Last Wednesday, a guy saw me and gave a salute asking, “Can you put me on the list?” Sure I replied and just opened the door. “Do you have to stand here all day,” he continued. I indeed do, I said. He stared at one the two girls behind the desk in the gallery and went inside and started chatting with her. I don’t think he normally would visit.
A car service came up and parked in the No Parking spot. I told him that you weren’t to park there and he replied that he would look out for the traffic cops. When he returned he asked me, “Did I get a ticket?”
An older small guy with a moustache passed by the Gallery. “You are a doorman,” he started. It was pretty obvious I was, wearing my uniform and all. He continued, “I am a doorman uptown. It’s a great union. Don’t you think?” He said referring to BJ32, http://www.seiu32bj.org He continued “Are you a member?”
Then an old man with a cane passed by, he said, “Oh Captain; how are you?”
One cute UPS guy walked by and winked. After being a doorman for a week, I’ve noticed that there is a special bond between service workers and people in uniform. I guess we belong to the same class.
There was a hole in one of my pockets. I decided that it soon needed some attention.
Then an older woman pulled up in her dark red Ford Mondeo, asking which direction to the FDR uptown. This was the second time I got that question this week. The other question I got that day was a young couple asking for Bowery.
The gallerist Miguel Abreu walked by with a friend. I know him, but he didn’t recognize me wearing a uniform and all. I was reminded of Fred Wilson’s performance at the Whitney Museum where he appeared for his own lecture in a guard uniform without any of the audience noticing him. And therefore didn’t stop him crossing the street to say hi, but just watched him as he disappeared.
I took some time out and went inside the Gallery to clean the sign that has the opening hours. It looked really dirty. I cleaned among other a smashed mosquito that was between the window and the sign. It had been there for at least the last week.
A clean-cut guy entered the gallery with his suitcase. I could see through the window that he was meeting with one of the artists. When they left together after spending some time in the gallery he said, “Can you mention me in your blog?” I replied only if you say something funny! But decided anyway to include him here sine he read my diary.
Later that afternoon the Gallerist came in. She had problems with the electricity in her apartment. She asked me if I wanted some cookies and went to the cafe on the corner. I was really happy for some sugar. Wait a minute I thought, I was supposed pick up things!
A dad with stroller and his little girl walking next to him asked, “Are you part of the exhibition and something.” I replied that I was, without knowing what the “something” referred to.
Finally, one young lady came out of the gallery with a big box, asking me to assist her with a taxi. I told her that I would be more than happy to help, but that it’s a difficult spot and it might take a little while. She was fine with that and I entered the street to look for a cab. After a few minutes one taxi with the “off” sign stopped. He asked where to, and I realized I had forgot to ask her. When I returned to the street knowing that she wanted to go to the East Village he was already gone. After another five minutes or so another taxi stopped in front of the Forward Building two doors down with one customer exiting. I ran to get it and had him drive up to the gallery where I helped the lady with her big package into the trunk. When the taxi left I realized that I was actually a little nervous and needed to improve my skills.
At the end of the day kid on the backseat of a car waived to me, and I waived back. He kept on waiving till I was out of sight.
Since I received several comments on my uniform at work, I thought I would give it some earnest attention.
On the opening night some guests made a deal out of it, saying it was not a real doorman’s uniform. Also people passing by on the street would say “Hi, Pilot.” Similarly earlier this week the UPS guy who got a ticket for parking in the No Parking Zone outside the gallery said, “You are not the pilot who went ballistic right?” Referring to the Jet Blue incident. Sure I said.
With time I sort of got used to the idea of being a pilot bringing visitors to other destinations.
I found the uniform on craigslist for 60 bucks and it was in good faith when I bought it, believing that it was once a doorman’s. The woman whom I bought it from hemmed the pants and the arms of the suit jacket at some point. There were also some cigarette burns, which could indicate that it had been used for parties.
I was not in New York when my friend actually bought the uniform for me, when picking it up the woman selling it, “Melissa” who lives near Bowery and Houston, explained that her husband had brought it with him home one day. Here is some of the SMS conversation my friend had with Melissa before she got it.
Melissa: Hi re doorman uniform- just let me know when u can come.
Friend: Hi are you available tomorrow between 2 and 5?
Friend: How late can I come to pick up uniform?
Friend: Busy all wknd. Avail in morning. 9ish
Melissa: Today- will be out. Can u come around midnight? Or like 6:00 today
Friend: How is Monday morning?
Melissa: Perfect! Time?
Friend: Thank you and see you then!
Anyway, I figured if I found a brand name somewhere on the uniform I could trace the manufacturer and then the purpose of the uniform, but initially there was no label to find. What I instead found was an inscription on the bottom of the jacket, “Spectemur Agendo,” which is a Latin for Let us be judged by our acts. Aha!
