Don’t let the doorman hit you on the way out

A few weeks ago, there was a huge crisis in New York City. No, not the 1,000-point dip in the Dow, the attempted car bomb in Times Square or an unexpected foie gras shortage. This was an event that made titans of industry tremble and the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies shake. It was all doctors, lawyers, bankers, brokers, fashion designers, Broadway actors, soap stars, interior designers and trust-fund babies could talk about at their $100-a-plate restaurants, and was the lead story on every station’s 11 o’clock news for two solid weeks: The doormen at New York apartment buildings were threatening to go on strike.

Oh, the humanity! All up and down Park and Fifth Avenues one could hear the sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth. The newspapers were full of front-page stories following the daily negotiations.

“How will we live?” “Where will we go?” went the lamentations of the wealthy. Building managers and the owners of two, three and four-million-dollar homes held meetings to set up schedules for tenants to share lobby duty in case the unthinkable were to happen. “This,” said one advertising executive as he climbed into the limo that would drive him to work, “could be worse than the elevator-operator strike.” Is there a person alive who can forget that tragedy?



Management predicted that hundreds, maybe thousands, of people might starve because their personal chefs wouldn’t walk up 10 or 20 flights of stairs to cook meals for the helpless rich. It turned out that, despite the low expectations, many wealthy tenants could be taught to push the button for the floor they lived on, and remember the button for lobby, too. It wasn’t easy and there was much resistance to the idea, but they were surprised to find out what they could do in a crisis. And in a rare display of kindness, the ones that did learn helped the ones who could not. Once they pieced together how to use an elevator, some felt like they could do anything.

The doorman strike had the potential of being much worse, an even harder burden for the wealthy to bear. Those unfamiliar with people of wealth and privilege may wonder why they need someone to open the door for them, for someone to say, “Good afternoon, Mrs. Pushface,” for someone to sign for their FedEx deliveries, for someone to buzz their apartment and announce visitors – because it’s something the rest of us do for ourselves all the time.

The truth is that the wealthy are like spoiled poodles; they can barely do anything for themselves. All their survival skills have been bred out of them. They can no more open their own door than any domesticated beast lacking opposable thumbs can open one. They must be let in and out of their homes with the aid of a human. Like pets, we all wonder sometimes if it’s worth the trouble to have them. They seem to have no practical purpose, and some days all they do is cause problems. Worst of all, most of them are not neutered and continue to breed, unchecked. Why no one has invented a human-sized, thick plastic flap, like doggie doors, that the rich could push in and out of by themselves is a wonderment. The strike was called off at the last minute.

“They got more money just for opening doors,” huffed one Park Avenue resident. “If they want more money, they should earn it. The way my great-grandfather did.”

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at jim_mullen@myway.com

Copyright 2010, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

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