Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Only in New York: A Christmas Special - Part II

CLICK HERE FOR PART ONE. YOU NEED TO READ PART ONE FIRST. 

A taxi pulled up in front of the hotel. I hopped to it, leaving the umbrella behind. On the way out, I bumped into another young woman. Hard. I almost knocked her over. Still defensive, I anticipated a, "watch where you're going, you fucking piece of shit doorman!" 

But she didn't. After I apologized immediately, she simply smiled and said, "it's okay! Have a wonderful evening, sir!" 

I looked around. She was part of a large group, maybe 20 or 30 people. Escaping the rain, they all squeezed under the marquis, blocking the sidewalk and entrance to the hotel. 

Oh, motherfucker. Now I have to tell these idiots that they can't stand there and block the door. I have to yell at a bunch of people, then field all of the disapproving looks. I have to be the bad guy, the grinch... AGAIN!

A middle-aged woman, the apparent leader of the pack, called the group's attention: 

Middle-Aged Woman - "Okay, this looks good!" 

Don't get too comfortable, asshole. 

Middle-Aged Woman - "Ready?!" 

The group, a mix of people of all ages, did a sudden about-face towards her. 

I took a step towards them, ready to have them move onto another place where they weren't blocking an entrance to one of the busiest hotels in midtown Manhattan. Ready to field an array of scowls and "what's his problem's?". Ready to, once again, feel shitty about just doing my job. This fucking job

As I mustered the last bit of assertiveness I had left in my body, the leader of the pack raised her hands in front of her, took a deep breath, and the large group of people harmonized a "Silent Night, Holy Night..." 

Christmas carolers. 

I froze in my tracks. 

I grew up in the suburbs. Never, in all my Christmases, have I ever been privy to a group of random carolers outside my window. I didn't they existed outside of movies. 

Scanning the crowd of faces, all shiny and red from the cold rain, I couldn't help but notice the sheer joy in every one of them. None of them were wrinkled and sagging from the stress of having to navigate this high-octane city on a daily basis. None of them seemed to carry the weight of this circle of hostility that tornados it's way through my path every evening. Nope, all I saw was sheer joy and holiday spirit. 

This prompted me to do something that's unfathomable to any frantic New Yorker - stop, relax, and listen. 

I haven't seen too many choirs in my day, so I really don't have much to base this on, but they were amazing. Truly amazing. I stood and watched them, trying to fully take in this moment. Listening to the lyrics. Everything around me slowed down. 

I've never been a spiritual man. I stopped going to church at a young age. I've never believed in fate, or serendipity, or being "saved". My faith in humanity takes a crushing blow on a daily basis, as you may have noticed in the 150+ stories you've read on here. 

Don't get me wrong - I have a lot to be grateful for. I do. That'll never change. But I see the ugly in so many people. I see them get sucked into this tornado of hostility and do and say some pretty horrible things, myself included. To have the universe throw me a bone, give me a little nudge-of-the-elbow, a tiny inkling of hope that there's plenty of good left in the world... well, it moved me to tears. 

The carolers seamlessly transitioned into We Wish You a Merry Christmas, finished up, and moved onto the next hotel. I wiped a few tears from my face, then went back to my post. 

For the next twenty minutes, I tried to make sense of all of it - the timing, trying to understand what message the universe was attempting to send me. Then, for whatever reason, I started thinking about the Hispanic Woman.  

Why didn't I give her the umbrella? It's Christmas, for fucks sake. What the hell is the matter with me? Why do I, day in and day out, let this job get the better of me? Why can't I rise above all of this ugliness? Why can't I be a bigger, better man?

A guest walked towards the door. I held it open for her, looking at the floor and giving a faint smile, as I usually do. As she entered and walked past me, she spoke:

Middle-Aged Woman - "Hello, sir! How are you?" 

I looked up and saw the leader of the choir, with a beaming smile. 

Doorman - "Oh.. Hi!" 

She asked again: 

Middle Aged Woman - "How are you, sir?" 

I honestly didn't know. A small, burning part of me was still defensive, waiting for the pie to be smashed in my face.

Doorman - "I'm, uh, I'm good. I'm good." 

She kept smiling. Making eye contact with me. Having someone genuinely ask how I was doing was so out-of-the-ordinary and off-putting that it made me want to jump through the glass door and run down the street. 

Middle-Aged Woman - "Did you enjoy that?" 

I knew what she was talking about.

Doorman - "Enjoy what?" 

Middle-Aged Woman - "The singers!" 

Doorman - "Oh! That was you!" 

I wanted to say something vague along the lines of, "oh, yeah! Nice job!". But I couldn't. I felt a pit in my stomach. My face and neck and ears got hot. I had trouble catching my breath. 

Middle-Aged Woman - "Yes, that was us! Did you enjoy it, sir?" 

I wanted to tell her everything, but I couldn't. All I could muster was this: 

Doorman - "You know... I deal with a lot out here. And people are, well..."

I felt a huge lump in the back of my throat. The Middle-Aged Woman kept smiling, nodding for me to keep going. But I couldn't. I started crying. I tried to get a few words out, telling her that her choir was the glimmer of hope I needed. That I was questioning my morals and what kind of man I was becoming. All I wanted to say was that her timing was perfect. 

She put her hand on my shoulder and told me about her relationship with God. She told me that, at the age of 60, her relationship with Him is as strong a bond as ever. She told me that what I felt, the overwhelming feeling of love and warmth, was a sign and gift from her Lord and Savior. 

