This was the scariest two-sentence combination I heard as a doorman.
October 25, 2013 2:03 PM   Subscribe

The Secret Life of a Doorman
posted by roomthreeseventeen (56 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
We gave him the document, for which he tipped us an extra $200 each. Nothing was said. The apartment was repainted and sold for over a million dollars, which a court allowed the son to keep. The will ended up like all of those other words—in a landfill, forgotten, never to be read again.

Because of you, ya dick.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:13 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder what the statute of limitations is for probate fraud?
posted by Woodroar at 2:16 PM on October 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


I feel like that was an awful lot of complaining for a cushy job that he was only doing until he finished NYU and went on to something posher.

It was modestly interesting, but I kept expecting that there'd be, like, a downside greater than "I had to work a well-paid blue collar gig as the junior guy during most of my college vacations and while I made a lot of money I had to put up with some unspecified hassle from the senior guys". I felt like we were going to get some kind of "and they made homophobic remarks and beat me up" or "and I knew that Corey had raped his cousin" or something, not just "these are guys who weren't that fun to work with". More of a sense that other people do this kind of job for their whole lives would be nice, too - I mean, if it's a tragedy for NYU dude to have to work swing shift (which I'm sure isn't fun!) isn't it even worse not to be an upwardly mobile NYU student but just to be a regular working class joe?

I also expected more malfeasance on the part of the rich people.

And look, someone has to check on poor dead great-aunt Gracey or whomever. It's not some punishment from the universe, it's just the real of people dying at home. Honestly, better that Aunt Grace buys the farm while lying in bed and rots for a couple of days than that she dwindles for a year at great misery and expense in some nursing home, getting bedsores and losing her mind.
posted by Frowner at 2:22 PM on October 25, 2013 [25 favorites]


I don't begrudge anyone the urge to complain, even at length, about a job that involves finding less-than-fresh corpses. YMMV.
posted by figurant at 2:26 PM on October 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Eponysterical?

Also, I'd love to read a doorman story with more meat than this thin gruel.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:26 PM on October 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wonder what the statute of limitations is for probate fraud?

I don't. I actually wish more people would commit probate fraud and write about it on the internet.

I feel like that was an awful lot of complaining for a cushy job that he was only doing until he finished NYU and went on to something posher.

Absolutely. And I did find it mildly interesting as well, but it was too short, not enough meat to it. And 3rd shift isn't some punishment.

From TFA: I lost all sense of time and all ability to interact. The weeks on the overnight shift were like solitary confinement. My day planner from that period makes no sense; pages either blank or full of scribbling of strange ideas. It was my own personal Groundhog Day every night, the same, unmovable time loop over and over and over. Vonnegut, of all people, tried to keep me sane.

Jeez, could you be any more overly-dramatic? A few hours by yourself is not like solitary confinement (I worked a few years as a hotel night auditor). Now get off my lawn.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:29 PM on October 25, 2013 [6 favorites]




I don't begrudge anyone the urge to complain, even at length, about a job that involves finding less-than-fresh corpses. YMMV.


I'm sure it was horrible, and I don't mind people complaining - but he writes as if somehow there were some other option for the world and that it was uniquely unfair that he had to do this well-paid job ($660 after taxes? Seriously, I don't make that much and I am a grown-ass adult in a white collar gig) with an unpleasant and very occasional aspect. (I mean, he doesn't describe routinely experiencing this.) Someone has to find that body. Someone has to report it. Someone has to break the news to the family. That has to be done; it's the least part of being in the human community. Why not him? It's not like he's making minimum wage or facing a lifetime of it.

I know a TON of people who would gladly, gladly take a swing-shift union gig at a living wage with no heavy lifting or repetitive motion that also comes with time to read, because that would be ten times better than the work they have now. That doesn't mean that this kid can't complain - he can complain as much as he likes! I complain, and my job is pretty pleasant! But some perspective would be great.
posted by Frowner at 2:32 PM on October 25, 2013 [21 favorites]


I thought it was about to go somewhere, and then it ended. But I quite like the illustrations—in fact, they may have oversold the essay to some degree for me.
posted by obloquy at 2:36 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or else some more personal stuff - maybe this was uniquely horrible for him in a way that it wouldn't be for others. Maybe he has some childhood trauma, physical limitation, anxiety or something. But sharing that so that we understand that he's not just complaining about a well compensated college job would give this piece a lot more strength.
posted by Frowner at 2:36 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


