Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why?

I've just been reading more from a fellow doorman over the pond and it's raised a thought I'd like to get down.

Why do doorstaff even exist? When large numbers of people gather to have fun supervision is necessary at all times to prevent large scale disorder from occuring on the odd occasion. Many times folk meet in large numbers and disorder does not break out, however when mixed with alchohol and the activity of finding a mate disorder can and does break out.

When disorder breaks out people get hurt, some get trampled in the mad panic that can ensue, some get hit, punched and bitten, others have things stolen from them or panic in the stresses of large scale disorder. This often entails laws being broken and people getting their rights abused. For this reason supervision is needed, even if only to hand out the water and bandages.

People enjoy going to large events and some are even prepared to pay for attending them. When events take place on a regular basis, solely for money to be made by the organisers, the burden of providing supervision often falls on the organiser's shoulders. The law enforcement authorities ask for the law to be upheld and will intervene if it's broken but don't want to divert the general public's money and resources to supervising people when disorder may well not occur frequently.

This leaves the organiser looking for supervisors and that's where I step in.I work for a company specifically set up to fill that need. I'm trained and vetted both on paper and by experience and reputation. I, along with others, regularly supervise events where people gather to enjoy themselves. Always supervising folk in the presence, if not under the influence, of alcohol and mostly under the general banner of finding a mate. It’s not technically finding a mate on football or gay nights but there's always alcohol involved.

I get paid to watch other people have fun and I get some satisfaction that when a night’s running well and our job of supervising people is being done invisibly to most of the people. I appreciate the need for the organiser to make money in order to get a return on their investments and keep the industry going. It’s not easy to keep making money organising other peoples recreation and when it’s done well it’s a very slick operation.

Punters barely seem to know this. When they’ve encountered doorstaff it’s either because they’ve befallen a mishap or they’re having their evening curtailed due to the doorstaff’s perception of the punter’s likelihood of causing disorder.

We do get called all sorts of stupid names. It’s part of trying to do a job that’s impossible to get perfectly right all of the time. Those who’ve befallen a mishap are difficult to placate and amends can seldom be sufficiently made. Those who we deem likely to be incompatible with others having a disorder free night are excluded either at entry or at some later stage. Nobody likes to be excluded and we as the agents employed to decide and perform their exclusion and make easy targets. If a punters dress or decorum leads to their exclusion it will not be the doorstaff excluding the punter who have control of this. The organisers will have decided how their gathering of people will run and merely passed it on to their agents.

We doorstaff are a diverse bunch of folk. We’re not as a rule stupid though there are some that clearly are. We are not as a rule sexist, racist or homophobic though there are those that are some of these things if not all of them. We don’t hate or despise our punters. Most of us recognize that they are the means, however indirectly, of our employment. We do try and remember those who cause disorder and exclude them in future to prevent disorder.

To make sweeping statements about a person solely because they are a doorman probably passes a greater shadow upon your door than upon the doorman’s.

It’s never fun to work a door in the shadows, it gets bloody cold and you can’t see ID’s properly.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Technique

A special event is arriving shortly to my esteemed city and with it will come a certain community in their thousands. They have a significant reputation for raising hell, stealing and fighting down to the last one standing. It's time to talk technique.

I'm big, not as big as I used to be but big. Broad, solid and very ugly. This season I've gotten my speed back and can dance round most things thrown at me. This is what I do and I'm good enough at it to still be doing the job 7 years after thinking, without a clue about the actual reality of doing the job, it would be a good idea.

This commuity that are appearing in town are easily spotted if you know them. Physically they're small, wiry and very fast. When it comes to going toe-to-toe they do punch hard, fast, accurately and don't pay any regard to size and strength when they wade in. They do however keep it fairly clean. When the inevitable happens and we have to reject, rather than the unfortunate who have to eject, these folk it's worth considering the technique we use.

In some sparring I've been doing lately we've been trying a few methods. One of us spars light, fast and clean, the other tries to work out how to defeat it. The options are many though we've been trying to cut down the risks. The natural response is to be light, fast and clean but we're all too big and strong for that to be risk free. One option is to go for martial arts, sweeps, kicks and throws, this works fine in the gym but it rarely works in the doorway, with uneven floors, confined spaces and multiple tightly spaced aggressors. Another option is the grapple, suits us with our size and weight, we can pin and lock a problem in a tight space and without any distance between us there's no way to swing a good punch. The drawback to this is the numbers. You can only grapple one at a time and it leaves your back very vulnerable.

