Monday, January 30, 2006

Escalator

Now there are a few folk who fall foul of the end of my patience. I'm reknown as a very laid back, very patient kind of guy when I'm at work. However...

The easiest way to get kicked out on your own into the cold dark night filled with creeps, crawlers and things that quite like going bump in the night is to get on the escalator to the end of my patience. The incident will start with something simple, a trip, a dropped glass, a raised voice or one of a plethora of minor little things that first warrant my attention. The punter then faces the simple choice to step onto the escalator or to avoid it. To avoid it requires neither intelligence nor sobriety, more a sense of manners/reponsibility/embarrassment/recognition of status as guests in the establishment/some concept of them not being the still centre of the ever turning world. It will usually be a punter responding to an enquiry of mine with a "sorry man, yeah, no bother" or a giggled "oops, yes I'll not do that in here" from the lighter sex.


To step onto the escalator is all too natural a response for the chav's, scrotes, neds, scallys that haunt my regular work habitat. The first response is often a deliberate ignoring, when you look over at the person talking to you, then deliberately look away and act dumb then I think it's perfectly reasonable to keep an eye on your behaviour from then on. This may lead to me seeing you do something you shouldn't and sending you homeward early, this may just mean you get pulled to one side and told sternly that somethings are acceptable, other things are not. Eventually either way the end of the night arrives (thank god) or then end of their night arrives.

Some don't step onto the escalator, they run full tilt at it and keep going for the top. One fellow did this, after asking a fellow "Don't you think it's time you headed home?" his mate chirps up with an "alright man leave him alone, he's just having a good time." Not horrific but enough to start trying my patience, on the peaceful escorted walk to the main door the original very drunken friend is cheery, amenable and merrily accepting of his premature wander home. The mate is however running full tilt upwards at this point. The arm placed around the drunkards shoulder to steer his staggering form doorwards is pulled away by his mate. Now that's just foolish and the mate is then the recipient of the guiding arm, this time a little less steering a little more stiffening. At the reception, the absence of coats is noticed. The drunkard amazingly locates his cloakroom ticket it only the 5th pocket he empties.

Not bad going methinks, the mate however takes this pause in the exit procedure to be abusive and starts swearing at me. This just adds another few flights to the escalator and it's now northern line proportions. I'm fairly immune to swearing, too many nights out with squaddies have left me rather immune to the whole affair. However the very big, very bored and very short fused front door men after half an hour freezing their arses off decide listen in for a laugh. The patience escalator has reached the end and the little voice should be chirping up with "
please get ready to walk on NOW" but instead the end is reached with a very gently shove doorwards, he tries to shove back and rapidly finds the wall closer to his face and his hands closer to his coccyx. Then a rapid flight down the front steps to encounter the front door lads stepping swiftly out of the way as the curb beckons for our willing escalator rider. Only possible improvements on this are the verbal threats to the front doormen who will readily laugh/walk away/tear you a new one.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Beans

No, I'm not spilling them it's just a bad joke about French teachers.
This weekend I got sent by my agency away from my usual chav infested waters to another familiar venue who were a few folk short after some suspected shenanigans left most of their doorstaff suspended. I happened to be there, plying my trade on a very gay night. It’s not exclusively a gay night but to all in tents and porpoises it is. Think of it as a straight tolerant night. This poses only one problem for me, and I’m definitely not the only doorman with this problem. It’s butch dykes.

Let me explain, unlike other places this gay night pulls in roughly equal numbers of men and women. The nominal straight friends are usually fairly obvious due to their anxious/amused expressions and the fact they’ve not got fresh meat stamped on their foreheads. Now the male crowd is usually not that divided, there are a few older men after something young but on the whole it’s young pretty boys all looking like they went to/work at the same hair salon. Of an evening, this half of the clientele are most likely to cop off and only risk being shown the swift exit if they get fall down drunk, try and shag in our toilets or ask if we want to buy/sell any poppers. The female crowd is quite different.

There are a few straight looking, feminine clubber types, there are a few things that look like 12 year old boys though the majority are a lot of trousered, shirted, longish haired ladies who fit the description of women in comfortable shoes. The issues arise from a section of the female clientele that are very openly very male in their dress, drinking habits, body/crude language and aggression. They may be lacking a Y chromosome and only 5’ tall but at 3’6” wide with a broken nose and arms as big as mine they can be most unreasonable.