$660 a week after taxes is decent money for a college job, but that's not really well paid by any objective measure, to me at least. Plenty of people live on less, but that's a problem, not something that transforms $35,000 a year take home into well paid.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:38 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, I think a problem is that this essay can't decide whether it wants to focus on evoking the texture of his experience or making a big complaint about how awful it was. It sounds like a very strongly felt, eerie and evocative short-term job, especially for a young kid, and I kept getting glimpses of the late night and early morning feeling of the work - and that was good. Maybe it's just that the essay isn't quite controlled enough? Like he's trying to evoke these feelings he had but instead comes across as complaining when he's really just trying to describe?
posted by Frowner at 2:40 PM on October 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Article has the same format as the article in the Bison Dele thread (as well as the child-trafficking thread). There is no escape.
posted by Melismata at 2:42 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Remind me to up my doorman's holiday bonus this year.
posted by The Whelk at 2:52 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's just that the essay isn't quite controlled enough? Like he's trying to evoke these feelings he had but instead comes across as complaining when he's really just trying to describe?

I think he's trying to add a gloss of existential angst to make a light, not especially compelling story hit harder. It doesn't really work, obviously. However, despite my hyper-sensitivity to pretension, I'm with you in thinking that it's an earnest attempt that just misses its mark instead of something malevolent.

It's hardly the worst thing I've ever read, but it's not great. It has decent structure and prose, but I don't think he had much of a story to use as a seed.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:58 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Frowner got it. If it had been longer and more focused on the individual details of work as a doorman, it might have been a better piece. It drives me crazy to read something that could have been good, and is only pleasant.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:02 PM on October 25, 2013


This might be the weakest piece of writing I've ever seen linked on Metafilter. Keep yer secrets, doorboy.
posted by Scram at 3:25 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Article has the same format as the article in the Bison Dele thread (as well as the child-trafficking thread)

Does this format have a name? I would be grateful for a clue to avoid any more of it.
posted by bukvich at 3:43 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


He carried a box cutter to walk to Broadway?
posted by Ad hominem at 3:54 PM on October 25, 2013


I kind of like it. I like that it has flaws in perspective and storytelling. It's a real story, not some glossy, overedited magazine read. I think that's the point of that website, people telling real stories from real perspectives, not some overwrought personal essay.
posted by limeonaire at 4:01 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


He carried a box cutter to walk to Broadway?

Maybe his uncle has memories of a less-safe NY. I think people's attitudes are slower to change than the city itself.

A brand new NYC travel book I was reading as recently as 2004 or 2005 mentioned that certain parts of the East Village (Alphabet City) were potentially unsafe, and made no guarantees at all about the outer boroughs because things change so quickly.

I doubt the EV was substantially less safe than today.

Now, I'm guessing that the same book wouldn't mention the safety of the East Village at all beyond its history, and would recommend certain parts of Brooklyn by name.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:20 PM on October 25, 2013


I like how he hates the residents for looking down on him, but seems to despise the people who try to be nice more.

/hamburger
posted by winna at 4:35 PM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was hoping it'd read more like a Hey Arnold episode, but it came off really whiny. I'd love to have a job paying that much and besides finding dead bodies and being harassed by people (which, since he's white, doesn't sound TOO bad according to the example he used) I feel like there'd be a ton of great stories to tell. The part I liked the most that he only briefly mentioned was about the people who came in cheating on their wives or having male prostitutes. I never realized how much knowledge a doorman could possess over you. But I think that's a negative of the story: that other peoples' lives were more interesting than his story.
posted by gucci mane at 4:58 PM on October 25, 2013


NYC. Class conflict, if not class war, from your building's front door to, well, back to your building's front door, until your doorman eventually, and probably under protest, finds your rotting corpse.
posted by paulsc at 4:59 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never realized how much knowledge a doorman could possess over you. see above , re: Holiday bonus.
posted by The Whelk at 5:11 PM on October 25, 2013


Wikipedia: When Barton first arrives at the Hotel Earle, he is asked by the friendly bellhop Chet (Steve Buscemi) if he is "a trans or a res" – transient or resident. Barton explains that he isn't sure, but will be staying "indefinitely"..
posted by ovvl at 6:17 PM on October 25, 2013


Here are a few fragments from my time as a doorman in New York:

I worked in a building in Murray Hill (Park Ave in the 30's), I mostly worked the the nightshift, so 11:30 pm to 7:30 am. Menthol cigarettes will keep you awake long after coffee stops working.

