Friday, August 8, 2014

Doorman Breaks Down a NYC Bellman's Graveyard Shift

Nothing shakes up your routine like getting scheduled for a random string of overnights. It should be easier for me, because I'm out of work at 11pm every night and usually don't fall asleep till 3 or 4am. But it isn't. Not at all. Sure, an extra-large coffee at 11:30pm will carry you through a decent chunk of the shift, but once 5am rolls around, your normalcy begins to erode. 

When you're out drinking, or up all night talking to someone you like, or binge-watching a show on Netflix, it's easy to stay up till sunrise. Though when you're stuck at work, forced to function as you would in the middle of the day amongst the living, things get a helluva lot more difficult.

What does help is the entertainment factor. Working an overnight bellman shift calls for a few zany occurrences here and there (see: The Girl From Iceland), mostly as a result of alcohol. The money is shitty, which is why the guys with the least seniority are summoned to this desolate eight hours of solitude and boredom.

Last night, I recorded every interaction I had during my graveyard shift. I switched off my normal 3-11pm on the door because I was having a rough week and the thought of cutting my human interaction by at least two-thirds for a night made me salivate:

11:15pm - Getting ready to leave my apartment, I stuff my Kindle, laptop, and phone charger into a bag. I have no idea what I'm going to use, I just want to have as many options for entertainment as possible.

On my way out the door, one of my roommates is getting water in the kitchen before bed. You know, like a normal adult who has found a normal adult job and settled into a normal adult routine:

Roommate - "You're going to work now? Ewww!"

My sentiments exactly.

12:00am - I punch in. The guy I switched with is still there. He made $120 in cash (not including shift pay) during the shift I was supposed to work. Cock sucker. I didn't make that in the last two nights combined. Now I have a bench mark on what I have to make without wanting to mutilate myself.

12:18am - Taxi pulls up. Three American ladies. I greet them at the curb, bring in their two suitcases, and take them to the front desk. No tip, no thank you. 

12:20am - A beer-bellied Midwestern Bro with a 12 pack of Bud Light tucked in one arm, and a solid 3 he triumphantly brought back from the bar in the other, asks about rooftop access. I jokingly tell him that this isn't The Hangover. He doesn't appreciate my mediocre quip, but his girl giggles. I like her better. He scoffs and they disappear into the elevator. If he'd handed me a 20 before he started talking, I might have been a little more helpful. 

12:25am - Front. The three American ladies who already didn't thank me for bringing their bags in. The ask for directions to Yankee Stadium. Turns out they're from Michigan, and they're here to see the Tigers play the Yankees. I tell them that my roommate is from "The Mitten." They laugh and are impressed I knew to call it that. Such a charming little bell boy. $5. 

And I'm on the board. 

12:30am - I arrive back at the desk and there's a young American couple, hammered, waiting for me. They ask for directions to a great little bar called American Whiskey, where I coincidentally had my 30th birthday party a couple of weeks prior. I excitedly share this information with them. They don't give a flying fuck. They just want the address so they could get in a cab and continue drinking. I oblige. 

12:33- Front. British couple, 4 suitcases with Emirates tags. Fantastic. The man has a request: 

British man - "Can you leave these up in the room while we go get something to eat? I'll see you when I get back." 

Normally a British accent with Emirates luggage tags is a toxic cocktail of fuckery that I would avoid at all costs, but I had nothing else going on. And when someone makes a point to say, "I'll see you when I get back", it's always worth a shot.

Doorman - "Sure, no problem." 

British Man - "Cheers, brilliant, thank you!" 

Sir, I assure you - there's nothing "brilliant" about what I'm doing. 

12:44am - Phone rings at the desk. Guest wants a car service to JFK at 6:15am. That's a $10 commission for me later on. Righteous. 

1:00am - Front. Three Chinese people. They have a car to valet and one small suitcase. Right behind them in line is a Jewish family, carrying four pieces of luggage with Air France tags. Neither of these are lucrative prospects.

I have to take care of the car to valet, so I bring the Chinese people outside. The loading zone is completely empty, yet they parked the car at the hotel across the fucking street. 

I quickly write them the ticket, tell them to park the car out front of the HOTEL THEY'RE STAYING AT, and if I'm not there when they get back, to leave the keys at the front desk. 

I run back to the front desk, where the family is ready for me. I take them to the elevator, and the patriarch asks about taking the stairs from the 11th floor for the Shabbat. I offer to try and get them a floor closer to the ground level. He appreciates my effort, and tells me that they're going to be out all day Saturday and won't return till sundown. This gesture on my part scores me a $10 tip. 


1:15am - A young American guy who's here on business asks what he should do with the couple of hours he has to spare before his flight the following day. I recommend trekking up Harlem to try Dinosaur BBQ, because it's fucking awesome. He tells me he lives in Austin and that he would never eat BBQ in New York City. I decide I don't want to talk to him anymore, so I excuse myself to make a fecal deposit in the toilet. 

1:30am - Homeless guy leans against the glass front door of the hotel and masturbates for about 30 seconds. I wish I could be more detailed for you, but that's pretty much it - a homeless guy, with his hand shoved down his pants, pulls his pud while leaning on the door. That's all I got.

