A hard lesson I’ve learned throughout the years as a doorman is that it doesn’t pay to be a pumped up, mega-fit individual.
By saying this, I’m contradicting a post I wrote berating out-of-shape doormen and giving a few exercises these individuals could do while on the job. I now believe there may be a method to some doormen’s madness or, rather, to their gut-over-the-belt physique.
Let me explain by saying that I work out. I go to the gym and lift my share of weights trying to develop a decent frame. I do it for purely personal reasons: I want to live long and look good as I get older.
When I started working the door, I thought flashing some sculpted “pects” was impressive, especially for the residents in my building. It was the visible reminder of how I could and would grab every grocery bag out of their vehicles, from a meager three to a mammoth 10, in what I thought of as an impressive one-shot deal.
Now, in a building with more than one doorman at a time, residents would expect him (or her) to handle the grocery unload. They pay enough maintenance or rent to expect heavier items to be taken out of the car by the person at the door.
But I’d carry heavy, boxed air conditioners, by myself, through the lobby and into the elevator. Notch the same for furniture, bulging camping backpacks and whatever else one of my residents might bring home.
I was a take-charge kind of guy who didn’t luggage loll or dilly-dally when it came to heavy lifting. Residents appreciated my going beyond-the-call-of-duty. At least, that’s what I thought. As the beads of sweat trickled down my brow, I figured my efforts (developing the muscle power and then using it) had won me a quick couple of bucks.
Well, with most folks I was wrong. My muscles may have actually stereotyped me as mostly brawn, no brain; a modern-day Neanderthal whose job was to exert his strength for their benefit. They’d even admit it, either saying, “Here, you take the heavy stuff,” or sitting back and watching me do the extra work.
There was the time, for example, when I unloaded an SUV filled not only with bags and suit cases, but also with what seemed like the entire Toys R Us store. I huffed and puffed, managing to remove every last item from the truck while the resident sat in the front seat listening to music.
When I finished, he pulled off to park the car. When he came back, he gave me a quick “Thanks,” then entered the elevator and closed its doors.
Reasons for having a doorman do all the heavy work range from the lame “I’m double parked and don’t want to get a ticket,” to the inventive “I have to bring the Zip-car back before the office closes.” Then there’s one of my favorites: “I can’t really lift heavy things.”
And we can? What about our backs? One of the most common complaints for many building workers is back and knee pain. I was afflicted with sciatica once. On returning to my post I was asked by some residents if I was feeling better. For others, the only question was the familiar “Can you give me a hand?"
My thinking at the time was that some people are lazy or needy. Not anymore. It finally dawned on me that these residents are smart: Why kill yourself when you have someone at the door who can do it for you?
Here is where those out-of-shape doormen come into play: I believe they know this as well. So, instead of lifting weights, they lift chips and dip. Their girth ensures that they pace themselves by not running.
Instead of grabbing all bags or a cluster, they carry in – slowly – one at a time. Residents see this and offer to help, if only out of annoyance so they can speed things up.
Being out of shape leaves a doorman prone to feeling sore, a condition he’ll address by massaging his back while grimacing in pain. Residents ignore the body language or respond with empathy and those magical words to a doorman’s ear: "I'm fine. Just hit the elevator button for me, please."
As for me, I still try and grab as many items as I can in one go and haul to the elevator imposing packages – not to impress and hoping in vain for a tip, but to move the delivery vehicle from the front of the building, and to empty the lobby as quickly as possible.