Friday, November 18, 2011

Job Journal: Hotel Door/Bellman

The United States workforce is represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: those who plan on keeping their job for the long haul, and those who are biding their time before becoming the Next Big Thing. These are stories from the second group.

Job: Doorman/bellman at Upper West Side hotel
Duration: 3 months
Year: 2005

I found this job through Craigslist. I had no relevant professional experience, though most of my previous jobs also did not allow me to sit and as a polite person I've opened many a door and carried many a bag for other people. Suddenly they were handing me 1s, 5s, and sometimes 20s for being polite. This was the first and thus far last job I ever had that involved tips. I liked it. If I had to go back to one of my old jobs tomorrow, I'd probably pick this one. Because I did not, in fact, have to dress like that guy in the picture.

The duties were self-evident. Open the door genially, carry any bags that needed carrying, and give directions/recommendations if asked. I didn't know the Upper West Side very well at the time, so whenever someone asked for a good restaurant I would just parrot the places I heard the other doormen recommend. I'm sure they were basing these recommendations on doormen before my time and so on, so that we were in fact recommending Tammany Hall-era speakeasies. If so, it never got back to me.

I was living by myself at the time in Inwood. This was the first summer after grad school. The hotel of course thought I was quitting school because it wasn't for me. I knew this entire time that at the end of the summer, I'd be telling them the school offered me an attractive scholarship and I was going to go back (see also: 2006). Taking a look at my somehow-still-increasing amount of student loan debt, I wish desperately this were true.

I usually worked the 3 PM-midnight shift, and since I was living alone I decided to flip my own script. I would wake up around 1 PM, eat breakfast, shower and head to work. I'd eat lunch at work around 6, then eat dinner at home around 1 AM. I would stay up til 4 or 5 playing video games or writing short pieces about how much I wanted to burn down my neighborhood. It was a solitary summer, but I'd gone through a bad breakup and I think it helped me reset to 1.

My fellow doormen were all pretty nice. There was an even split between blue collar and actor/artist types. One guy filled most of his time by getting DVDs from Netflix, copying them, and sending them back as fast as he could. Another guy was apprenticing with someone who was teaching him how to win online poker. The teacher made a steady living with his skill, and was including a few other people in a pyramid where he'd fund their playing after teaching them to at least break even, and giving them a cut of the winnings. If this is true, I'm still convinced it's the best way I could make money right now. There were at most three of us at the door at a time, but usually just two. Eight hours of standing around with another guy, you get to know them fairly well. The poker apprentice and I had the most in common. He was also an actor and generally into the same stuff as me, though frustratingly he would not hurry up and read the sixth Harry Potter, which came out while we worked there.

We were given shirts to wear with the hotel logo on them, and we had a locker room downstairs. I believe there may have actually been a working shower in there. Fun fact: I've never seen a shower in a locker room in use, though I've never belonged to a gym either. One time I was in the locker room getting ready for work with the poker apprentice. He looked at his shirt and said "do you think they'll let us keep this when we quit?" Career men, we were not.

In future posts, I'll tell you about how endearing a racial epithet can be to a white guy, why Italians have skin like their luxurious purses, and why I don't like French people.

Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's just an actor and writer.

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