Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Job Journal: Doorman at fancy women's clothing store

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 at upscale women's clothing boutique in the Meatpacking District, NYC

Duration: 3 months

Year: 2006

My manager was just the sort of uptight social climber you would expect to manage a chic women's clothing boutique. She treated me nicely enough, but had very little patience if I ever questioned the way things were done around the store. I had exactly two opportunities to do so.

I always worked Sunday, when the store opened at 11. However, we needed to report to work at 10:15. Every other day, I needed to arrive about ten minutes early, to sweep the sidewalk and make sure everything looked orderly. I had no added responsibility on Sunday, but I obligingly showed up on time anyway. For a while. I was told we were there early because sometimes the designer liked to swing by the store after she brunched across the street at SoHo House (I wish I could explain how much that sentence hurt me to type). Realizing that she was never going to do that, I decided one Sunday to show up at 10:50, as if it were any other workday.

"Train problems?" asked my manager.

"No." Here's a tip for having a productive conversation with me: I'm intelligent, and often two steps ahead of people who don't get to the point. If you don't get to the point, I will be certain to act like I don't know what you mean and force you to say it. Hence, my blank stare after I said "No."

"We're supposed to be here at 10:15 on Sunday."

"Yes, why is that again?"

"In case Catherine decides to come by."

"Is she aware of what time her own store opens?"

And that was the end of that conversation.

Here's another case of me wildly bucking trends at the store. I was often compared to the previous doorman, Jason. "Jason did it this way." "Jason wouldn't do that." Well, Jason wasn't working there. As doorman/security/the only male in the store, I had to do some light maintenance. Literally, maintenance of lights. The interior of the store was actually remarkable, with a lot of specially-built lighting fixtures that I had to keep clean. I was also once asked to replace a boring old floodlight in the ceiling fixtures. I got the aluminum ladder out, climbed up and took a look at what I was dealing with. These weren't normal screw-in bulbs; rather, there were two forks that slid over screws, which were then tightened to keep the bulb in place. Everything I could see was metal--no shielding of any kind. I wasn't wearing gloves. You may remember what they taught you in second grade about metal and electricity.

"Can we turn off the breaker for this fixture?" I asked the manager.


"There's live electricity running through this and I can't work on it until you've turned it off."

"Jason never turned it off."

"I'd just feel a lot safer [ON THIS ALUMINUM LADDER] if we could do that."

"OK," grumble grumble disappear in the back.

She flipped some switches until it seemed like we found the right one. I took out the old bulb with no trouble. As soon as I touched the new bulb to the contacts, I saw a spark.

"That's still live. We need to turn that off or I can't do this."

"I don't know which one it is. Jason never needed to do this, he just changed the bulbs."

"Jason was an idiot."

And that was the end of that conversation. They called an electrician.

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

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