One woman would come down every morning at 6:30 and sit with me until 7 when the same cabbie (yellow cab, not a car service guy) would pull up and escort her to work, they'd been doing that for 10 years, it was almost unbearably romantic.

I knew every single goddamn dirty secret about everybody who lived in that building, most peoples secrets are terribly boring from an outsiders perspective, but consume them utterly.

Every person who looked like they would cheat on their spouse totally cheated on their spouse.

A certain type of person seems to revel in their sins being known to those around them, it's not the sin itself that gets them off, it's the knowing that other people know about it. Those kind of people are incredibly boring after the 16th time they answer the door nude or whatever.

A woman tried to flush her bathroom rug down the toilet, she tipped me 50 cents when I unstopped the toilet.

People who live in the same building for 30 plus years have incredible stuff in basement storage. One lady gave me a lucite backgammon table like something out of Armenian Star Trek that I sold for 2 grand at a consignment shop. You could have set dressed 10 seasons of Mad Men just with the contents of our storage units.

A lot of lonely drunk guys walking home from the club want to kill an hour talking to a doorman, approx 30% of them will ask politely if you want to wrestle them.

Liquor store delivers, grocery store delivers, drug store delivers, I had people in my building who made Howard Hughes look like Richard Simmons.

Popular friendly doormen who knew how to keep their mouth shut would regularly clear ten to fifteen grand tax free over the holidays.

It was a good job and I would never ever live in a doorman building.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:31 PM on October 25, 2013 [75 favorites]


Because of you, ya dick.

If the old woman was too cheap and bitter to bother placing the document in the care of a trusted executor, then it got exactly the execution it deserved.
posted by localroger at 6:36 PM on October 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jeez, Divine_Wino, that's the piece I wanted to read!
posted by Scram at 6:37 PM on October 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Oh, dying in a doorman building, most of the time we knew when someone was probably dead, we just let the cops in. When you died in any of the three buildings I worked in you took your last ride in the service elevator, often piloted by me. If a cramped Otis elevator with yellowed clippings of funny headlines from the New York Post and a buzzy fluorescent overhead light is your idea of a cool Viking funeral than by all means die in Murray Hill.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:58 PM on October 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was a doorman in 1995 in Chicago, Drake Tower & other condos around the Mile. Good gig. Sometimes had to chase hobos away when they tried to piss in the bushes. There was an old dude who lived in the building who'd hang around the lobby and goad me into hassling the hobos. Ah, youth.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:01 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's okay no one in Murray Hill can be said to be alive.
posted by The Whelk at 7:03 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


A native New Yorker friend I have who is now a successful dot com entrepreneur type, he said his backup plan if the startup tanked was 1) apply to be a NYPD cop (interesting tough job, very nice pension but there's a 2 or 3 year waiting list) and if not 1) then 2) become a doorman. He said it was one of the sweetest jobs in NYC.
posted by Bwithh at 7:11 PM on October 25, 2013


Every person who looked like they would cheat on their spouse totally cheated on their spouse.

how do you tell???
posted by Bwithh at 7:13 PM on October 25, 2013


Vonnegut, of all people, tried to keep me sane.

That's...I....no. Nope. No.
posted by kate blank at 7:15 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


are there any good doorman comedies? dramas? novels?
posted by Bwithh at 7:15 PM on October 25, 2013


Four Rooms ...uh ..kinda?
posted by The Whelk at 7:17 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


( apparently doorman occupy some strange most valued retainer status in the minds of the very rich Manhattanite, like a literal last guard against the outside world. My building is widly overstuffed with redundant people because of c"safety concerns." I should point out you could count the yearly number of crimes in this zip codes on one hand.)
posted by The Whelk at 7:23 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


how do you tell???