The solution I and my friends will be employing is going to depend on the circumstances. With only one silly punter it'll be grappling and throwing depending on situation. In the larger open brawl situations we expect it's gonna be dirty and powerful. Using our weight and strength to finish encounters while we use every tactic we've got to buy us the time to land these heavy blows. I'll not go into specifics but there is an arsenal of techniques in the dirty tricks book which should open enough of an opportunity window to create a positive effect for us.

I've probably given too much away but not enough folk read this for it to get back to me. More sparring coming up and the speed work this season is really paying off. I'm missing some of the bulk I used to enjoy throwing people around with. Oh well can't have everything.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Fancy dress

Now I get to see an awful lot of folks out on stag/hen/birthday parties and occasionally they decide to wear fancy dress. There are only so many vikings, policewomen, cowboys/girls, T-birds and pink ladies, school girls, cavemen you can see before the shine really wears off.

If I'm working and you turn up in fancy dress don't be offended when I refuse you. Certain places have specific standards to keep up. Unless I'm working gay night, if I you're a man in ladies clothing you'll not be getting in. If you've gone to alot of effort, have a refined character costume and haven't had too much dutch courage to get out of the house in that get up I may be letting you in, if this is not the case I'll more than likely not be seeing you inside the venue I'm working at.

I've indulged in this too from time to time though I like to spend alot of time and effort getting a good look.

Some of my favourite outfits to date are dressing as Margaret Thatcher complete with heels, blue dress and handbag, which put me as the ugliest thing at 6'3" you're ever likely to confuse with a lass. Once I was dressed as a west country pirate with a thick accent, a carry keg of scrumpy and more small fake knives than I had belts to put them in. In November 2001 I went to a famous people from history in a simple cotton shirt, smart trousers and normal shoes. The only accessories I needed were the arab head scarf and a piece of paper, out of my home printer with united airlines printed on it, tucked in my shirt pocket. That went down well.

My overall favourite was to an event with the theme being the letter being 'T'. In a moment of inspiration and horrific bad taste I put on cricket whites, hung a small length of string from the back of my trousers and took with me both a red and a white beanie wollen hat. I got some very strange looks and only one person gagged but it was a fun event. (answers in the comments section please)

Technical tomfoolery

After much persuasion a new motherboard has prevailed and it's taken this long to get round to Monday's post.
It's a funny one I hope.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Something in the air

There's a feeling at the club that's been developing over the last few weeks/months and it's all going to end in tears.

Since the change in management, and the reshuffles in staff between various venues, the club has not had a steady set of doorstaff working on a particular night. Now in other larger cities on mainstream club nights you don't really need this consisitency. There are enough punters to go around, enough similar venues and as long as you set a door policy that's consistent you can get a certain ambience every night.

I work in a smaller city where you rely on seeing the same faces in the same clubs night after night. There is a certain amount of leeway offered to regular trouble free punters whose dress or inebriation wouldn't be accepted from randoms wandering in. This protects the takings on quiet nights and builds a certain loyatly in the very fickle club business.

Now, that the staff have been changed more often than an obsessive compulsives pants after an explosive bout of the runs, we've lost that essential familiarity. This leaves you with two options. The first is to set an absolute standard and not care if you've seen their faces before. This makes for easy door work but is bad for business in the quiet summer holidays and students away time of year. You need to make your money in this business so the other option is used.

I n this second approach, if you recognise the punters faces you extend some leniency. This works as a way of getting punters in but without knowing wether they're good punters, spend a lot of money and cause no bother, or bad punters, sharing a pint of house cider between 4 and causing low level grief every night. If they're bad punters you end up with a very bad vibe. You can only know if they're good or bad punters if you've been working, seeing them, week in week out.

This second way, the money keeps flowing in for a bit but, the big spenders move somewhere more exclusive and you're only left with scum. This is where the club is at for every big night at the moment. We're getting the feeling all hell's gonna kick off. There's alot of aggressive gesturing, incivility and posturing.

