Sunday, July 19, 2015
While cleaning down one of my kitchen counters, I imagined riding a Zamboni around, clearing the ice. Would I like that kind of job. I have recollections of a recent story where a zamboni operator was arrested for drunk driving.
If I had to go around in circles all day, I’d probably drink. Wait a minute. I do go in circles all day long. I’m trying to catch my tail when I don’t even have a tail.
Going up and down all day long would also cause heavy drinking in the younger generation. This one I know for a fact.
While I acted like a security guard in Boston, one of my first dead-end jobs, I worked in a building where I had to have a license to drive the elevator. I’ve probably written about the Biewend Building, but I might remember things differently this time around.
The Biewend Building had to have had more than 13 floors. I had learned a trick that would drop the elevator back to the main floor with just a coat hanger driving it. Coat hanger didn’t even have a license.
When I started working this job in the Combat Zone at all sorts of crazy times, there were two guys who operated the elevators. There were three elevators. Only one went to the basement, so they didn’t use that one very often. Chuck and Dale. Those sound like good old names. I have no idea what their names were, though I’m sure I could look it up in my journal of 1980something and get one name. Edwin.
Chuck and Dale had been driving elevators for close to thirty years, may even been more. They each had their own elevator. Chuck had the middle one. Dale had the one to the far right. They were forged in the good old days when workers were created to be dependable. They probably didn’t miss any work; they probably didn’t even take vacations, though they probably weren’t given vacations. Not much pay, but that didn’t matter. It was a living. Maybe they lived in South Boston, not far.
Every day, C & D reported, always a little early so they could chat before their shift began. They never changed elevators. Each of the brass seats were worn a little differently because C’s butt was much bigger than D. C was on his seat a lot more than D. D was always dancing around whether it be in the chariot or out in the lobby. Quite the character that Mr. D.
The first elevator, the one that went to the bottom was the first of the three to get overhauled and become automatic. Made sense. the other two were sensitive; they thought they could go to the basement, but they could only go halfway and if the operator wasn’t paying attention, the elevator would get stuck.
People would have to climb out of the stuck elevator. Was it this the cause of the phone calls or how if the operator doesn’t land the elevator properly, flush, a passenger could easily trip getting out of the elevator.
People started to gravitate towards D’s elevator. If C’s was available, people suddenly became inspired to get into shape and take the stairs or they forget something in the car; any excuse to not get into C’s cab.
Mr. C retired. Got the entire fanfare. Cake. Balloons. Cards. Lots of well wishers. He didn’t hear most of what was being said to him, but he smiled and everyone smiled back.
It wasn’t long before D caught on to the retirement air. You gotta try it, C told him. It’s a lot less stressful and there’s something to be said for the foreword motion.
Never in a million years could I have held onto that job for thirty years or even close to it. Every day. Same elevator. Same 14 floors. The people change. The building changed over time. The original brass was beautiful. A bit ostentatious and showy, but that’s what the Biewend Building was about. It hadn’t intended on being a medical building. It was quite jealous that the Wang Family bought the building next door and revamped the Theatre to bring in the Big Wigs and their fancy cars. The Biewend at one point attracted a different crowd. People who needed methadone. Young girls who were trying to get off of the streets. Very young girls.
After Chuck and Dale retired, a young man took over one of the elevators. They made the security guards take over the other elevator, at least this is how I remember it. Anyway, Peter’s the new guy on the job, and there’s something a little off with him. It wasn’t winter and he didn’t have a cold, but he always smelled like cough syrup. The going up and down life was probably not much different than his life outside of New England Medical Center. His friends were waiting patiently for him to hit the bottom before he would accept help.
I didn’t get to know Peter as he wasn’t on the job for very long. It wasn’t like he quit. He was sticking it out even though it was driving him crazy. Maybe it was the other chemicals he was digesting that caused that problem. His body decided to not wait for him to hit bottom. His body just gave up. Flat refused and sent him into total system failure.
I don’t remember much of the funeral, considering that I didn’t really know Peter, and that this was thirty something years ago, but I remember his two young boys and a young widow. Their lives hadn’t been easy before, and it certainly wasn’t going to get easier.