She handed me a few pamphlets, along with a business card she shares with her husband from their church in Louisville, KY. 

Middle-Aged Woman - "If you ever need to talk, about anything, or if you're ready to let Jesus Christ into your heart, please call either my husband or I. And if you're ever passing through Kentucky, you'll always have a place to stay!" 

I know I won't do any of that. Not that I don't appreciate it, or disbelieve anything she said, but I know myself. I know how vicariously I love to live. As much as I hate my job, I keep it to maintain this lifestyle - the partying, the women, the being able to freely use "god damnit". I'm just not cut from that cloth, and I'd be fooling myself if I attempted to give up everything I know to pursue a life dedicated to the church.  

However, whereas a few years ago I may blown her off as another "Jesus freak" who was trying to get me to join her "cult", I took this much differently. The situation is really not that complicated - a good person stopped to console a total stranger, who was in need of uplifting. She didn't know me, or what kind of man I was. She didn't care that I was just an asshole to a girl asking for an umbrella, or that I said horrific things to a cabbie trying to get an airport fare to go home, or dismissed and embarrassed a pedicab driver trying to pick up one of my guests. No, she looked at me and saw only a man, having faith that there was some good in him. 

Taking religion off the table, it's simply an act of humanity. 

After we parted ways, I once again started thinking about the Hispanic Woman. I wanted to do something nice for her. I didn't have a name or room number, so I had to wait till she came downstairs for her next smoke. 

I went into one of the storage closets and began digging through the shelves of stuff left behind from past guests. There I found a clear umbrella, with an "I Love NY" logo on it. I looked at the storage tag, which was dated 7/11/14. Perfect. No one will miss this one. I opened it up, making sure it wasn't broken in any capacity. 

My plan was to stash it behind the wheelchair ramp and give it to her when she came outside. I thought about what I was going to say: 

Hi, I thought about what you said, and I just wanted to give this to you. May be too late, but I just thought I'd do something nice.

Or 

Here, I want you to have this. I was a jerk before. Merry Christmas.

Or

Hey, I just wanted to apologize about before. It may be too little, too late. But I just wanted you to have this. Happy holidays. 

A few minutes later, the Middle-Aged Woman came downstairs with her husband, daughter, son, sister, brother-in-law and four more people from the choir. Everyone wanted to meet the doorman who was so moved by their performance. Her daughter was the girl I bumped into on the sidewalk before they started singing. 

For the next half hour or so, I was surrounded by nearly a dozen smiling, attentive faces. I told them all my story, how I left a cushy teaching job to pursue an acting career in city, only to stumble upon this whole writing thing. I told them about my old theatre company, my filmmaking ambitions, and my quest to find out what all of this was ever for. I was the center of attention. I was happy. 

They were really wonderful. Most guests, if it ever gets to a point where I like them enough to open up about my career, will say, "well, good luck to you!", never really taking me seriously. I'll give them my card, tell them to check out my writing and email me what they think. They never do. I refrained from giving these lovely people any link to this blog, with all the "cock suckers" and "mother fuckers" and countless religious exclamations thrown around likely to turn them off a bit.

As we yucked it up, I saw the Hispanic Woman emerge from the elevator, dressed to go out for the evening. She was in a hurry, furiously stamping across the lobby on her way to the door. I quickly excused myself from the group and gave chase.

She walked down the short flight of steps before the door. I hustled after her as I prepared my apology.

Before I could yell, "excuse me", I saw her stop for a moment. She noticed the rain still coming down outside, then looked down at the doorman umbrella, still dry in the corner.

Without a moment's hesitation, she grabbed it and walked out the door, never looking back.

Fuck. 

I stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do. A part of me wanted to chase her down with the umbrella I'd intended on giving to her. Another part of me wanted to chase her down and call her a fucking thief. The last part of me wanted to let it go. I did.

The choir group took my excusing myself and taking off like a maniac as a sign that I needed to get back to work. It was the last thing I wanted to do. They said their good nights and offered me a bed in their homes should I visit Kentucky. One of the older gentlemen asked if I was married. I said no, and he offered to help find me a wife. I respectfully declined.

I didn't see the Hispanic Woman after that. She'll never know how close she was to having her day made.

I retreated back to my post, taking the "I Love NY" umbrella that I stashed behind the wheelchair ramp and put it in the corner for the morning guy to find when he gets in. A guest approached me.

Guest - "Can you hail us a cab?"

It was the end of the night. I was now dry from being inside talking to all those people. No use getting soaked again.

I picked up the "I Love NY" umbrella, walked out the door, and opened it up.

I take my place in the street, facing the sea of oncoming traffic lights. The rain drops pound onto the top of the umbrella, trickling down and dripping onto the sleeve of my jacket. I extend my arm.

Back to business.

                     __________________________________________

Dearest Readers,

I'd like to thank you all for another wonderful year of support! None of this happens without you and I want to wish all of you and your families the safest, happiest, and healthiest of holidays! Let's hope 2015 brings bigger and better things to the Doorman story!

Also - This Thursday, Christmas Day, we'll be re-launching the original Doorman pilot. The next day (Friday 12/26 at noon), we'll air our first new episode of the season, titled "C-Note". Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow me on twitter for more updates.

Much love,

Chris

No comments:

Post a Comment