Friday, August 31, 2007


One of my favorite new pastimes is to watch people approach our front door and try to get in. I work in a secure building, where the lobby door is locked at all times. There is a camera by which I can monitor people standing on the stoop. I can often see them approach through the front windows. They can’t see me of course, which makes the game fun.

I have several significant signs posted on the door. The most important one is the company name, in big bold font, placed prominently where it should be impossible to miss. There is a second notice identifying the times of day when there is no lobby access such as when I take a break or go to lunch. This is on bright pink paper and is clearly marked. The third sign is posted right over the door handle so there is no reason they can’t see it. It reads “push button on pole for access”. On the pole, is another note clearly pointing out the button.

Several times a day, people approach the door. Their routine is so similar, it’s humorous to watch. First, they yank away on the handle. Then in confusion, when it doesn’t yield, they cup their hands and peer through the glass. Next, they take a step back and assess the entrance. Here they diverge. Some will notice the “push button” sign, actually find and push the button. Some pound away on the door. Others give up too easily and simply leave.

If they find the button, I will speak with them on the intercom and ask them their business. Inevitably, they will ask for the company next door. How they missed the big company name right beside the “push button” sign, I don’t know. I’m polite and tell them they have to go around to their left to find the entrance to the other suite. I then watch as they walk away to the right. Eventually, I will see them walk back around to the left. The old joke runs through my mind. “Correct! Your other left!”

If they pound on the door, I use the intercom and ask if there is something I can help them with. Of course, they will ask for the company next door and proceed to the right when I just indicated left. I don’t even bother with the people who give up too easily.

All of my interesting visitors today began arriving by mid-day. The first arrived while I was at lunch. This event I witnessed from the picnic table out front. I watch as the black Audi pulls into the lot and parks. A tall woman unfolds herself as she emerges from her vehicle. Her hair is dyed a brash shade of red and it is teased high on her head, with the rest coming to a flip at the shoulders. My eyebrows go up. She is wearing a very short, tight black skirt pulled over very pronounced love handles. As she turns, and I see that the black skirt is hiked up in the back. I have to hold the book I am reading up over my face to prevent her from seeing me laugh. She doesn’t seem to realize the need to yank down the back as she struts over to the front door on spiked heels. She proceeds to yank on the handle. Then she cups her hands and peers through the window. As she leans into the window, the skirt rises a few more inches. She yanks again, notices the button sign and starts pushing away. I realize of course, I could speak up and put her out of her misery. She gives up and steps away from the door and dials her cell phone. She has a short conversation and folds herself back into her car. I watch as she drives around to the right. I wait. A few moments later, she drives around to the left. I don’t know what her business is next door, but I sure would like to know.

When I arrive back from my lunch break, I take a call on the switchboard. As I’m speaking, I notice out in the parking lot, that a panel truck is circling. All the while I’m speaking on the phone; the truck drives this way and that. Finally, he selects a parking spot. I disconnect, and wait for the buzzer. The man who approaches looks like some type of service technician. I haven’t called for any service today. He yanks on the door. Then he cups his hands and peers through the glass. He notices the button sign and presses. As I begin talking with him, the phone rings again and I have to cut him off. I take the call, and then speak with the man at the door again. It’s something about “fire”. I ask if it’s the panel, because I have had trouble with the fire panel. No, it’s the extinguishers. I’m irritated now. He is making a service call without an appointment. I let him in anyway. He is trying to convince me that he is here to inspect the fire extinguishers. I am not very polite because he’s a bit pushy. In as plain a face as I can manage, I tell him in no uncertain terms that I realize it is time for the yearly inspection, but that unless I have a quote that my supervisor can approve, there will be no access to the building. I think I’ve been a bit harsh because his face drops and he is back peddling. In the end, we exchange business cards and wish each other a good day.

Toward the end of the business day, as I’m wrapping things up, and old buck makes his way to the front door. He has that stride that older folks have that is not quite a waddle, but not quite a sure footed gait. He’s round about the middle and his belt buckle is fastened securely just below is chest. On his head is a broad brimmed straw hat. He yanks on the door, then cups his hands and peers in. He steps away and I think it’s the end of things, when I hear the buzzer. Well I’ll be! The old buck saw the button sign! “Can I help you sir?” I ask over the intercom. “I’m looking for Bob.” he speaks loudly into his end. “I’m sorry sir; Bob is no longer with this company.” “But he told me this is where he works!” he replies. “He was in Nashua and they moved here and he works here.” I cut him off at this point and explain there was a large lay off and unfortunately Bob was one of many. I decide the old man is safe and tell him where Bob is working now and suggest that if he has a phone number to call him. He misunderstands and gives me his name and number. I turn my statement into a question. “Do you have Bob’s home phone number?” Yes he does. I suggest he call Bob at home. He thanks me and I think it is the end of things when he begins telling me what a nice guy Bob is. They used to work together at Kollsman and Bob even helped him move. It is more information than should be delivered via intercom. Now I feel bad that I didn’t let him in. He realizes, on his own, that he is going on, ends his conversation and wishes me good day. Maybe I should get a job as a door man in New York City? After today, I can imagine it’s a lot more interesting that one might think.

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