I had something of a humbling experience today. It came off a rough weekend (more on that later), and it was raining. If you've read this blog a bit, or are a newcomer and have a wee bit of imagination to exercise, you can understand that rainy days are hell for me. I won't explain the fuck that is a rainy evening on the old door for fear of redundancy, but allow me to provide a highlight reel leading up to said humbling event. Because who doesn't love a good #Doorman montage?
3:01pm - I step outside to start my shift. An African man, escaping the rain, runs under the marquis and discovers our heat lamps that hang from above. All winter long, I have to entertain every schmuck who feels these fucking lamps, praising me for a job of keeping them warm well done. It got old my first week there. Though this man has a different reaction. He turns to me, menacing smile, then gets in my face.
African Man - "This is a nice heat lamp."
Doorman - "Thank you."
He looks up, the orange rays washing over his face as beads of rainwater drip from his hair. His smile never falters. The gap in his front teeth is large enough to roll up a newspaper and shove through to the back of his throat.
I put my hands in my pockets and give a toothless smile, riding out the seemingly nirvana-like experience this man is having.
African Man - "This is a nice job, you have."
Doorman - "Yeah, it's fantastic."
I was being facetious, in case that wasn't clear. He sizes me up, sensing the disdain that I have for my job. His smile grows larger, more menacing. I've been at work for ninety seconds and I'm already fearing a confrontation.
African Man - "This is a nice job. Stand here. Do nothing. Make lots of money."
What the fuck, man?! I just got here.
Doorman - "Yeah."
I grind my teeth. I can feel the little wick inside my gut begin to flicker. This guy's looking for an unprovoked confrontation. I don't want to give it to him. Not yet.
I look into his yellow eyes. My weak chin and warm eyes don't inspire much fear. I'm an easy target for him. I'm a snack.
African Man - "This is a nice job. You do nothing. Sit under warm lamps. Make lots of money."
I don't bite. He puts the exclamation point on his disposition:
African Man - "Perfect job. For a white man!"
Now, that statement is loaded. It could mean many things for many different intentions. Right off the bat, he was trying to goad me into a confrontation. I wasn't about to take the bait. This was, however, the last thing he was going to say to me.
Doorman - "You done?"
He just keeps smiling. I notice the little clitoris-like thingy dangling from the gums between the gap in his teeth. You know what I'm talking about.
Doorman - "Get the fuck out of here."
He laughs a big old "muuuhahahahaa" and goes about his day.
I'm sure any service industry worker an attest to this: When your very first interaction of the day is as negative and deflating as that one, you know a precedent has been set. On we go…
3:45pm - Out in the rain getting taxis for people. Gypsy driver pulls up. He looks past me and starts screaming to my guests:
Gypsy Driver - "Taxi? Taxi?"
Doorman - "No, thanks."
Gypsy Driver - "Taxi! Taxi! Where you going?"
Doorman - "I said no!"
Gypsy Driver - "Fuck you! You're doorman! Your job is to open door!"
Doorman - "They're not getting in the car with you."
Gypsy Driver - "FUCK YOUR MOTHER! FUCKING FAGGOT!!!"
He peels off. Got a taxi five minutes later. No tip, but I got a "cheers, brilliant, fank you" as a consolation prize.
4:15pm - Still raining. New guests, going local.
Taxi driver with lights on pulls up. I try to open the door.
Taxi Diver - "Where?"
Fuck it. Not gonna do this bullshit again. I take my hand off the door and look ahead into the street for the next available taxi.
Taxi Driver - "Where?! Where?! WHERE?!?"
I ignore him.
Taxi Driver - "Airport?!?"
A long pause.
Taxi Driver - "Fuck you, motherfucker!"
Not going to fight.
Taxi Driver - "Fuck you, piece of shit motherfucker!"
Does everyone get spoken to like this at work?
My hand shakes. All I want to do is poke his eyes out with my umbrella. But I don't. Not going to fight. Not going to engage this bullshit.
He peels off.
5:01pm - My 97-year-old co-worker is wheeled out and needs a taxi. Just in the knick of time - raining, during rush hour, in midtown Manhattan. Can't wait.
Over the course of the next 45 minutes, I stand in the street, watching shuttles and limos pull up, picking up and dropping off passengers, potential tips being flushed down the toilet so I could get my geriatric co-worker a taxi home.
Aren't I such a swell guy?!?
5:50pm - After finally putting my co-worker into a taxi, I see several people smoking in front of the door, blowing smoke in people's faces as they try to enter the hotel. It's my responsibility to keep people from smoking near the front entrance. Sounds like a job for security, but no, it's mine. It's my job, as a tipped employee, a yes-man, to alienate the only people whom I have a chance at getting to know during their stay.
