute worst thing you can say to a doorman.

I. Went. Apeshit.

I yank the door handle from him.

Doorman - "GO."

This frightens him a bit. He scurries inside. I start speaking aloud, not necessarily to him, more like at him.

Doorman - "I'm out here breaking my ass in the heat, getting stiffed and screamed at by cabbies and degenerates, now I have to get mocked, too?!? That's not all this job is, my friend. THAT'S ALL THIS JOB IS!!!"

Just as I bellow out that last sentence, I angrily swing the heavy suitcases up the steps with everything I've got. I run up the stairs, grab the suitcase and swing it in front of me to gain momentum. Though something obstructed my path:

I hear a CRACK, followed by a faint, mousy scream.

Ms. Joan - "Ohhhh!!!!"

I hear another woman scream loudly. Ms Joan grabs her knee and starts screaming.

Doorman - "Oh my God!"

I drop the suitcases and put my hand on her knee.

Doorman - "Ms. Joan! I'm so sorry!"

Security and several other people run over. I look up to see the British Man, shaking his head in disgust. I want to scream and yell and tell everyone that it's his fault. It's his fault that his pompous little comments drove me to be careless, and now I've hurt a little old lady. I want to run up to him and throw him against the wall, let him know that if she's seriously injured, we both know that he has to live with it, even though everyone will point the finger at me.

No joke, all of these thoughts raced through my dramatic little head.

But at the end of the day, I lost my temper, spoke to a guest inappropriately and made a careless mistake.

Luckily, Ms. Joan is a tough cookie.

She shook it off, and eventually started laughing. I apologized profusely.

Ms. Joan - "It's okay, my dear."

I got her a taxi, though not before one slammed the door in my face and took off before I could get her in the car.

As I folded up her wheelchair and took a ten-second breather to collect myself, I was approached by another elderly woman, the "Old Dame":

Old Dame - "Excuse me, young man."

I turned to her. It's weird, I was so frantic that I actually forgot what she looked like. All I remember was she wore a large, Kentucky-derby-like hat, with equally-big sunglasses. One thing I do (and always will) remember, was that the second I looked at her, all of my anger was out the window. It's like when you see your grandmother for the first time in a long while - you know that no matter whatever shitty things you've done, or no matter how overlong it's been since you've taken the time to come visit, she's going to cook you a meal and make you feel like the greatest person in the world. That was the feeling I had when we made eye-contact.

Doorman - "Hi."

Old Dame - "Can you please direct me to Pasty's restaurant?"

Doorman - "Sure! Just turn right on 56th, then it's two avenues over. Between Broadway and 8th."

She flashed a massive, happy-to-know-you smile.

Old Dame - "Thank you, young man. You're a godsend. I knew I was meant to find you!"

I honestly don't know what that means, nor did I care. I just wanted her to keep saying nice things.

Doorman - "Thank you. Believe it or not, you just made my day."

Old Dame - "And you've made mine."

I don't know why, but I wanted her to stay awhile. And I could tell she wanted to as well.

Doorman - "You know, people are pretty lousy to me. It's refreshing when someone treats me like a human being."

She smiled again, then she said something I'll never forget:

Old Dame - "Well, that's because you're a good person, and it's not God out here working. It's the devil."

Doorman - "Wait... what?"

Old Dame - "When I was young, like you, I used to think it was God working in mysterious ways. But it isn't. It's the devil out here, influencing the bad. And the devil hasn't gotten you yet. He doesn't care about the bad people, because they're on his side already."

Doorman - "Ok..."

Old Dame - "You just keep being you. The devil is no match for a good soul like you."

Say what you will - she may have been bat-shit crazy, or more sane than anyone I've ever spoken to. I don't know. But what I do know, is she told me exactly what I needed to hear, in that very moment.

Doorman - "I'm more grateful for this than you could ever know."

I got more gooey and sentimental, because that's how I can be sometimes. I said more drippy things about how grateful I am for her and blah blah blah I'm sensitive.

Old Dame - "I'm glad you're grateful. Just remember me, the Old Dame From Brooklyn!"

And I always will. I was getting caught up in everything around me, letting the ugliness of others influence the way I behaved. Then this little old lady came along, and restored balance.

The rest of the night got better. I smiled more, got a few nice tips, managed to get through the evening incident-free.

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