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So You Think You Can Be A Doorman

With the clock ticking down to the April 20th strike deadline, buildings all across the City are scrambling to hire security guards to protect their flocks should the doormen walk.  All they’ll do is stand there as boards hope their menacing look will keep axe murderers at bay. They can’t answer the intercom or announce visitors or carry your packages or do any of the stuff real doormen do.

 That’s where you, and I, and all our fellow residents come in. We’re supposed to volunteer to step into their shoes and keep things running semi-smoothly. Only people who live in high rises don’t generally volunteer to protect their fellow citizens – at home or abroad – and all the doormen I spoke with seemed skeptical that recruits from their ranks would materialize in any meaningful numbers.  

But I figure as a long-time board member, I’d be tarred and feathered if I shirked my civic responsibility so I decided to sign up for a tour of duty. Only I realized I didn’t have any role model to look to for advice because there are no doorwomen, only doormen.  OK, I’m sure there are a few, hidden somewhere, though I’ve never seen one. and the very idea is usually tinged with sexual innuendo, all of which is pretty surprising given that we’re already a decade into the Twenty-First Century,

In search of an explanation, I called the folks at 32BJ, the union that represents building employees. “I don’t know why there are so few women,” the residential director told me.  “It’s traditionally a male dominated field, but we’re trying to attract more women.” He even told me that the National Organization of Women and The Real Estate Board of New York had done a study on the subject.

Only the people at NOW had no better answer. In fact the woman I spoke to was just as baffled as I was, all the more so because boards that do the hiring have lots of women, who you’d think would help their sisters break into the club.

“Maybe it’s cause there’s only one locker room,” she speculated, which wasn’t as silly as it initially seemed because I knew my sister had confronted that exact problem years back when she was a medical resident. Only she took self help by telling the guys she was coming in if they didn’t come out to discuss the cases, not an option really available to would-be doorwomen.

Still it didn’t make sense to me. There are female firefighters who rush into burning buildings and police women who chase after bad guys. Watching the door seemed like a relative cake walk.

I decided to go direct to the source – the guys who man the door. “What’s the key to being a successful doorman?” I asked.

“Patience,” one flashed me his always cheerful smile.

“You have to be able to read people,” another said. “Yeah, and always be nice.”

“It’s like that movie, What Women Want,” a third just laughed. “You know, pay attention to what everyone wants.”

I was beginning to realize that being a doorman was like being a shrink –  with a sunny disposition – not talents I possess. I knew I’d be a dismal failure, even as a fill-in, and the sense of humiliation that accompanies such incompetence could send me running  to a real shrink — which is why I hope they settle.



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