With drunken males a quick solidarity can be established and their co-operation, even to the front door can be achieved with an “Alright man, having a good night? Think it might be time to head home” kind of approach. This often works and I get a long and boring description of the night they’ve had and why they’re this battered and what fun it’s been. Those who don’t like this polite approach get the more alpha male, “Hey, stop it”/“Right, you’re leaving”/“Go away” style one step away from a hand up their back and their feet off the floor.

Drunken butch lesbians fall out of this tried and tested system at every turn. There can be no mate/man/gents/sir banter leading to a swift sense of solidarity. What is the polite yet friendly way of addressing a very deliberately un-ladylike lady? Chuck/love/dear/pet don’t seem to convey the right message and lass/miss seems very patronizing for ladies visibly much older than me. I feel any term I settle on fails to engender the empathy I can readily achieve with men. Then there is the issue that, men hating, certainly very aggressive, very assertive lesbians are never going to see men as more than less evolved specimens and distinctly inferior. Not a great place to get a cooperative response started.

This leaves the alpha male approach. This is one where I was granted, along with my Y chromosome, a face like a bag of spanners that has been repeatedly forcibly reassembled. I give the impression from my face alone of not being worth trying to dance with. Unfortunately I’ve found butch lesbians have a very skewed sense of how the male hierarchy works. Though dressing/walking/talking/drinking like men the culturing of the playground feeding chain is not there. Their response is more of a tv/american movie approach where facing up to and giving verbal is the only response to a direct challenge. This doesn’t make my life easy, so often the route to cooperation does become physical.

This is a minefield, most men I work with don’t ever want to man handle women, this is partly because women are fragile by comparison and partly because it’s very hard to keep your mind on the job at hand when being screamed at for molesting/abusing/raping someone. Really it’s an aspect of the job most male doormen could probably do without. So moving back to our verbally aggressive, physically posturing, uncooperative, poorly mulleted, bull dyke, where do we go from here. I’ve found that a hand up the back generally causes mild offense and provides me little to no control. Two doormen take an arm each and applying themselves can get the woman’s low centre of gravity shifting in the desired direction but when this is not an option I’ve found a quick reminder that I’m a lot bigger and stronger often resolves the situation. A very firm hand on the shoulder or a tight wrist grip will often break the standoff and compliance follows.

In a world of ever increasing equality, I should just accept that if they want to look like a man, act like a man and be arses like a man then quite frankly I should treat them like men. Unfortunately, I’m too well brought up to treat women the same as men. Clearly it’s time for the radical feminists to burn me, not the steak, and disregard the whole thing as the ramblings of a testes driven mind. Which makes me wonder why my type of man is so clearly emulated time and time again?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The cold bit

It's January!
This is not a good thing, for a plethora of reasons very few folk seem to want to go out in January apart from students. This is not a good thing. With overdrafts to pay off after the Xmas excesses, this summer’s holidays to book, the membership at the new gym to start/give up on and the quite frankly appalling weather a lot fewer folks are out and about gracing the streets with their presence and giving me far too little to do. I don’t know if those most vulnerable to short term financial hardship, the chavs of the world, are responsible for most of the grief we get but come January it definitely seems the case.

Students are the only reliable custom at this time of year though their reliability is a well predictable function of loan installment to end of overdraft each and every term. There are at least 2 fine hallowed schools of learning in this city and they keep roughly the same timetable. Fresher’s week is full of two hour queues to get into an overcrowded club where the 18 year old imbibing their first ever taste of SnakeyB just over 2 hours ago leads inexorably to own swift departure in a slop of livid purple vomit. Toward summer they ebb and flow with the passing of final exams and results days before fleeing to Glasto/go traveling/go and get a proper job/find soap and a haircut/pay tax.