2:00am - Mother from Myrtle Beach, SC and her hot little teenage daughter and friend talk to me about their stay for about 20 minutes. I find out that they've walked into every single Times Square tourist trap imaginable - they gave $30 to a CD Hustler and got a blank CD, a guy dressed up as a Despicable Me minion grabbed her daughters ass while taking a picture then demanded a tip, they bought tickets from a barker to the "Comedy Central comedy show". I feel bad, so I book them a car service to LaGuardia for the next day. Sure, it's about $10-15 more than they would pay for a yellow taxi, but it's probably the best investment they've made the whole trip. Don't judge me. A man's gotta eat. 

Oh, and they tipped me $5. With the $9 commission I'm making the next day, that's money in the bank and a $14 interaction. 

2:21am - British guy with the Emirates tags comes back and gives me $3. He winks and nods like he just handed me a 50. 

2:30am - I'm summoned up to the storage room to retrieve packages for incoming guests. Every package has a name that sounds something like, "Maria Aguilar Oliviera Silva". What happens is the Brazilians get themselves an Amazon Prime account, buy up a bunch of shit and have it shipped free to the hotel. This is why we get so many of them. Because in most hotels, there's a charge to store incoming packages. A bellman will get $2-4 a package to store and deliver them to the rooms. Here? Nope. We do it for free. So they take a gluttonous advantage of this. 

2:52am - After bringing a cart-load of God-knows-what down to the front desk and getting nothing for it, I grab my kindle and try to get some reading done. I plow through the end of Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk with Me. I enjoyed the movie more, mostly because I'd heard most of what was in his book from his stand up sets. Why the fuck am I telling you this? 

3:21am - Town car pulls up. It's one of our drivers. He gives me a $3 commission, because another bellman had a trip going out on my watch. The overnight bellman serves as the doorman, since there's no one out there at this hour. 

There's 3 Mexican ladies with 4 suitcases going into the car. I help them. They tip me $5. On top of the commission, that's an $8 interaction. 

Believe it or not, I'm making much more money than I usually do at this time. Since there's some good mojo in the air, I opt to not take a nap in the locker room and push through without a break. 

3:25am - A family of Brazilians and 5 large suitcases emerge from the elevator. I ask the matriarch if they need a taxi. She quickly sticks her index finger up and waves it back and forth in my face. 

"EHHHH No Tax!" 

Doorman - "Do you need help with the luggage?" 

Brazilian woman - "NO!" 

Not gonna argue with that. 

3:33am: The sounds of their overstuffed, disproportionate, hernia-inducing bundles of misery tumbling and crashing down the steps make me giddy. 

3:40am - A man with a thick, Jamaican accent who looks like Hannibal Burress comes into the lobby asking for a room. I refer him to the front desk and continue sucking miserably at 2048.

3:41am - He walks past me again with a phone charger in his hand. He looks directly next to the large paintings hung highly on the wall, then next to the paid phones. Because that's where the outlets are. Fucking moron.

Doorman - "Sir, can I help you?" 

Jamaican Man - "Where is the outlet?" 

I gesture under the seat next to me. 

Doorman - "Right here." 

3:43am - He plugs his phone in and starts thumbing through it. I can feel him looking at me, gearing up to ask a question. I immediately regret inviting him to charge his phone here.

Jamaican Man - "What is the wifi? It is not free?" 

Doorman - "No, you have to buy a code at the front desk." 

Jamaican Man - "Oh..." 

3:45am: Out of the corner of my eye, I see his stupid face creak towards me again.  

Jamaican Man - "How much is the code?" 

Doorman - "I'm not sure, you have to ask the front desk." 

I go back to what in doing. He continues to fiddle with his fucking phone.

3:46am: He sighs. I ignore him.

Jamaican Man - "Where is a hotel that has rooms for $100?" 

Really? This is what we're doing? 

Doorman - "The Hotel Pennsylvania. 33rd and 7th. That's the one place where you'll fine a cheap room at this hour." 

He doesn't thank me. That's the last question I answer. I get up and walk about five feet away to the bell desk, praying he takes my advice to go to the worst hotel in the city and have bed bugs feast on his too-many-question-having flesh. 

But he doesn't leave. Instead, he makes a phone call. He will stay on the phone for the next forty minutes, speaking in an obnoxiously loud tone. At first, I'm furious. I'd just downloaded a new book to read and this asshole (who isn't even a guest) is ruining it for me. 

I even started passive-aggressively popping my gum, like a 3-year-old who just discovered his first sheet of bubble wrap. Didn't faze him one bit. 

Then I started eavesdropping on his conversation. These are things he said, verbatim. I tried writing everything down as quickly as he spoke. Here's the highlight reel: 

"Boom boom boom boom... Now?" 

"Security security security security. And the fire will begin!" :::Laughs like a sorcerer:::

"You know, you look like a Dubai woman. I will buy you the black ting, which covers 
Every ting. And the people will be looking." 

"Let me see your finger!"

Ten seconds later...

"Let me see your finger!" 

