While I was out of work my company installed a “sanitizing station” in the lobby. The polished brass base is nice, it matches the base on the “All Visitors Must Be Announced” sign, but the plastic Purell dispenser and the sign with a picture of the hand waiting for the goop with the words “sanitizing station” over it are not. The lobby is beginning to look like the old 42nd Street.
It’s not even Purell, they started negotiating for a Purell contract but it was too expensive, and our company is all about saving money and charging the maximum amount of rent. They’re probably going to find a way for the tenants to pay for it anyway, and charge Purell prices.
My wife was in the city the other night; she called and said she was in Central park so I suggested she stop by for a visit. She said she was too far downtown so maybe next time, but she would call me later. She did call, about a half hour later and said “It would have been nice to see you” and as I was answering, I saw her walk through the lobby door and start laughing. A pleasant surprise, she played a little trick on me.
Then she noticed the sanitizing station, said, “this is new” and promptly put her hands underneath so that a dose of sterile alcohol-based goop was automatically dispensed into her palms. I was disappointed. I wanted to ask if her hands were dirty.I only use it if I pick up a piece of trash from the sidewalk or if I’ve touched a dog.
“You know, you are drying out your hands and compromising your immune system by using that shit” I blurted.
“I’m just cleaning my hands, that’s all.”
“Well, since that thing has been here I’ve seen people use it, and I’ve seen people walk right by it; and the people that use it exhibit some kind of desperation in my eyes.”
That’s what it was. There were people who had to stick their hands underneath that thing each time they passed it, no matter how many times they passed it, and not because their hands were dirty, but because it’s there and it’s free. They have a compulsion to take anything that is offered, these are the same people who pick up A.M. New York or any of those other free papers that are not even worth using as toilet paper only because they are free, and then carelessly drop them anywhere after they’ve looked at them.
There was a doorman who used to work here, and whenever I relieved him, I found two or three or even sometimes four untouched cups of cold coffee stashed all over the lobby. Some tenants are nice enough to ask you if you want a cup of coffee or something when they run out for their own, and this guy said yes to everybody, whether he needed it or not, only because it was offered. I told tis story to Danusia and she said, “well, that was nice of him, it made them feel good to bring him a coffee.”
“Well, to me it’s just a waste, if you’re not going to drink it. Think of it, more Styrofoam garbage, and wasted coffee someone else could have had, just so that he could satisfy his compulsion.”
She looked at me with a look of surprise.
“Think of it, the coffee, the Purell, the newspapers, some people are just takers for the sake of taking, and it turns me off. When people ask me if I want coffee, and I don’t need it, I say ‘No thank you, but thanks for asking’, that way they feel good without having to waste a coffee.”
She looked at me and smiled.
“Wow, the stuff that’s in your head! If people could only see.”
If only, but they can’t see, so I have to write it down somewhere, like here, for people to see. I don’t even know why I care; taking is about control, refusing is about control. I guess at one point I was a big taker, and watching others take without thought reminds me of that and I don’t like it. I’m glad I’m not so much of a taker anymore, I’ve actually turned into a giver, not a co-dependent giver, mind you, just someone who’s learned what real kindness can be. I guess I have to try harder to be kind to the takers in my head.