This time of year they’re out to drink, dance and try by cunning combination of the both woo each other to satisfy another new years resolution. This involves little clothing and lots of alchohol. This is distinct from the Friday and Saturday chav rutting ritual by lacking on all but the rarest occasions the testosterone/beer/‘disrespect’. So it’s bright young things being sought after by their ilk with the geeks salivating into their tequila against the far wall. My most common act on a student night, entering the toilets only to deploy the classic line “I think it’s time you were leaving”. Most common thought being I wish I’d had school uniform like that when I was at school. Actually, scrub that it’s too damn cold to be going out dressed like that, you’d freeze your freckles off.

Monday, January 16, 2006

New Doorfolk

Obviously, new folk will join the profession and old folk will leave it, not necessarily old or new by age, but to the game. The new folk often find that their perception of the job is significantly out of kilter to the work they're asked to do.

The biggest problems you see the wet behind the ears face is their place in the food chain. They thought they'd be cock of the walk with god-like authority to humiliate and intimidate those they disliked while showing favours to those who's knickers/pants they wanted to get into. This can be the case when a seasoned old hand with a small venue with them as head/only doorman but won't be the case for 99% of the fresh meat slung into the front line. First off you're highly unlikely to be on the front step, unless the night has been judged by those more senior to you as too damn cold/wet/dull for them to be bothered with. You'll likely get to gopher around inside checking toilets, keeping drinks off the dancefloor and watching the approved punters queuing at the reception desk/coat room. This is a polite and gentle introduction to the work, yes you will have to deal with knobheads, the hideously drunk and the quite frankly bizarre, but these folk have been sifted from the chaff (pronounced ChaV) at the front step. When you're working somewhere and the chaff isn't being removed, it's best to look for another place to ply your trade.

Occasionally whilst in this 'welcome to our world' transition from what you're taught to get your license to what you need to know to survive/enjoy/not piss everyone you deal with off, something hefty happens.
As a rule of thumb this will occur whilst I'm out the fire exit getting some FreshAir. Cue hopefully a radio call with concise and accurate details delivered urgently but clearly. Then all available doorfolk congregate on the sender, swiftly respond to the problem and a few more punters arrive at street level before blood is spilt/glasses are broken/tears are shed/doorman's pants need refreshing somewhat.


What actually happens is my FreshAir get's interrupted by...."BaAssThudWAA*"...."wooAHr"
Cue running around like black coated whirligigs getting eye contact with all visible doorstaff and barstaff, mainly looking for punter held awkwardly and struggling/rising panic in their eyes.
Then a penny drops, someone spots it and the amassed black coated horde descends.
Generally landing punters to street/chasing them round the club first whilst dealing with the bystanders who are wearing the spilt blood, treading on the broken glasses and in tears.
Cue new doorman thinking (a.) "This is great, I'm gonna do this 'til I die." or (b.) "Why do I put up with this? There's no way they're paying enough to make this worthwhile"

This is the catch 22 for doorstaff, no one in their right mind would think that toe to toe customer services is a good source of employment. Therefore the number of right minded doorman is usually one less after a hefty encounter. I've been doing it for years and have suitably shifted up the food chain to a point where this is only half true. I seldom take the cold/wet/dull shifts unless the money is needed/the other half is getting on my back.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Festivities

Having just survived a bout of them I feel I'd like to share some of my musings upon the annual family based drunken violence.

The Irregulars: The folk who are playing the wild rover no more. They've probably settled down now and don't cut a swathe through town on a Friday night but retire to the sofa with the other 'arf and enjoy the finest tv entertainment. This is a fine lifestyle choice, popular with many but the latent teenager smothered by this lifestyle needs their freedom occasionally and the joyful season of goodwill to all men/women provides ample opportunities. The usual couples that have merged into DarrenandTracy devolve into Daz and Trace. Each one off to their own work christmas party, then inevitably onward after a boozy poorly cooked Turkey dinner into the bright lights and phat choons of a nightclub. These irregulars don't usually do 6 hours of drinking, mixing wine, beer, alcho pops and spirits. They don't go to nightclubs and they certainly wouldn't go drinking with the young studs and tarts from the office.