Well not to give away too many tricks of the trade, but mostly you just watched their spouse leave on a trip and then they came home drunk with someone who wasn't their spouse.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:24 PM on October 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


What years roughly does this guy's anecdotes cover do ya think? The box cutter/NYC safety thing others commented on got me wondering. It seems pre-smartphone but post all-richer-peeps-have-cellphones. 1995-7?
posted by Bwithh at 7:26 PM on October 25, 2013



Well not to give away too many tricks of the trade, but mostly you just watched their spouse leave on a trip and then they came home drunk with someone who wasn't their spouse.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:24 PM on October 25 [−] [!]


omg, I would have totally assumed they were just platonic chums
posted by Bwithh at 7:28 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


fuck chums
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:30 PM on October 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder what the statute of limitations is for probate fraud?
posted by Woodroar at 2:16 PM on October 25 [8 favorites −] [!]



"A six-year statute of limitations period is applicable to claims of fraud.8 The time period for a fraud claim runs from the time the plaintiff discovered the fraud or ‘‘with reasonable diligence,’’ should have discovered the fraud.9 New York also allows a plaintiff two extra years to bring an action after discovery or imputed discovery of the facts if the statute of limitations has run.10"
posted by Bwithh at 7:35 PM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like that was an awful lot of complaining for a cushy job that he was only doing until he finished NYU and went on to something posher.

Oh wow, I had the actual experience of finding a dead body while at work (hasn't everyone?). And I read this story on MF about another guy who had the same thing happen, and he wrote about it. And so I decided to deride him for complaining about how awful the whole thing was - fuckin' wuss.

Seriously?
posted by sundrop at 7:50 PM on October 25, 2013


Carlton Your Doorman (1980)

(here's the wikipedia article)
posted by Bwithh at 7:52 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: until your doorman eventually, and probably under protest, finds your rotting corpse.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 8:05 PM on October 25, 2013


omg, I would have totally assumed they were just platonic chums

I would, for real!

At my old job apparently every single person there, including the woman who had a vocation to be a nun, knew that people had sex in the stairwell near our offices. For that reason no one used those stairs except for me. I used them because those stairs were the most efficient route to the front door from my cube. I did wonder vaguely why no one else used them, and why sometimes I would open the door to walk upstairs and there would be people loitering on the mid-flight landing. How silly, I would think as I schlepped up the stairs past the sweaty, embarrassedly irritated people, that people come all the way to this deserted part of the building to stand in the stairwell on their breaks! What a pointless thing to do!

Obviously I would be a stellar doorman.
posted by winna at 8:11 PM on October 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


Oh, dying in a doorman building, most of the time we knew when someone was probably dead, we just let the cops in. When you died in any of the three buildings I worked in you took your last ride in the service elevator, often piloted by me. If a cramped Otis elevator with yellowed clippings of funny headlines from the New York Post and a buzzy fluorescent overhead light is your idea of a cool Viking funeral than by all means die in Murray Hill.


This is the only time I've wanted to move to Murray Hill
posted by dame at 8:50 PM on October 25, 2013


It wasn't the best piece in the world, but it was an interesting read.

I'm fairly certain that everyone thinks the summer job they had as a teenager is some important, existential shit.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:06 PM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it was a little light, but it got me to follow Narratively to see what else they have.

As a landlord I have a few odd stories along the same lines. I've never found a dead body, but I have had to do 'welfare checks' and yeah, you wonder what you're going to find. My dad seemed to have a knack for finding tenants with wild drama surrounding them, like the woman with a teenaged daughter who took up with the just-barely-not-teenaged son of the downstairs tenant. We had another who managed to both have a DV-prone boyfriend (who kicked his way through the bathroom door once) and spend a week in the county lock-up for check fraud. While she was there we got asked by her mother to meet us so she could pick up some clean clothes for her daughter, the tenant, and when we opened the place up found a third woman and her teenaged son squatting there (the mother pranced out from the shower wearing our much-shorter tenant's bathrobe and an indescribable expression). I also have ridiculous tales of street crime, like the sweet Mexican lady with her own super-expensive gas range who ceded control of her apartment to her hellion US-born kids, one of whom I overheard talking to a seven-foot black guy in the parking lot about a proposal to split the drug market in the neighborhood along ethnic lines ("I could sell to all the spics, and you to all the [and we'll stop transcribing there]"), and later fixed his sister's minivan by stealing the rims from our family's matching minivan, apparently not realizing it belonged to his landlord.
All of these people would have been out much sooner if it had been me, not my dad, making the decisions. I can't stand drama.
posted by dhartung at 1:51 AM on October 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


Does this format have a name? I would be grateful for a clue to avoid any more of it.