I ask at the smokers to kindly use the side entrance to smoke. They all do, except one man. He's wearing a fanny-pack. I hate fanny-packs. He takes one step to the side and scoffs. Fucking asshole. Whatever, not going to fight.
6:00pm - Getting a taxi for guests. Another gypsy pulls up. Yells past me to the guests, just like the last one.
Gypsy - "Black car, folks?"
Doorman - "No, thanks."
Gypsy - "I'm not talking to you!"
Doorman - "No, thanks."
Gypsy - "Shut up!"
Doorman - "No, thanks."
Gypsy - "Fuck you! Fucking cocksucker!"
He pulls away.
6:10pm - Another gypsy.
Gypsy - "Taxi! Taxi!"
Doorman - "No."
Gypsy - "Fuck you!'
He pulls away.
6:12pm - Another gypsy.
Gypsy - "Taxi?"
Doorman - "No, thanks."
Gypsy - "Okay, sir."
Well, that's a nice change of pace.
I take a step forward and scan the street for an available yellow cab.
I hear talking behind me.
I turn around, and my guests are showing the gypsy driver where they're going.
Doorman - "Yo! NO!"
Guest - "I'm sorry, you're just taking too long."
Doorman - "No! I'll get you a cab. Don't take this car. These guys will rip you off!"
The Gypsy pops his head out of the car.
Gypsy - "Mind your business, motherfucker!"
Doorman (to the guest) - "I'm just trying to help you. I live here. Don't get in that car."
Guest - "I have somewhere to be."
He gets in. No tip, no "thanks for your troubles".
The Gypsy smirks, then flips me the bird.
Whatever. Fuck 'em. They deserve each other. Not gonna fight.
Shuttle-bus pulls up. He gives me the names of two guests. I go in the lobby, soaked and dripping with rain water. My boss emerges from the elevator.
Boss - "What are you doing inside?"
Apparently, the wet dog isn't allowed in the house.
Doorman - "I'm looking for a guest."
He doesn't believe me. I keep doing my job.
I find the people and bring them out. No tip, no thank you.
I turn around, and there's the fanny-pack wearing smoker, lighting up in front of the door again. I give him a moment to walk away. He doesn't.
Doorman - "Sir, I've told you this twice, the smoking area-"
He swings around quickly and gets in my face. I didn't think he spoke English, which would have made this understandable. But he did. He can read the "non smoking area" sign. He was British, and spoke in that fucking soccer-hooligan accent that was barely decipherable.
Fanny - "Now, I've been smoking here all fucking day. All fucking day. And now you're telling me I can't? What's your problem, huh? What's your problem, you fucking bloke?"
Every man has his breaking point.
This wasn't mine.
Doorman (pointing to the sign) - "Sir, this is a non-smoking area. I'm just doing my job-"
Fanny - "FOCK AWF!!!"
He spikes the cigarette on the ground in front of me and walks away. He gets a few steps, and I feel a burning in my stomach, bubbling like an overfilled pot of water. The tip of my tongue wants to spew out "fuck you, you fucking limey cunt", then tackle him and engage in a fistfight with the rain down pouring. Like Lethal Weapon! Yeah!!!
Before I could do that and lose my job, he turns around for the last word:
Fanny - "I wouldn't stay here again if you paid me 600 dollars!"
Those are his words, verbatim. Not sure where he came up with that figure. Didn't care enough to ask.
It was at that point that I needed a break. I needed to find a bellman to cover the door. I needed for nothing to happen, nor anyone to engage me, till I've had fifteen minute to myself to have a coffee, or watch TV in the break room, or sit on the toilet. Anywhere but here.
I grab the first bellman I see. He tells me that he's not the guy with the least seniority, so he doesn't have to. The difference between working as a bellman and doorman is staggering. If you're a bellman and you get stiffed, or a guest yells at you, you can sit in the locker room and thumb through Facebook and Instagram till whenever the fuck you feel like it. When you're a doorman, no matter how bad things get, you can't leave your post till you find the lowest guy on the totem pole to cover you.
After a few more minutes of desperately staring into the lobby from the door (because the wet dog isn't allowed inside the house), the low man comes down from a front. I jump and flail my arms like a maniac, which pisses him off because he knows he's going to be stuck on the door for the next 10-15 minutes. If there's any indication to how shitty my job is compared to my coworker's, it's how they react for having to do it for a ridiculously brief window of time.
