I worked the past few days this week and 2 days last week, in the same industry I was fired from. I’m back at the bottom again.
But it’s OK, work is work and we can’t all have really cool jobs (or businesses).
Years ago when I was selling shoes a middle aged couple came into the shoe store I was at in Forest Hills Queens with their barely adult son. He was wearing a suit and tie and his handsomely dressed mother did all the talking.
“My son needs shoes, for business.”
Not for work, but for business. I wondered what kind of business a 20 year old was running. Well, in 1988 that would have been a valid question, but now, in the days of Internet start-ups and Silicon Valley I would understand. But one of those kids wouldn’t be buying black brogans for their business.
I’m a worker, have been and always will be. Hopefully the nature of my work will change from sweeping, mopping, and buffing floors to something a little more comfortable, like writing books and magazine articles.
I know, big change but if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna make a dream come true? (Thank you, Rodgers and Hammerstein.)
In the meantime the rent needs to be paid and all that other good stuff.
The mighty Empire State Building
This building is a lot bigger than 144, which though higher (17 floors) has fewer units on a floor, 64 units total, four to a floor up to 17 and 2 penthouses.
This building, I’ll call it 172; is only 12 stories high but has 8 units per floor, and a bank and a couple of other businesses on the street level.
The basement is huge and it boasts a bike room, storage lockers, and a gym. Laundry room is standard; if you don’t have a laundry room you’re not in New York.
When I was at 144 prospective tenants were always asking about a bike room or storage.
“Sorry, no bike room, no storage,” I would happily chirp with my cynical doorman’s smile. There used to be a bike room and even a storage room where one day we had to rummage through old steamer trunks to empty it out for building materials, I remember finding an old Ike jacket from WWII that the super wheedled out of me.
172 has big giant storage lockers in a big giant room, the kind you see at Manhattan Mini storage. They gym is air-conditioned (the rest of the basement is not) and there is even a playroom for the kids in case it’s raining outside and the kids are driving you nuts. In 144, the nannies (and some parents) would drag their kids down to the lobby and drive me nuts. There doesn’t seem to be an overabundance of kids at 172, this is the East Village and there is an overabundance of self-centered young adults. Last night two locked themselves out and one lost his phone. I opened the doors for the lockouts, but I couldn’t find the guy’s phone.
I have to work nights the two weeks I’m filling in for a guy. His schedule is 8 to 5 on Tuesdays, and then 5pm to 2am Wednesday to Saturday. Weekend evenings out with the wife and friends are out.
I’ve done this before; when I started at 144 I was the night man, 11pm to 7am. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now, so I’d better get cracking on the writing business.
One of the better perks of working in either building is going up on the roof. 144 has just a plain tarpaper roof, no frills, and no access for the tenants, some of whom were always hassling me to let them sunbathe up there. I did let one do it, once, and only because I was up there painting the water tower support.
172, on the other hand, has red outdoors tiles and a deck on the roof. It’s a weird U shape that extends from one roof door to another on the other side of the roof.
There are 3 doors, from 3 stairwells, A, B, and C. When the guy training me showed me how to arrange the tables and chairs (same teak as the deck) he said, “always open door A and C, never B.”
At night I have to go up and lock the doors, 10pm on weeknights and 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The first night I did it there were two couples up there, one had eaten dinner up there and had to carry down their plates and serving bowls. After I got them to leave I had the roof all to myself, and enjoyed the view.
I could see most of the city, most of downtown, anyway. There was the Empire State to the north, and the new Freedom Tower to the south. The Williamsburg Bridge glittered to the east, my route home to Brooklyn. There was a big yellow half-moon in the sky, partially obscured by thin clouds.
Years ago at 144 I heard about a meteor shower that was happening one night, and I took a break from sweeping and mopping to go up and have a look.
It wasn’t quite like this
This being brightly lit New York it wasn’t much of a show; but it was a show nevertheless. I got to see some shooting stars, enough to impress me. It sort of made me feel small, but alive; a part of something that I’ll never understand. But at least now I don’t have to even try and understand it, just dig it.