I went to a fucking killer wedding a couple of months ago. Killer. It was one of those close-friends-from-home weddings, where I knew about a third of the 300+ people who came ready for war. There was a live band, an absurdly good cocktail hour, deliciously over-indulgent venetian hour, and an after-party that raged deep into the wee hours of the morning.
I remember some of it.
We had shuttle buses bring us from the hotel to the country club where the wedding was located. After fifteen minutes or so of party-bus drinking and yelling, sprinkled with jokes about how staged and contrived the Staten Island-edition of Bar Rescue was, we arrived at the destination. I wish I could tell you more about the exterior of the building. I'm sure it was beautiful.
Though I couldn't help but fixate on one thing.
A lonely doorman, who couldn't have been more than 19 or 20, graciously holding the door open for every wedding guest who passed through. I couldn't take my eyes off his behavior from the second we pulled up to the moment I got to him - his perfect technique, how he stood exactly behind the door as he opened it, how he pridefully made eye-contact and smiled at every single person who passed though. Barely anyone thanked him, yet he shook it off and gave the next person the same warm greeting, no matter what.
I can't begin to tell you how challenging this is. When I'm at work, I lean on the door, press the handicap button, and prop it open with my foot while I write in my notepad. There's something less pride-swallowing about making it look like the act of opening the door is the second-most important thing I'm doing. On the rare occasion where I actually stand where I was trained to stand, open the door like I was trained to open the door, make eye-contact, smile and greet the guest like I was trained to do - then have them not even acknowledge me, I become a belligerent monster and assume every person staying in the hotel is an ungrateful barbarian who isn't worthy of my warmth and comfort. So I take it out on every subsequent guest for the subsequent minutes, sometimes hours. Then I don't make as may tips because everyone thinks I'm an asshole.
Now, at my job, I have every opportunity to hustle my way into making a lot of money. Opening the door for people is, maybe, about 10% of what I do in my 40 hours a week. The rest is all a game. There's no cap on what I can do to put money in my pocket. I spend my shifts running around, yelling at people, putting on a charade to squeeze every dollar I can out of my day. Opening the door is simply a boring activity to pass the time when I'm not digging into everyone else's pockets. As brutal a picture I paint about the shit I deal with (and it's all true), there's an excitement to my job that's difficult to articulate.
This poor fucking kid's sole responsibility was to open the door. That's it. No one to squeeze, no one to hustle, no cash to be made. He just had to stand there, open the door, and smile at people. All of the tips in the building - the bartenders, the servers, the valet guys - were accounted for.
I'll call him "Hal". As I approached, Hal made direct eye-contact:
Hal - "Good evening, sir!"
I, being the overzealous doofus I am, locked eyes with an ear-to-ear smile:
Doorman - "Hello! Thank you, sir! Have a great night! Thank you!!!"
He, like a pro, nodded and was on to the next guest.
I went on with my evening.
After hours upon hours of mixing beers with wine, then vodka, then more wine, more beers, and a bunch more vodka, I managed to keep my shit somewhat together (and by together, I mean dancing with the ferocity of a Liza Minnelli back-up dancer while clearing out large portions of the dance floor with my farts then scurrying away, letting the groom take the fall for them), I remember the drink that did me in: an Irish coffee.
It came during venetian hour, which was presented on the dance floor. This stopped me from displaying my ultra-white, not-rhythmic bodily contortions. I wasn't in the mood for sweets, but made my way over there anyway because a girl I was dreadfully striking out with was craving rainbow cookies. (It's funny, I didn't think I was that drunk at the time. Though after typing this out and realizing that she excused herself from talking to me to eat fucking rainbow cookies may have been a clear indicator that I may not have been the most pleasant company. I stink.)
Amazing as these treats may have been, nothing appealed to my booze-marinated palate. Then I saw someone walking away with a giant Irish-coffee, topped with whipped-cream and chocolate syrup, with fucking cinnamon stick straw. Every the impulse-buyer and exploiter of open bars, I opted to try an Irish coffee. Perfect drunk logic - get some caffeine in me for the after-party, ignoring the fact that the whiskey was now the fourth different type of alcohol I was pumping into my body. I threw a five down in front of the bartender, then turned to see rainbow cookie girl finding a new table to sit at to escape my "I'm going to have my own TV show soon, you'll see" schtick.
