Calogero Grodecki, 11/9/2009
Current Occupation: Location Sound Engineer, Production Assistant
Former Occupations: Night Clerk, Intern, Valet, Delivery Driver, Dishwasher, Cab Driver, Line Cook, Bouncer, Call Center Operator, Substitute Teacher, Temp, Waiter, Bartender, Translator, etc.
Contact Information: You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.
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“I want a soda,” she says, holding a wrinkled dollar bill in her hand. She’s stumbling drunk and trying to order a beverage, but this isn’t a bar or a restaurant. It’s not a lemonade stand, food cart, gas station, or ice cream truck either. I work the front desk at a residence hotel that also poses as a budget hotel for tourists visiting Manhattan. And right now, I’m confused as to why she’s trying to buy a soda off me when the vending machines are at the other end of the hall.
“Here is my I.D.,” she continues, “look at it and tell me what it says. Why isn’t there any hot water?” Huh? I check her date of birth and see its 10/19/1954. That’s tomorrow; well 10/19 is anyway.
“Well Happy Birthday, Shoshanna!”
“Calo, it’s my birthday in one hour. My boyfriend is coming to see me. I have to wash my ass.”
“Okay, well, the boiler has been fixed. The only problem is that to repair the leak they had to shut it off and no one is here who knows how to turn it back on. But, there’ll be water by tomorrow for sure. You’ll be able to wash your ass.”
“How is it that it’s my birthday and I can’t wash my ass? Huh?”
“Shoshanna, we’ll have hot water tomorrow. You’ll be able to wash your ass. I promise.” She’s right though, we rent singles to tourists for over $100, $150 for a private bath, and more still for a double. Yet, there’s no hot water and I have no authority to grant refunds to the guests who’ve been demanding them all night. And now, I have to awkwardly explain to a fifty year old alcoholic how she could heat up water on the stove to solve this problem. She’s one step ahead of me, however.
“I’m going to heat up water in a pot and rub myself with a rag,” she says before miming how she’ll floss her ass by grinding against an invisible towel. With that disgusting, shit stained, image burned into my head, she wanders off. For a Shoshanna interaction that was pretty painless. I’m still scarred from the time she came to my room and asked me to help her zip up her dress, then proceeded to barge in and drop it around her ankles to reveal her nasty shriveled up body which seemed twenty years older than her I.D. indicated.
“What do you think of my ass?” was her line, I believe.
She’s a freak, but she’s also just one of many in our building. Dave’s another. He comes downstairs and asks for his mail continuously throughout the day, even after it’s already arrived. Until the weather cooled he would usually make the trip to the desk in nothing but an old pair of sweatpants with his huge gut hanging out of it as well as his butt crack. One day he slipped and fell. Now he has a gigantic black and blue on one of his highly visible ass cheeks. He also has a skin condition that makes it look as if his face could fall off at any moment. Not only that, he’s an albino, as well as a giant- about six foot five and three hundred seventy-five pounds. I’m just grateful he’s not violent. In fact, he’s quite nice, always offering me some of the food he finds in the street.
Not so nice is the guy in 108. I don’t know his name so I just call him O.G. because he’s old and claims to be a “hustler” and “stick up man” who “holds mother-fuckers up” and “punches mother-fuckers out.”
“You’re okay by me though,” was how he sugarcoated that information when he asked to borrow money from me the first time. I cut him off after a dollar but he won’t stop coming to the desk drunk and high to hassle me for more. Usually I’m protected by bullet-proof glass, but once I had to follow up a tourist’s noise complaint which led to a tense face to face encounter with him and his drooling tracheotomy victim buddy. During that exchange he told me he had Hep C and was perfectly willing to take someone out with him.
He’s not the only shady one in the building either. There’s a couple that live upstairs who have repeatedly instructed me not to let any visitors in for them. They’ve also told me to watch out for the people who claim to be there to see the old lady in 526 because they’re actually thugs out to get them. Hopefully I don’t have to deal with these two getting shot while I’m working here.
Actually, I hope we all don’t get shot by our newest resident. He always smiles when he comes in and says hello. But, everything about how he delivers that greeting chills my blood. Imagine a man who’s sweating profusely because he’s trying with all his might to close his mouth but can’t because his cheeks are stapled back into a smile—that’s the expression he utters his “hello” through as he stiffly speed-walks past as though he’s in danger of shitting his pants. I expect that one day he’ll stop smiling and shoot everyone in a McDonalds before turning the gun on himself.
I don’t worry about that from the tenant next to the office. Instead of bottling up his rage he releases it regularly for all to hear. Sometimes you can hear him screaming from several floors up. To the outside world he presents himself as a conservative middle aged professional. But that didn’t stop him from beating down the door to my office once half naked with his pierced nipples exposed. He was there to complain about the fire alarm going off at four in the morning. The cause: the nine hundred year old woman next door.
Your average person might reason that frying bacon while chain smoking with all the windows closed and no exhaust fan on might trip a smoke alarm. But the senile old woman engaged in these pursuits had come to a different conclusion,
“It’s that son of a bitch upstairs. He has a device that makes it go off.” When I suggested she at least try to open a window or turn on a fan, she accused me of having Nazi blood in my veins. Later on she would warm up to me and give me a two dollar tip for fixing her T.V. The thing is I hadn’t touched her T.V. She’s a cute old lady, but very confused.
Of course, the biggest freak here is me. I just graduated from school but thought it made more sense to get a job where I could scam free rent than to use my degree to get a job where I wouldn’t have to. What’s worse, I chose this life over an offer for bargain basement rent, moving in with friends in a much cooler area. I hate to say it, but the most interesting people in my neighborhood are the characters I just described.