The bellman comes to the door. I decide to vent a little bit, because I don't want to spend my 15 minute break completely pissed off. I want to let off a little steam. I give him a brief rundown of the past couple of hours, putting on a frantic show. He's mostly amused, as most of my co-workers have grown accustomed to my sporadic tantrums when I let a bunch of shit build up. I end it with this:
Doorman - "I'm telling you, bro. One of these days, you're just gonna hear a scream from out here. And you'll turn around and see me standing over an unconscious body. I'm gonna knock someone the fuck-"
Then I was interrupted:
I'll call him "Donald", because he looked like the comedian Donald Glover, if you aged him 20 years and fed him a quart of whiskey every day. Donald man had on decent enough clothing, didn't smell, and was wearing trendy, thick-rimmed glasses. He held an old, ragged coffee to-go cup in his hand. It's common for panhandlers to use these for people to drop change into, though his had a lid on it, meaning it was probably filled with booze. Donald was clearly troubled, but certainly not homeless:
Donald - "Hello, gentlemen! Can you spare a dollar of two for the homeless! I'm just trying to get something to eat!"
I never give money to people who ask for it on the street. And I especially don't give it to anyone while on the door. For one, I know all-too-well about the various panhandling hustles that go on. I know of several people who hang around the hotel and make a decent living pretending to be homeless. Call me a jaded New Yorker, but I just don't fucking trust anyone's story. Secondly, I don't donate at work because if I give one guy a dollar, every unfortunate soul in the neighborhood will hit me up for cash. I work too hard and deal with too much bullshit to share my earnings. Sorry, not sorry.
Doorman - "No, sorry. I have nothing."
(Now, if I were honest, I would have finished that sentence with "to give you…")
That should have been the end of it. I don't get many panhandlers asking me for money because they know better. But when they do, they just walk away. Or they try and guilt me with an, "Okay, bless you, sir!"
Donald - "Yeah, right! That's what I always hear! 'I have nothing'!"
Doorman - "I don't."
Donald - "Yeah, cause you don't care! You don't care about the homeless!"
On some level, he's right. I literally just explained how I refuse to give money to people who ask. Though this is coming from a street-smart guy who grew up here, who's been ripped off before and doesn't want to see his hard-earned dollars leeched away by one of these hustlers. I dismiss him.
Doorman - "Are you kidding me? Get the fuck out of here."
Donald - "Man, fuck you! White motherfucker!"
If the past 3 hours of my life were a hockey game, I'd be the guy who's been getting checked and clipped and slashed all night (forgive my lack of knowledge for hockey terms, I'm still learning), who, at some point, when the time is right, will drop his gloves and deliver hell onto the unfortunate chud who crosses his path at the wrong time. This guy was that chud, and his use of "white motherfucker" was that very-last stick to the face (or whatever pisses off hockey players and causes them to fight, I dunno).
I dropped my gloves and got right in his face. I screamed at him, threw him off. Asked where he got the balls to question my morals. Challenged him to what the fuck he knows about me.
I'm really not certain of what was said in detail, because it's all a blur. I definitely kicked it into high gear, screaming in his face about how I'd beat him within an inch of his life, right here on the sidewalk. He called me a "Manhattan pussy" and that "he's from Harlem", which makes perfect sense. I also remember him repeatedly telling me to "suck a dick", to which he'd top it off with "you white motherfucker". And that "he wish I'd step to him", to which I retorted "you don't scare me, bitch", even though I was fucking terrified. At some point security came out and separated us.
Lots of screaming. Lots of threatening. Lot's of measuring dicks. Just a couple of frustrated souls, unloading their baggage onto each other for the amusement of every mouth-breathing passer-by with a smart phone on this busy Manhattan avenue.
I'd like to pause for a moment and remind you that this has all happened before my lunch break.
I eventually walked into the hotel. Not because I backed down, but because the manager had gotten wind and come outside (and boy, I tell ya, he's lucky the manager came out! Fart.) Donald screamed at me from down the block for a pretty extended period of time, threatening me and suggesting I take up fellatio.
I sat down in the break room, leaning back and trying to figure out how the fuck my life had gotten to this point. I graduated college seven years ago. I didn't expect the rule the world, though I never thought that my every day life would be reduced to arguing with people about where they can't smoke and which taxi they can take to the theater. And I never thought, for a second, that I would need to vomit out a day's worth of frustrations by getting into near fisticuffs with some panhandler who questioned my morals.
After cooling off, I return to my post. I'm not even at the halfway point of my shift yet, and I've been called more names than I can count. This wasn't what I was put on this earth to do.
The next thirty minutes were fairly uneventful, considering I spent most of them hiding inside the foyer, using the handicap button to prop open the door. I'm not supposed to do that by any means, but I wasn't about to get into it with anyone again. I'd take getting written up or, if I'm lucky, being sent home for not standing outside where I belong.
Taxi pulls up, and the trunk pops open. I step out to retrieve the bags. Just as I hit the heat lamps, Donald walks by with a Subway sandwich in a bag.
He stares me down, though not in a threatening way. He squints his eyes through his designer glasses, almost as if he's trying to figure out where he knows me.
Fuck it, let's get this over with.
Doorman - "What?"
He takes the bag with his sandwich in it, and feeds it onto the pinky finger of his other hand, which is holding his coffee cup full of booze. Then he puts his free hand in his pocket. He holds it there.