Two hours into the annual nightclub experience they start to feel a little queasy. Ten minutes later I'm faced with the ever predictable conversation,
'I think it's time you went home now.'
'Nah, I'll be fine, I'm just havin' a good time with all my matesh.'
'No, I think you'll be leaving now' The vomit down their top/caught in their hair/over their shoes is giving the wrong vibes.
'Well I am a little pished, oh well home time.'
All well and good methinks, and I'm on the radio telling front door that there's "one leaving, no problem."

Then the colleague, cow-orker spots the not so subtle manouverings of a large doorman and their drunken staggering friend.
'Hey man, leave 'em alone, they're my mate and we're just out having a laugh'
Oh hell! A quick assesment of the friend to see, how far gone they are, how used to clubbing they are and how wound up they are. Decide whether they'll be able to understand you or not and then,
'You're friends heading home now, they've had a good night of it and a little too much christmas cheer.'
Subtle use of my psychology to state the fact of the departure and make it sound both cheery and sensible.
Hopefulyl I hear, 'fair 'nuff'
Hopefully I don't hear 'what the f**k? They're not f**king leaving and you're not f**king kicking them out'
If so I'll be saying "Front door, two leaving no problem".
The nighclub is two punters lighter and with a bit of skillful twisting the vomit covered one now is one bodywidth further away from where I am and I don't have to change my shirt again tonight.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Regulars

Every place has it's regulars. They prop up trade when the times are harsh and always avoid that difficult piece of mental arithmatic which allows you to estimate exactly how much of the owners new BMW you've paid for over the years. At £2 a drink, 5 drinks a night for 5 nights a week for 5 years that's thirteen thousand pounds!

Now you may see why regulars are valued customers and often have certain priviledges extended to them that A.N. Other punter will not. When you've been in a place longer than all but the bar taps you almost expect certain priviledges. Like being able to use the nearby disabled toilet instead of the trek up two flights to the gents. Like an excepmtion to not being hassled to flee out the door at the stroke of time and being left behind as the stools go up.

These small courtesies are oft extended to valued regulars though this can raise a problem. Joe Punter sees regular being left quietly tending their near finished beverage and rightly queries why he can't be left. Similarly the amazingly swift delivery of another perfectly pulled pint lands next to the hand holding the precise change while the massed hordes of the mongol army queues at the bar leaves a miffed look on many irregular faces.

It's often just a case of illustrating to the new and confused punter that despite the evidence of his own eyes the venue/room is being cleared and that he too must join the drinkless, huddled masses exterior to here. Most folk accept the inequity and pass quietly. Others rail against the injustice and pass less quietly though often more swiftly, damply and horizontally.

On occasion though one is forced to ask favours of your regulars. Often these are petty trivialities such as, 'W ould you mind moving out of here as there's a private function moving in?', or 'I know you don't usually sit here but could you not use the cellar doorhandle as your coathook?'
The regular may be nice and recognise the need to stay friendly or posses enough insight into the running of a place to know that they should comply. Unfortunately, kust because they're a regular doesn't mean they're either friendly or knowledgeable. Then one risks losing a very financially rewarding customer for the sake of a triviality.

Kid gloves must be worn. Unfortunately my hands don't fit into kid's gloves, they barely fit into adult gloves and I have to buy my disposables in silly sizes on special order. These times it's often best to get either a manager so senior they think they might be able to remember the original licencees who gave the regular their own engraved stool or the sweetest looking newest member of staff to politely seduce them into complying. Either trick works and keeps the new BMW's coming. If only doormen got paid on comission!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Qualia

Yes I do know odd words.

As a toe-to-toe customer services physical interface operative I find occasion (most Friday and Saturday nights it's sad to say) when I have to deploy the physical aspect of my work on some unsuspecting (No really, they often don't suspect that clenched fists and bloodied noses will lead to this) punters. The world is rife with tales of my less patient colleagues removing a pint of claret from a punters nose for their amusement.This does occasionally happen, though most premises recognise this as bad for business, and the suited chimp is swiftly sent back to debt collecting/prison/the dole.