Gah. H8ers. But you'll probably want to avoid tags such as "media-rich", "tablet-friendly", "interactive" and so forth. One of the key proponents of this was The Atavist, now doing more consulting and in-house than publishing their own.

I feel like that was an awful lot of complaining for a cushy job that he was only doing until he finished NYU and went on to something posher.

The week's theme at Narratively is moonlighting -- like this other piece about the trans man who supplements/keeps afloat his porn business by delivering pizza. I haven't read them all, but they don't necessarily seem to actually go anyplace, if that matters to you.

are there any good doorman comedies? dramas? novels?

I'm thinking stuff like Grand Hotel, The Hot L Baltimore (OMG I know that's the series based on the play but James Cromwell!), the TV series Hotel, etc. And of course this year we have new Wes Anderson: The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring an actual "junior lobby boy-in-training".

Joseph Gurl: I had a work buddy who years before had been a bellboy at at least two of the nicer Chicago hotels. I don't know about hassling drunks, but he did say -- pace Sal in Mad Men -- that he was propositioned by men all the time (and at least one couple).
posted by dhartung at 2:14 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was curious, as I used to party with the doormen in my building in NYC. But they were the sons of parents who owned one of the apartments. I was kind of hoping it would prove to be something one of them had written.
posted by Goofyy at 7:00 AM on October 26, 2013


I grew up in Manhattan in a doorman'ed building and I remember selling lemonade to the people waiting for the cross town bus in the mid 70's when I was 7 or so. Just me and my buddy out in front of our building. All alone, with our little cardboard box stand, making money. 20 years later my mom let me in on a secret - Jose stood 10 feet away holding a baseball bat behind his leg. Didn't tell her he ended up giving me beers and worse when I was 17. Good guy.
posted by T10B at 9:37 AM on October 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yay! So nice to find out there are other doormen or former doormen on MetaFilter! At my shift right now, in fact. About a year ago the law changed in Oregon and we can no longer check apartments when concerned relatives call (like the essay says that is by far the worst part of the job), we have to just call non-emergency 911.

My building is for low income seniors and the disabled, although it is not assisted living, so it is quite a different scene than what the essay is about. I'll add a couple memorable moments:

One time two teenagers on some kind of hallucinogen stumbled into the basement door after a tenant walked in and were literally just lying down next to the elevator doors wiggling their fingers above their eyes. Caused quite an uproar.

No matter what your good intentions are when calling the police because a tweaking homeless woman has locked herself into the basement bathroom, the police WILL treat that person like total shit in a way that implies you are also in on the 'joke'.

Tenants used to have access to the beautiful view from the 18 story roof, but that ended after someone threw a table down to the sidewalk.

So many seemingly forgotten about people living here. Had to enter one apartment with a maintenance person because of water flooding. The apartment was filthy with an old woman in wretched child like pajamas surrounded by half-full cans of whatever watching a children's show on TV, feces all over the bathroom.

One time when I was doing an overnight shift this non-tenant guy came in who had been coming in every night lately. He was clearly very depressed and was having a rough time. This time he came in and instead of sitting down on a chair he came up and stood right by my desk, and as he reached into his jacket he said "I don't want to live anymore." The only time I honestly believed someone was about to shoot me and/or themselves.

This article was the first time I realized doormen get tips. Although I can't complain, the building has really significant Russian, Iranian and Chinese populations and they regularly bring me very tasty dinners.
posted by Corduroy at 9:59 AM on October 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


Quick! Somebody call that poor kid a waaahmbulance!
posted by Devils Slide at 7:02 PM on October 26, 2013


Divine_Wino - enjoyed your narrative more that the link and half the magazine pieces I've read this week. ... However, isn't it possible that people who didn't look like they would cheat on their spouses were secretly meeting Barbara at a motel by the turnpike?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:49 AM on October 27, 2013


Entirely possible, in fact. I make no claims about people who did not look like adulterers.

Speaking of baseball bats behind the leg, we had a sawn-off pool cue, a tee-ball bat, a genuine shillelagh and a length of wrist thick copper wire sheathed in rubber. Each of these things was way too intense to actually contemplate hitting anyone with, but it was part of the whole doorman tradition, also rubber bands, everything wrapped in rubber bands, we had all the rubber bands.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:47 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


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