"She will clean the floors and go to Florida, like a good third wife!" 

"You have to put suction on it! This is your problem!"

He giggles for a solid 20 seconds, then deadpans "we are watching him." 

"It is time for me to come to Germany." 

"What is cheaper? In New York or Germany... To buy tings like clothes, shirts, suits, and produce?" 

He stops talking for about three minutes. I think he's done. Then, out of nowhere, he blurts out "ebola", pauses for another minute, then starts giggling again. 

Security kicked him out right after that. 

4:11am: Two attractive Asian-American girls need a taxi to LaGuardia. I oblige. $4.

4:30am: Three Spanish people come down and ask me to confirm their Carmel car service reservation by politely shoving the a paper in my face and screaming "CARMEL". I oblige. The car is scheduled to come at 5am. I tell them this, with a joyous smile. No tip. 

4:39am: Fiendishly swipe on Tinder for sixty seconds. I get three matches, all of which offer the bargain price of $120 per hour for the girlfriend experience. 

4:48am: Do a round of hate-reading Facebook statuses. There's one person in particular who doesn't know the difference between "then" and "than". Everything is, "Going to Jim's house for drinks than Forest ave for the night with my bestieeeeeeeeeees!!!!." One day, I want to wake up and see that one of her bimbo friends has corrected her, then I could delete her from my friends list, once and for all. 

5:00am: Grab an iced coffee from Tony's cart on the corner of 55th and 7th. It's the best coffee cart in Manhattan, hands down. He always gives me a freebee, so here's my plug! Ask him for the cinnamon coffee and you'll never want to drink Dunkin Donuts again. 

5:11am: I bring the Carmel people's bags to the curb. As I do that, another guest is walking out to one of our car services. Now, this little bit of serendipity doesn't happen often, but when it does, one must cherish it: 

I ran back up the steps to grab the other people, leaving the Carmel guests without waiting for a tip. People from Spain almost never do anyway. But as I'm waking the other guests (Italians, another group of offenders) to their car, the Carmel people stop me and put a twenty on my hand, right in front of the other guests! 

So as I perk up with glee and thank them profusely, the Italian people quickly begin to dig into their wallets. I load their car, and the patriarch hands me a ten!

That's $30 in 30 seconds. Shit like this happens at luxury hotels every day. See how much money I could potentially be making? 

Do you see why I get so fucking angry all the fucking time?!?

5:42am: Here's where the overnight starts to wear on you. On a normal shift, this is where I'd usually have dinner. Instead, it's too early for breakfast and I'm craving meat and potatoes. I should be eating eggs, but the thought of it is grossly unappealing. So I just don't eat, even though my last meal was about 14 hours ago. 

5:44am: Young British Couple. Taxi to JFK airport, $2. 

5:50am: Scottish couple. They booked a car with another bellman, so I get $3. They refuse help. I don't put up a fight. 

5:55am: Two American men, one of which looks and is dressed just like Jon Taffer from Bar Rescue. Taxi to Penn Station. $2. 

6:00am: I see the Scottish Man wandering around the lobby. His wife has lost their passports. I help them look for a while, let them back into the room, search every elevator. Nothing. After about 10 minutes, his wife runs into the lobby with the passports in hand. He gives me $10 for my troubles. I try to refuse it, but he insists:

Scottish Man - "No, no, no! You did gleat gleat and you din hafta ya kno but yee did and it's gleat gleat and I'm gleat full fah yee." 

I don't know what the fuck he said, but it sure sounded like he was grateful. 

6:10am: Two Japanese men store two suitcases with me for "ten minutes to eat in breakfast room." 

6:15am: The people I booked the car service with earlier in the evening leave and tip me $3. $10 commission for booking the car. $13. 

6:20am: Japanese men get the bags. I bring them out to the car service they booked. $2.

7:00am: The morning guys come in, which means I can go downstairs and take a breather. They're super territorial about the start of their shift, as booking cars and storing bags are integral to them making their money later in the day. This is the hour where the overnight guy steps aside and let's them do their thing. 

7:30am: Bags down. Couple from Mexico, 3 suitcases. Bring them out to get a taxi to Penn Station. $5.

7:50am: Phone rings. A Japanese last name reads on the monitor. 

Doorman - "Good morning, guest services?" 

Man - "Herro... Loom number 1832..." 


Doorman - "Ok, how may I help you?" 

Man - "Terephone." 

Doorman - "Excuse me?" 

Long pause. 

Man - "Ok, thank you!" 

He hangs up. 

Ok, that's it for me. I stand in the storage closet till it's time to clock out.

8:00am: And I'm done.

8:33am: I walk in my front door. My roommate is getting ready for work, looking miserable. 

Doorman - "You're going to work right now? Ewww!" 

Total in tips and commissions: $105
Total shift pay: $85
$190 after taxes. 

That's AMAZING for a Wednesday overnight. Any overnight, for that matter. Once in awhile, you'll catch a big group and get a huge payout, and there's a lot of money to be made. But in terms of sheer luck and volume, it was one of the best overnights I've ever had. Maybe down the road, I'll post another one like this in the dead of winter, when I leave work with less than $10.

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