Flirting is the fastest way to get your tie-wearing, package signing derriere fired in the doormanning business. It is the one-stop shop, money back guaranteed, do not pass go, do not collect $200 sudden death (not le petit mort!) of our little world. One comment too risqué, one glance too lascivious, and you are done. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
It is understandable that this is the one unbreakable rule. We are the border guards of the domestic, private space, and our goal first and foremost is to make people feel comfortable and safe. There is a reason single women are inclined to live in doorman buildings. There can be no foxes guarding the henhouse.
Unfortunately for us, human nature imbues us with an inclination for companionship and reproductive situations, and scientists have recently invented this compound called alcohol, which seems to have the effect of making people, uncoordinated, uninhibited, and often undressed.
And so, doormen (amongst others) get flirted with. Primarily, it is not really flirting, as much as us being unwillingly drafted as the prop in some sex joke. Frequently: Female tenant enters with two friends, one male, one female. An hour later, the two friends leave, and the male friend, will say to the doorman something to the effect of, “she’s ready for you”, and dutifully, the female guest will be merrily outraged at such sordidness.
Other times the female friend will flirt with the doorman as sort of a dare, something to tease her friend about. Once, horribly, it was a group of about three 14-year-old girls chattering and flipping hair.
The end point is the same. “Flirting” by way of reducing the doorman to a mere foil for some joke helps maintain the social distance between doorman and tenant. This is key: If the tenants do not feel that the doorman is socially dead to them, then it makes them uncomfortable to have someone of equal status opening and closing the door, doing what they ask, monitoring who they bring home and in what state, etc., etc.
There is one tenant for whom eye batting is no joke. Over the course of several weeks, this woman, edging on her sixties, began lingering longer and longer in the lobby. She now stays about 45 minutes every night, chatting and wiggling her bangs, waiting awkwardly or repeatedly checking her mail if I am called on to help someone else. Thank god “checking her mail” is not yet a euphemism.
One night, said saucy tenant came back, well, (in)appropriately sauced. It took all of my dubious conversational skills to keep the topics away from anything risqué, and was luckily saved when another tenant needed his car unloaded (also not yet a euphemism). Usually, I take pride in the speed with which I can unload a packed car, but I recall being particularly meticulous that night.
I have heard tell of a doorman who used to spend his breaks rather…productively in the apartments of some of his more solicitous tenants, and with looming unemployment again reasserting itself as a monkey on my back, I find myself doing the ethical math on the transfer from doorman to kept man (doorprize?).
Ah, but to love and to sign for packages!