More concerning to me than the occasional act of violence by doorstaff is the punters' view that all acts of force by the doorman are violence. There is no real threat to a punter's personal safety when two doormen firmly take an arm each and wander casually through the nearest available exit. This is generally not an act of violence, but an act of force. Most folk I deal with quite happily volunteer to leave the premises. Occasionally this consent is lacking and an individuals control over their own actions may be temporarily suspended for the purposes of getting the hell rid of them, puke/blood/piss covered as they inevitably are. This is a forcefull act, this is not a violent act. It may not be a charitable act but it definately isn't a violent one.
That we reserve for the individuals/group/half pub full that decide to exacerbate the issue with direct and effective violence towards us. This is not a drunken woman swinging a handbag at 20 paces, this is 10 drunken women swinging handbags at your head at 20 inches.

If you feel you're the victim of doorman violence please, note when and where it happened and with whom. Secondly work out how much you drank, how much you swore, how threatening you were, how abusive and how violent you were. If you in the sober light of the morning (or the pretty flashing light of the blue light taxi you've summoned) you can still think that sober bored poorly paid and put upon individual was violent towards poor always innocent you then take you complaint to the management. They will, look at the cctv, possibly phone the doorman and have a chat, then they'll likely tell you to F**k off and die whilst they fall about laughing at your feeble attempt to win yourself pub justice.

FOAD short hand best not explained to the punter at the time.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Just the one, two, three, foresight

Most people enjoy a drink, and some folk enjoy a drink more than others. Doormen & women are no exception to this except...

When working: 'No sir I haven't been stealing your drinks, I'm the stone cold sober one who's quite frankly appauled at the level of personal debasement your pursuit of alchohol has led you to.'

or alternatively
'Merry christmas/new year/new baby/hen night/promotion/retirement/clean GUM clinic test, do you want me to get you a pint?' Me, 'thanks but no thanks, I'm working/got the car/got a headache/got a day job too/got pills for an unclean GUM clinic test!'

When not working: Doorstaff can fall into one of a few categories.

Not indulging in imbibing due to the day-job/family pressures on time. Often the case with second jobbers/single parent doorfolk.

Not drinking but drugging. There's only so many chemicals you can pump into a muscleclad frame before the horse steroids and the tadpole hormones start mixing with the tequila to leave a very poorly blob behind.

Not drinking but working. These poor folks see the reduced hours of doorwork as a barrier to future prosperity so end up working all the nights and hours out there. 'Hey, it's doorwork, not hollywood, enjoy the work and don't expect a month in Bermuda'

The drinking, drinking, drinkgin boys. Always out when they're not working and sometimes out when they are meant to be working. Normally recognised by the extensive gut and jowls more commonly associated with St. Bernards.

Then there are the 'just the one' boys and girls. These folk will emerge periodically on a night off and throw a jar or two down their neck but they just don't seem to relax and always end up looking like undercover police. Always watching the crowd, turning to look at the loud noise by the bar, watching the doorstaff at work and generally looking wired. This is the peril of doorwork, you end up associating the fun and laughter of other folks out for a good night with adrenalin and wariness.
This can be avoided by a route through what is know as drink. A few pints later and the sky could be falling in but once you've a properly chilled doorman it'll take the raging inferno's of hell to get him moving. Often found sound asleep where you left them. More often found sleeping like a baby when the cleaners come round first thing in the morning.

The system

The system is not 'Da man' trying to screw you out of your innate civil liberties. The system is the law, the licencee's, their agents and the owners trying to make money in a world full of overheads.
It's licensing hours and the penalties attached to breaking them and public entertainment licenses (now nearly one and the same). It's the prohibitive cost of opening a venue when only 25 punters think you'll be a good place to spend their beer money. It's the shocking cost of staffing and stocking 5 bars open for only 4-6 antisocial hours a day. It's the management companies policy that we search randomly with your consent. It's the health and safety at work legislation that keeps people from using our fire exits as impromptu seating. It's the sanity of the doorman (read the punters backside) being protected when he walks away from a 10 minute stream of (frankly quite hurtful) verbal abuse to be replaced by a more bored and more patient me.
It's not 'Da man' you soap dodging student-type on the verge of drink/drug induced paranoid psychosis. Get over it, it's far more dull than that!

Doorwork

An incoprehensive list of the incomprehisible behaviour of folk encountering doorstaff.