Donald - "You the dude that was talking all that shit before?"
Well, I guess this is it. Of all the questionable people that I've cursed out, threatened, and called out to come back and fight me after work, this is going to be the one who actually comes back and shoots me. At least I made it out of my twenties.
Might as well take it like a man. Though I turned to see if security was near the door. They weren't.
Doorman - "Yeah."
He looks me up and down. We make eye contact. There's a certain menacing in his eyes that I'd noticed in the first altercation. A menacing that was completely gone now. There's an emptiness this time. He looked lost, like he was asking for directions.
Donald - "Why'd you yell at me, man?"
When you're expecting to be shot or stabbed, you tend to give very vague answers.
Doorman - "Because..."
Donald - "I'm not a beggar."
He takes his hand out of his pocket. Nothing. Just a few fresh cuts on his knuckles. Looks like he'd just gotten done punching a brick wall.
Donald - "When you went off on my like that, it reminded me of my dad. He used to get drunk and beat my ass, man!"
I still don't know if this is building up to him assaulting me, so I tread lightly.
Doorman - "Well... you DID call me a 'white motherfucker'."
He looks down at the floor.
Donald - "I'm sorry, man. It's just when you yelled at me, it got me so mad. I'm bi-polar. You know what that is?"
Doorman - "Yes, I do."
Donald - "Let me explain it to you-"
Doorman - "Seriously, you don't have to-"
Donald - "It means I'm cool one minute, and the next, I'm fucked up."
Doorman - "Okay."
For the next few minutes, he told me a little bit about himself. He opened up his coffee cup, which was filled with beer. It was his 9th that day, and certainly not his last. He told me that he starts drinking when he wakes up and doesn't stop till he blacks out. He'll end up in a different, random place, the following day. Since he's unemployed and spends all his panhandling money on beer, he can't afford medication to regulate his severe mood swings. He's a ticking time bomb, aimlessly walking around the city and picking fights with people every day.
A part of me wondered how often this happens - him getting into an explosive confrontation, only to come back a short while later and apologize. Hell, he didn't even recognize me when he came back. And, back to that whole jaded, street-smart New Yorker thing - I wondered if this was part of his game to squeeze me for some money. Because, after hearing his battle with mental illness (a soft spot for me), I started to feel some sympathy for him.
I offered to buy him a cup of coffee, to which he accepted. We stood in front of the hotel diner for a few more minutes. That's where he really opened up, to the point where I wasn't sure if he were talking to me, or just aloud and I happened to be standing there:
Donald - "I'm a good dude, man. I got a heart of gold. I just can't put down the drink. And every time I get something to eat, but I can't take it back to the shelter cause they don't want none of us to bring food back there. But I want to get a job working as a dishwasher or something. My brother got me a job in Memphis, Tennessee a couple of years ago. He lent me a suit. Then he died about a year ago. He was the last of my family, man. But I got that job, man. I got that job cause of that suit that my brother gave me. And I worked there for a year. Making sandwiches, man. Doing whatever the customer needs. I was good at it. I did it for a year, man. Then my brother died and I got all fucked up. Started drinking again. They buried my brother in that suit, man. Then I'm up here in New York and I can't get a dishwasher job. I just wanna work in the restaurants, man. But I can't put down the drink. Then the other night, I was in the shelter and it was so cold. I had to go into a McDonald's and a nice man like you bought me a coffee, and it kept me warm at 3am. I just gotta get a dishwasher job, man..."
This went on for several more minutes. He kept bringing up his past, then would eventually loop it back to not being able to get a dishwasher job in the city. I couldn't get a word in edgewise. I wanted to listen, though I didn't know if there were an endgame to this. Eventually, a shuttle-buss pulled up, bailing me out.
I'm really not sure how much of what he was saying was true. If all of it were, then I feel for him. If it weren't, and he was just walking around, fighting and drinking all day and telling this story to garner some sympathy, then I feel for him more. The alcoholism and mental illness hits close to home for me.
We shook hands. I wished him the best of luck. Told him that the road back starts with putting down the bottle. He nodded quickly and dismissed the notion, as most alcoholics will do. Then, as I was about to leave, he mischievously smiled and asked:
Donald - "Yo! You got a dollar?"
I went back to my post, riding out the rest of the evening without confrontation.
This past weekend, I lost an old college friend to cancer. She was a frequent collaborator, confidant, and loyal supporter of anything and everything I've ever done. We grew together as artists while in school and while we'd drifted apart over the past few years, as most college friends usually do, she would always be there for any play, or stand-up set, or screening to show her love and support. I just wish I'd reciprocated that support a little more. She was truly a gem who was beloved by her friends and family, as well as the Staten Island theatre community.
If you can take a moment to read her story, please click here. If you can donate anything to help her family pay for her expenses, that would be amazing. No donation is too small.