Normally when their numbers are few within a premises you just keep an eye on them and laugh when they make themselves look like idiots.

When you're worried they're nearing critical mass and you can feel and see the tension, you've got to be very careful that you don't get tunnel vision. Even if you're fairly damn certain you'll be taking one group out the nearest exit some point in the night, it may not be them you're taking out next.


It's too easy to focus on some groupm waiting to see them be idiots, but it's bad form and poor work. It's all too easy to pick up on the vibe and get drawn into the tension. It's best not to be boiling yourself when you need to be the cooling water applied to hot tempers.

I get the feeling it's going to go off big style, only hope I'm there that night. It's been far too quiet since summer has begun.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Decisions

In work I have to make alot of decisions, on my own and quickly. I have to take full responsibility for them and if I get it badly wrong I'm out of a job. If I get it slightly wrong I'm either going to get the piss taken out of me or I'm out of a job, depending on who saw it.

This is both a good and bad aspect of the job. I get to make decisions and act on them quickly, with the full support of a team of equals. There's no politics when there're punters to be dealt with. The job gets done.

From this weekend I'll give you two examples of simple decisions I make ad nauseam which can vary in outcome so wildly.

I was escorting a punter from the venue, after staff had come to us about their aggressive and antisocial manner. Not a time to go in all guns blazing, but definitely a time for them to leave. The punter agrees to start walking and I place an arm behind them, not on them, to guide their egress. A common thing to avoid any sudden turns or darting efforts. Think basketball marking. All the way out they say.
"Oi, keep your hands off me."
"Keep walking, the doors that way"
"Keep your fucking hands off me"
"Just keep walking."
The steady progress to the exit ensured by the barrier arm catching up every time they stopped. Then staying just clear every time they moved on. They didn't want to be manhandled, so kept walking. When the sod stopped, I stopped, though pressing against their back gently to get moving again. We reached the entranceway in this fashion and I'll leave it there for a moment

Another incident I asked another punter to leave, this time for being intoxicated, they agreed and start heading doorwards. I've one arm behind them as a barrier and in this case also a catchnet/bumper for their swaying gait. Every time they stopped, so did I letting the arm press them to keep moving, again I get,
"Don't fucking touch me."
"Keep moving to the door"
"I said don't fucking touch me, get off"
"Keep moving, out the door"
This time progress was relatively fast if a little meandering 'til they arrived at the entrance way.

Now both customers were argumentative, reluctant to leave and fairly abusive, so if I wished to apply some force to their exit , I would have been justified. Both customers paused at the sight of the door as the reality of their ejection struck them. Both stopped, planted their feet and said words to the effect of,
"Don't you fucking put a hand on me"

Here were the decisions,
One punter found that the hand on the barrier arm had taken grip around one wrist. Their other wrist got pinned to their side and they left effing and blinding in a flurry of scuffle out the door.
One punter I let have a moment, I didn't let the barrier arm catch up. I didn't concede ground but let them assess the lost situation then let them amble on out through the door.

Both worked, both acceptable.
The difference,
Punter one, male, mid thirties, medium to slight build, short, no physical threat.
Punter two, female, mid twenties, average height (in low heels), medium to slight build, no physical threat.
Punter one walked out, punter two was scuffled out.

Why?
Punter one was able to see the situation was lost and a pause saved us both effort.
Punter two was a few empty glasses too far and would not see the situation as lost 'til outside under the starry sky. Any pause would just add to their resolve and make the scuffle anticipated.

What'd be your call?

Do you know who I am?

Generally no. I don't know who you are, don't care and quite frankly have no need or wish to find out. If you do something stupidly criminal, I'm sure your details will be read out in court and the local press will inform me in due course.

If I do know who you are, it's probably not a good thing. Excluding friends/doorstaff/drinking associates/workmates who would never be asking me the question, if I do know who you are it's more than likely because you're a muppet/muppetess and I'll have been tuning out from your rant about 5 seconds after I realised who you were.

I've only ever heard it used well for humour once.
" Do you know who I am?"
" No "
"That's probably a good thing 'cause I'm pissed, I'm being a twat and I wouldn't want you to spread the wrong impression of me about town."
To which I could only laugh and send him on his way with a smile.