Our latest anonymous interviewee, 34, has seen it all from where he stands guard over a high-end Midtown West co-op.From husbands hiring private detectives to spy on their wives to potentially threatening situations, there is nothing this doorman hasn’t experienced.
Here’s what he had to tell us about dealing with dangerous characters, being named in a resident’s will, and what makes the difference between a good and great tip.
What drew you to becoming a doorman?
My father was a doorman and my brother works in the building so they were able to get me in.
What’s the hardest thing a resident ever asked you to do?
A tenant asked me to tell her long term boyfriend that she didn’t want to see him anymore. I had to relay the message and tell the man he couldn’t come in, because he came over every day. I felt like I had no choice.
It was really tough doing that. You kind of form a companionship with these people — you see them every day.
Also, one of the other tenants had moved in a couple of years ago with his wife — they had just gotten married. And one day she opened an envelope in the lobby and there were divorce papers in it. She started crying and she was talking to me about that.
And then I had to come between both of them. He hired a detective to spy on her and told me not to tell her about it. I didn’t say anything to her. I didn’t want to get any more involved in the situation.
What’s the best tip you’ve ever gotten?
Five-hundred dollars for Christmas. A guy that works in Hollywood who doesn’t live here anymore was generous that year. He didn’t always do that.
Also, one of the older ladies in the building died and left me and a couple of the guys some money in her will. She gave me $3,000. She was a very nice lady, a sweetheart. She was a very lonely woman. She used to talk a lot and a lot of people used to get annoyed but she was very lonely so you have to put that aside.
She would write nice things to us in our cards during Christmas. Some people just throw money in but she’d remember what you said to her about what was going on in your life.
If you had to work a holiday what would it be?
I work a lot of them and I don’t really like [it]. But I never worked on New Year’s Eve. That might be cool. You could look down Seventh Avenue and see the ball drop if you’re on the roof of this building.
I worked Thanksgiving the past three years and people were almost falling through our doors to see the balloons, since the building was on the parade route.
But then it gets out of hand. People start stepping on our plants. We have our handymen and porters standing three, four feet outside the door, kind of as a barricade so people don’t fall through the door.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I like interacting with people – it’s cool. It makes the day go a little faster. Being a doorman can be a little boring, but you see and meet so many different types of people. Plus I get to look outside unlike a handyman or porter — all they do is stare at pipes or floors. That’s not for me.
The tips are also great as opposed to what a handyman or porter gets.
Did anything dangerous ever happen?
You do run into some crazy people. I’ve run into so many rude people. Some tenants might have a wild friend or two. Or maybe they buy or sell drugs or something – you never know.
I’ve had one guy come in and he was totally rude and nasty. He wanted to go up to a tenant’s apartment and they didn’t want to let him in and he got in my face and was screaming at me and then he started spitting at the window. You don’t want to fight the guy because you could lose your job by hitting someone. The mailman had to get in between me and that guy. He was really animated and making a scene and cursing. I basically opened the door and waited for him to get out.
You never want it to lead to any physical contact.
Best thing about neighbourhood: It’s relatively safe and kind of quiet. It’s near Carnegie Hall. Pretty much anything you need is right around the area. You can get any means of transportation — the N, R, Q and W is right around corner and a block away is Columbus Circle, where you can get the A,C,1, and 9 trains.
Worst thing about neighbourhood: It’s a tourist attraction area and that gets a little frustrating. You have some tourists who want to look inside the building–it has a very old Italian deco lobby–and that gets annoying. People argue with you when you tell them that they can’t come in. But it comes with the territory and you get used to it.
Has the neighbourhood changed a lot over the years?
It’s pretty much been the same except that there are a lot less homeless people than there used to be.
Best dry cleaner: A lot of people in the building use Grace Cleaners (on Seventh avenue between 57th and 58th Streets). A lot of people have problems with the expense but it’s convenient.
Best restaurants: You have an Italian restaurant, Trattoria Dell’Arte (Seventh Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets). Their food is really good but a little pricey. They have great lasagna and Italian dishes.
You also have Red Eye Grill (Seventh Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets), which is pricey, and Brooklyn Diner (57th Street between Seventh and 8th Avenues), which is also pricey and a tourist attraction. All of them have pretty good food though. There’s also a little café, La Parisienne (Seventh Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets) – it’s good for a little breakfast.
I like Carnegie Deli (Seventh Avenue between 54th and 55th Streets) – it’s expensive but I love the food there. Their tuna fish and pastrami sandwiches are my favourite. They make stuff that’s like, sized for a family – they’ll give you a sandwich and it’ll take you three days to eat it.
Best quick bite: Hale and Hearty (on 56th street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues). Morton Williams Supermarket (on 57th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues) as well — their chicken salad is good.
Would you live in this building if you could?
To be honest with you, not really. This type of building is not for me. Don’t get me wrong – the building itself is beautiful, but I can’t say I’d fit in over here. It’s very private and quiet.
The funny part about this building is that I bet there are tenants who have lived here for 30, 40 years and don’t know who some of their neighbours are. Everybody does their thing, it’s strange. A lot of people don’t like to come to board meetings or gatherings.
Everybody always comes up and asks me, how do you know every face? And I say, it’s part of my job. I’m security — I have to know who comes in and out and where they plan on going.
What’s the worst part of your job?
I’d like there to be signs outside the building telling people it’s a private residence — that would make my job a little easier. A lot of people don’t want to take my word for it so they’ll argue with me. I don’t really have problems with tenants in the building as opposed to random people on the street who kind of look down on you and want to walk past you. That gets aggravating.
Or even a simple thing — a lot of messengers don’t want to go into our service entrance and so they argue with you because you don’t want to accept the package. Everything has to be put in the computer system over here but they don’t understand that and I don’t want to sit there and tell them about it. That’s a little frustrating.
Some of the tenants don’t know what you go through and some people just don’t care – but that’s the way it goes. That’s how a lot of jobs are and I’ve learned that.
Tips from a Doorman features interviews with assorted New York City doormen, in an effort to get the inside scoop on the best (sometimes hidden) gems in their work neighborhoods. ‘Cuz who knows a neighbourhood better than its doormen(women)?