A group of men exist under the guise of employment by my office building’s owners. They wear a uniform: a beige shirt almost as bland as I imagine their existence to be, and dark dickies. They are an everyman. They are Jacks-of-all trades. Sometimes they clean the bathrooms (and sometimes they don’t), sometimes they vacuum the elevators, sometimes they replace the toilet paper (and sometimes they don’t), and other times they extort you for using the freight lift.
The FLM has 3 main members. 1 of these 3 is on duty at all times to operate the freight lift. At any hour of the day you can go and ring for the lift and have an unfriendly immigrant answer your call. The freight lift in my building looks much like any other freight lift, other than the fact that it also seems to serve as an office for whichever of the three freight lift trolls (or mafiosi if you prefer) decides to actually work1. It is equipped with a single-speaker radio from 1992, a calendar (obtained for free at a bank), and a small table and office chair. The majority of the table’s space is occupied by the radio and a copy of a newspaper in a foreign language.
During business hours (9-6) you can use the lift as much as you want, free of charge. However if it is even 1 minute before 9 or past 6, you have to pay $5 per trip on the lift.
When asked to explain this fee it was explained to me that even though they are there and it is their job, it is after 6. Apparently since no one else is working after 6, they feel they shouldn’t have to work after 6 either. Please keep in mind that these men seldom work during regular working hours as well.
As some of you may have guessed we also have regular elevators in our building. Regular elevators that normal people are allowed to operate (There’s something about throwing a lever that says “hire unskilled laborer” to a building employer). You might wonder why one might bother to use the freight lift at all when you could just take whatever box or large, though wheeled, crate you have onto the regular elevator. Especially after 6. When most people have gone home.
There is a man who stands at the door all day long. I can’t properly label him a doorman as he is largely in charge of nothing and takes pride in allowing most anyone to stroll into the building. His English is terrible and he speaks with an extremely heavy Indian accent. His job appears to be to stand around and confuse people, and occasionally bother them with trivial matters. He has no computer, doesn’t make people sign-in, doesn’t have one of those fancy badge-makers found at HBO or other large companies, and quite frankly stands and stares most of the day. Recently a monitor was installed that shows what 4 cameras are looking at – so he looks at that monitor now. When it was first installed he would actually stand with his back to the door and stare at the monitor to watch who was coming and going. Keep in mind he is literally 5 feet from the front door. There is nothing obstructing his sight line from the front desk to the door. He merely prefers to stand and stare at the LCD monitor, than to stand and stare at the doors.
One day I thought I could just wheel the large crate in which my company keeps a TV and some studio monitors (used for trade shows) onto the elevator. As I wheeled the flight case into the lobby and onto the elevator, the tiny Indian man came after me insisting I have to use the freight lift.
“You cannot take dis on de elevator! Freight lift! Freight lift!”
I tried to make my case stating that the crate would easily fit on the elevator, there was no one else in the lobby waiting to go upstairs, and it weighed far less than the average human. This logic seemed to drive him mad as he began shouting louder. I figured I’d comply with his demand because I’m fairly certain he couldn’t understand me anyway.
Wheeling the crate down a few doors to the freight entrance and struggling to fit it in the door as one of the mafiosi offered his assistance to help by staring and blinking, I worked my way over to the freight lift. The mafioso followed me onto the elevator and proceeded to explain to me their system of payment.
“But what does it matter if its after 6? You’re still here aren’t you? And you’re being paid to be here, right?”
This caused him, let’s call him Jose, this caused Jose to become very angry with me.
“It dohsent matter! I take you up after 6, you pay me $5!”
I figured there really wasn’t much of a choice here and well-knowing that I didn’t have $5, or any cash for that matter, I figured I’d accept his terms.
We reached my floor and I fumbled my wallet from my jeans and did my best to look surprised, “Oh heck! Would you look at that? I don’t have any cash.”
“Is okay. I come by your office tomorrow. Number?”
I stupidly gave him the correct number.
The next day there was a knock on the door and the glorified janitor walked into my office just after the sound deadend in the room. “Come in.” I quipped as he was already standing just a few feet from my desk.
“You owe me five dollar!”
“No. I don’t. Please leave. I’m on a conference call.”
“You owe me five dollar! You have to pay! I brought you up after six.”
I responded not to him, but to the people on my call, “Yeah. No there’s just some guy in here. Yeah I think that’s a great idea.”
“Oh you just ignore me!?”
“HEY. JACKASS. I’m ON a CONFERENCE call! You can’t just walk into someone’s office and start demanding things of them! Please leave!”
“You owe me–!”
“I AM NOT PAYING YOU! YOU HAVE INTRUDED MY OFFICE. IF YOU STAY ANOTHER SECOND, I AM CALLING BUILDING MANAGEMENT TO SETTLE THIS DEBATE OVER YOUR PAYMENT!”
“YOU CALL THEM! THEY WILL TELL YOU YOU HAVE TO PAY! CALL NOW!”
At this point I was really pissed off. I stood up from my desk, got as close to the guy as I possibly could, and said “leave. now.” It’s nice to be 6’2″ sometimes. The mafioso stormed out.
After some chiding from my co-workers who heard every word of this on the call and were laughing hysterically, I decided to call building management.
“They what? No, they’re not allowed to do that.”
The guy came back later and I explained that his boss said he wasn’t allowed to do that. He called him from his cell phone and angrily stormed off arguing into the phone. Minutes later he returned.
“This time is okay. But boss says from now on you pay us $5 for using lift after 6!”
“Fine. Just tell him to put it in writing and submit it to me, and I’ll gladly pay you.”
This took place months ago and I have yet to see anything that even remotely resembles a contract, invoice request, or even a piece of paper with a fake signature on it. Eat it chumps.
So if anyone would like to visit me at work, I highly recommend coming after 6 and using the freight lift. It’s spacious, there’s a radio, and you can check to see what day it is. Oh, and piss off immigrants running an illegal racket. And really, what’s more fun than that?
1Working is loosely defined as “doing something other than listening to the radio, standing around talking to the “doorman,” or harassing someone to use the freight lift.