1) Deafness,
All to often a simple request such as 'could you not take that glass onto the dancefloor?' descends into a curiously mimed charade of, drink, then no, then point at (thankfully not covered in crushed broken glass) dancefloor. Related to this are 'can you not sit down across the stairs/fire-escape?' and my favourite 'isn't it time you went home?' often best resolved by referring to pt 2)

2) Dimness,
As in point 1) but without the offering of a question as to leave the punter no room to express the freedom to think they've been trying to annihilate with alchohol for the last 2 hours/12 hours/12 years. It's often best to lead a deaf and by the time the charades have left a blank look, dim punter away from the dancefloor. Most drink addled deaf and dim seem not to notice the change in location. The exception being pt 3)

3) Ego,
Whatever you tell these folk, in sign, semaphore or pictogram their ego stops them seeing it apply to them. Can be monumentally frustrating until you remember that short of being royalty you can always ask them to leave. This will inevitably fail the ego filter and a short and invariably humiliating route to the front door can be swiftly deployed.

4) I.D.
Another common ego meets no-go sitation is the ID on the front door. We as doorstaff shouldn't know you. When you came into town tonight we were not specifically briefed. If you look in my practised eye 21 or under I'll ask you for ID. Most folks who go to nightclubs/bars/off licences/supermarkets and are over 18 but look under 21 generally carry some ID. Very few who aren't 18 do! If you've got it you know you've got it and 99% of the time know where it is. This is one area where we don't have much discretion. Sweet talking me requires more than you'd think and definately more than you've got so don't try it unless you're keen on breaking into stand up and can keep me and my associates laughing 'til we get off shift.

5) Dress code,
Not a personal favourite but you can often remove a certain demographic from your customer base on a given night with a dress code. A punter may think, and will repeatedly tell me, that they look cool and have dressed up smart but I'm not a Trinny & Su style guru (I don't do fashion, I'm told to wear this uniform). If I think you've got trainers on, a big gold chain (not ironically), sports wear, or a paint spattered t-shirt don't be suprised if I dont change my mind after you've bleated at me for 30secs. If I've spotted it you're not coming in dressed like that.

6) Queing,
This one's a winner every time. I'm not dim, I may look like a brickie who's taken a few too many hods on the head but looks can be deceiving. If I'm looking at a queue I'll get in my head a reasonable idea of who's ahead or whom and after the inevitable 20 minunte wait in the rain this idea will be pretty accurate. If you turn up to my door at the front of the queue having been invisible for the last 20 mins and with raucus heckling from behind you don't be suprised if you've just wasted 2minutes and be thankful it's still worth your effort to queue another 30 mins in the rain. It won't be, but I won't tell you that 'til I see you again in half an hour.

7) Attitude,
You'll have one. I'll have one. Don't bring a bad one and you'll not find out what state my ones in tonight. Mine comes with back up (circa 60 stone) and cctv!

8) Manners,
I will initially be as polite to you as I can be. The double arm bar is the polite version of the 'Oi, stop kicking that man in the head!' conversation. Manners cost nothing, unless you're exceedingly impolite then it'll probably have cost you you're admission and that drink you're wearing. 'Thank you sir, have a good night!'

9) Excretia,
This is without much doubt the worst part of the job. Vomit, piss and shit! you'd be suprised how readily apparently housetrained members of the public will deliver this material to virtually anywhere in the premises. It's not a festival folks, we've actually got ceramic fittings with plumbing for that. 'No madam that's the sink!'

10) Blue light taxis for 1 sir?
We may be described as 'a bunch of c**ts' but we've got some friends who can do it with virtual impunity, gawd bless'em.


Welcome (but not dressed like that tonight sir)

Hello,

These will be the musings of a doorman about:

Doorwork: The art of separating people from drink, violence, the floor and the premises without anyone noticing.

Doorstaff: The suprisingly varied bunch of identically dressed chimps in suits who do what we do, that's doorwork!

Punters: Tales from a long and ever increasing list of woe, stupidity and occasionally redemption for the people who seem to think the foetid hole of a badly lit noise box I work in is the best place for their big night out.

Life: Mainly tales from the lack of sleep, absence of social life, troubles with day jobs and general disorder that encroaches on normality arising from being a doorman.

Expect more to follow on a weekly/as I get bored principle.