I went back to my seat and took one sip of the coffee - a decadent, jolting rush of desert goodness with no remnants of the devil lurking beneath it all. I slurped it down in ninety seconds.
I sprung up - my mind telling me I was ready for four more hours of raging, but my body was a little late to the party with every movement. As I tried to keep the two in tune, I realized that I was now on a rapid decent from fun-loving, party-boy Doorman to Dan Aykroyd in the Santa Clause costume from Trading Places.
The rest of the night was a blur. I'd spent the last couple of hours of the wedding teetering the line between functional and zombified, and the caffeine-infused cocktail was the soft blow of air to push me right the hell off that tight-rope.
My last clear memory was this:
Upon my inelegant exit to the shuttle bus, I spotted my friend, Hal the Doorman, still going strong, biding everyone a farewell and safe trip home.
I knew I was way too drunk for my mule to function. I knew I didn't have the cohesion in my speech to order another drink, let alone convince a woman to come back and join me in the king bed of my hotel room. And I knew that, the second I got on that shuttle bus, I would fall asleep and be done for the evening. But I needed a tiny bit of satisfaction before the lights went out.
I took out my wallet, grabbed the last twenty dollar bill I had, and folded it up in my hand. I made my way over to Hal.
Hal - "Get home safe, sir! Have a great night!"
I loved my intention here. I do. I still look back on it and am proud that, having gotten so inebriated and blown it with all every single woman at a massive wedding, I ended my night on a good deed. Though, I wish I'd been a little more suave about it.
I stopped in front of him, swaying back and forth. My eyes, presumably lazy and unfocused, tried to make contact with his:
Doorman - "Hey... hey, man!"
He didn't skip a beat.
Hal - "Yes, sir?"
Doorman - "Hey... I bet, I bet people don't say hi to you."
He looks at me, confused.
Hal - "I'm sorry?"
I kept slurring.
Doorman - "Sorry, sorry... I bet, I mean, I know... I know how it is, my man."
Hal - "O-K..."
Doorman - "NO! NO! You don't understand! I understand! I understand what it's like!"
Hal - "Sir, are you okay?"
Doorman - "Wait... let me start over..."
I put the twenty in his hand. Like a rookie, he looks at it right away. Cardinal rule of receiving handshake tips - don't look at it till the person who gave it to you walks away.
His eyes popped open. This was a first for him.
Doorman - "I bet no one says 'thank you' when you... when you open the door. It's fucked up. It's fucked up, man. How these fucking assholes don't say thank you, you know?"
Hal looks back at me. For a second, I could see his doorman facade deteriorate, like an actor breaking the fourth wall in a play. He extended his hand to shake.
Hal - "Thank you, sir."
I felt the twenty being returned to my hand. No fucking way.
Doorman - "Hey! HEY! NO! NO!! NOOOOOO!!! Don't you fucking do that!"
I grabbed the twenty and stuffed it in his pants pocket. Pretty sure I grazed the head of his penis with the back of my index finger.
Doorman - "Rule number one of being a doorman - When someone gives you money, you shut the fuck up and take the money!"
He's got nothing. I don't blame him.
Hal - "Umm... okay. Thank you, sir!"
I should have left it at that, but I didn't. I took out my business card, equipped with a link to this very blog.
Doorman - "I'm a doorman in New York City, and... and... I know what it's like. You should read my blog. Because... I think you should read my blog and you should email me when you read it."
Hal looked at it in the most polite was possible, then put it in his pocket. I've been networking for a long time, and I've given out as many business cards as I've received. I knew that, the second I walked away, that business card would follow the same journey as the thousands that came before it - he comes home and empties his pockets onto his dresser. Then, when the time comes to clean the clutter from his dresser, he chucks my card in the garbage, along with the rest of the receipts, movie stubs, and condom wrappers.
Or maybe he went home and checked out the blog.
If that were the case - thanks for reading, Hal! Be sure to check out the new Doorman episodes, starting December 26th!