Chicagoans is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week’s Chicagoan is Patrick O’Malley, 51, doorman.
People love to know what other people are up to, and they know the doorman knows. Sometimes they’ll be direct and ask if the doorman knows what’s going on. It kind of comes with the job. But a good doorman sees everything and tells nothing. One of the hardest things is when you have a couple going through a divorce and you’re put in the middle of trying to pick sides, and you want to stay neutral, because the doorman doesn’t have a problem with either person.
“A big part of my job is calming people down who are stuck in elevators. A lot of times when an elevator gets stuck, it’s between floors, so you have to figure out where they are. I can’t get ’em out, though. The only ones who can get ’em out are the fire department or the elevator company. So it’s my job to calm the people who are in the elevator and let them know that help is arriving and that it’s not as dire a situation as it might seem. I’ve had to do that many times, and trust me, not everyone can stay calm in an elevator.
“I got stuck in the elevator one time when I was delivering the newspapers. I was the only one on duty. I was stuck for about 45 minutes when I heard the maintenance guy starting his shift, so I banged on the door. It turned out the guy from the elevator company was coming from his house, and he lived like an hour and a half away and was stuck in morning rush hour. When they told me I was gonna have to wait till this guy arrived, I just kind of laid down on the floor and relaxed. I know the routine.
“I was a floor trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange before I became a doorman. I loved it; it was just very stressful. By the time I did my eight years down there, I was burned out. There’s a lot of money going around, and things can be easily misconstrued, so I might tell you that I’m gonna sell you five, and things are so crazy you might say, ‘Oh, you just sold me 50,’ so you better have the money for 50. You always have to have the wherewithal in your mind to know the money you’re playing with. It’s very stressful to be on top of all that every second.
“Being a doorman has moments where it’s demanding, but not all the time. There’s quiet times where nobody’s coming in or out. I’m lucky because I work across the street from the lake, so there’s always something for me to look at. This month is my 20th anniversary in the building. Twenty years goes by in the blink of an eye.
“The hardest part of this job? Being in a good mood. I can never have a bad day. You just have to have a switch to turn off the negative feelings. Sometimes my tenants, they have bad days, and when they come home and I’m smiling at them, their day is suddenly much better. A smile goes a long way in this world.” v