The next day I thought to look in one of the inner pockets of the jacket, where I found what I was looking for. There inside the pocket was a small label that said “I. Buss Uniform Company.” A New York company from 1892 based on 24th street. According to their website the uniform I have is from their classic line. http://www.ibuss-allan.com/ On the label there was also a handwritten name and address: “45 W 67th Street” belonging to a “C. Camilleri.”
I went to the address to see if there was a doorman there and bingo, on the part of the block furthest from Central Park, a discreet man in a black suit almost looking like a secret agent from a movie opened the door for me. I entered and was lead to another doorman at the reception. I showed him the pictures of the uniform and its label and he burst out laughing, “That’s Charlie’s uniform. I took over from him in 91’. He left the country.” He was curious to know how I got to the uniform and I told him the whole story. The guy repeated my story to another colleague and they estimated that they stopped using that model back in ’95.
Gathered across the street at the park entrance some small girls gathered on their bikes. One yelled, “Hello doorman!” And they all waived. I waived back.
Two women passed by the gallery this Sunday. One turned around to look at me then at her friend, saying, “Is this a hotel?” Also an older man wearing a baseball cap came up to me. He said, “Is this gallery new?” I told him that I think it has been around for 4 years. “It’s kind of strange,” he said and walked away.
Later two guys wearing service uniforms asked me, “Is this a Museum?” I answered that this is in fact is a gallery and that they were welcome to enter. How much are the paintings one asked. I answered that my guess would be around $2 to $5,000. He said, “No that is way too expensive for me …ever!” And then they left.
The Gallerist’s dad was on visit. We were formally introduced. Later, I helped him into a car service.
I also had glimpse of one of the doormen from two doors down, from the Forward building. I never see them outside. I was so exited to see the guy, but he didn’t seem open for a chat. I guess we have different territories.
An older lady came out of the Gallery and said, “You are part of it! … I thought when entering the gallery, what is this … a gallery with a doorman!” She continued talking to me about the Forward building, and how her mother used to be engaged in the socialist movement there in the 20s and 30s. (See more about the Forward building http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forward)
About 20 people came later out of the Forward building. They seemed to be a big family all dressed up, and as they all passed the Gallery one delightful, noble older lady looked at me and said to the others in the group, “Oooo, this is where I’d like to go in.”
One guy on his way to the church next door burst out in and said “That’s Class, Ha!” Another guy coming out of the church looked at me and smiled, saying “Not everyone in uniform look as good as you.” I said, “I know, you need a little belly.” And I blew as much air into my stomach as I could to his amusement.
An artist-sort-of-looking-guy came out of the Gallery and said, “You make me feel important.” He then told stories from the neighborhood, telling me where the director of PS1 and Lady Gaga supposedly lived, and what shop and restaurant used to be at practically each storefront.
On Saturday a boy ran into the street in front of the Gallery. He was following some pigeons he locked in on. His grandmother started screaming, and I and a guy from the mission next-door started running to stop him. The mission guy ended up thanking me for it, and I thanked him back.
The mission next door is evangelical and Saturday they had their weekly children outreach truck parked outside for 2 hours. There were about 50 kids and lots of games and costumes and of course Jesus. I got lightly annoyed in the middle of it all. One of the facilitators dressed as a bee kept on yelling to the kids. When they finally left, it was time for another sweeping.
People passing by look at me and then look up to see what it is that I’m standing outside. The name of the Gallery is on the upper window. A couple approached me. The man said, ”You are working here all the time, right?” I answered yes. He turned around to his wife and said, “See I told you so.”
There was also this nice grey-haired lady secretly photographing me on the street. I just ignored her. An hour later she came back and entered the gallery. I noticed she kept photographing me now from inside the Gallery. I wonder what motivated her.
At lunch time the Gallerist picked-up a coffee for me. I am not sure if it is for the doorman or the artist. But I thought it was nice.
I returned the favor and took her dog Molly for a short walk. Molly doesn’t like men I was told, but I think she is allright with me. We went around the block. She seamed conflicted as to whether or not she liked the walk or wanted to go back.
People keep asking me for directions. Some Europeans wanted to go to Little Italy. Three college students asked me if there was a restaurant in the neighborhood that takes credit cards. Another guy asked me for Essex Street. A lady asked me for Hester Street. I said I have to look it up on my map, but she was in a hurry and just continued on what I found to be the wrong direction.
There are a lot of police and fire trucks parking outside the Gallery. When I see police I always get slightly nervous if they will think I am an illegal worker. You know I don’t want to have visa problems. It is funny how you can get nervous without having anything to be nervous about. They are just here for the juice bar next door.
At the end of the day a girl showed me some karate moves. She had just won a medal in a competition.
If you wonder what some of my task are at the Gallery
- Opening front door
- Welcoming and assisting visitors
- Hailing caps
- Receiving deliveries
- Spot cleaning of windows and ledge
- Sweeping sidewalk / light cleaning of Gallery
- Providing security
- Taking out trash (Thursdays)
- Taking care of flower arrangement
- Walk Gallerist’s dog (Molly)
- Miscellaneous tasks / the loose stuff
Still to be evaluated …