Something happened in the lobby of my building the other night that reminded me of the elevators and the stairwell outside my front door when I lived at the Alexandria Hotel. I don't remember if I ever wrote about it, but I often joked that the 8th floor stairwell outside my front door was the best place to score a $5 handjob from Cheryl the coke whore. I never saw anything, but when I'd pass by late at night, I'd often hear things.
So there I was, headed out with Wonton for his second walk of the day. Jim said he'd hop in the shower and meet us on the way back. Wonton and I rode down the elevator and when we got to the front door, it was broken, completely off its hinge. I didn't want to leave the door unlocked and hanging open, not in my neighborhood, but Wonton kept pulling at his leash. I saw that Ken the Handyman's office door was open and I heard his voice. He was probably on the phone trying to get someone to come out and fix the door. I figured, Jim's right behind me, Ken's right there in the lobby, it was probably okay to head out.
Later, as planned, Jim joined us as we headed back home on Main Street. We approached the front door - it was still hanging off its hinge. Obviously, we didn't have to punch in our entry code, so I heaved the door open, let Wonton and Jim inside, then tried to heave the door in place behind us. It wasn't happening, the door wouldn't close. I noticed that Ken's office door was closed and wondered if he was at Home Depot, trying to get a new door.
I walk over to the elevator and saw the display, indicating it was still on the lobby level. I hit the button and the doors opened. The first thing I saw was a homeless man, his shirt pulled up to expose his big dirty belly, and his pants dropped around his ankles. I didn't see his genitals, because there was a woman on her knees in front of him, blocking the view with her mouth.
"Oh, f*ck no!" I yelled. Caught by surprise, she scrambles to her feet. He fastens his pants and pulls down his shirt, laughing to himself the entire time. I'm livid. I pull out my cell phone and dial my landlord's office. While I wait for it to connect, I'm ushering them out the door, "Get the f*ck out of here!" Jim sits at the desk by the door, Wonton beside him, shocked into good behavior by my raised voice - directed at someone else.
Jim asks, "So what were they doing in the elevator?"
I get voicemail and leave a terse message, recounting what I saw in vivid detail for the landlord's office and Jim. I hang up and dial again.
"Are you calling Ken?" asks Jim.
I nod. Ken answers and I tell him that I just got back from walking Wonton and found the door off its hinge. He interrupts me, "I just left there about a half hour ago. Don't worry, I'm trying to get someone to come in early tomorrow morning to fix the door."
I interrupt him right back, "I haven't even told you the best part, Ken. I pressed the elevator button, the doors opened, and there was a homeless man getting a blow job in the elevator."
"What? I locked all the floors on the elevator. There's no way anyone could get up without a key."
"They weren't headed anywhere, the elevator car was still in the lobby. They were just inside getting off."
I waited for Ken's reaction. Silence, then, "I'm on my way back right now."
"What about the front door?"
"I'll call one of the guys on the sixth floor to come down and watch the door until I return."
We hang up and I tell Jim of Ken's plan. Just then, one of our neighbors from the third floor walks up to the keypad outside, punches in his entry code, and realizes the door is broken. I open it for him and we tell him what just happened. He suggest we use a padlock on the door, one used for the deliveries cabinet in the lobby.
I'm skeptical, "If we put it on the outside of the door, people inside can't get out. If we put it on the inside..."
He nods. Then another neighbor from the third floor exits the elevator. I don't know his name, we just refer to him as "the Smarmy Attorney who keeps trying to sneak onto our rooftop patio with his ugly dates no matter how many times we tell him that it's a private patio and he's not welcome". Smarmy Attorney (SA) asks what's going on with the door, so I tell the story again.
SA asks, "What was she charging?"
My inner voice says,"Fifty bucks, same as your mama." But in the interest of being neighborly, I just grimace and roll my eyes. SA tries to throw his shoulder into the door. It doesn't budge. I tell him to lift it, then push. No, don't thank me, please just make another lame joke before you go.
"Hey, maybe we can get her back in here and get a cut for using our elevator."
What a tool. No one laughs, so he leaves and doesn't bother trying to close the door.
Jim offers to sit at the door and stand watch until the guy from the sixth floor comes down. Problems solved for now, third floor neighbor gets in one elevator (the one not harboring horny street people), waving goodbye. I take Wonton and we head upstairs to get dinner started while Jim stands sentry at the door.
A few minutes later, Jim comes up. One of the guys from six is standing guard at the front door with a large black dog. He didn't think to ask the guy's name, but the dog's name is Souldog.
After dinner, Jim goes downstairs to throw out the trash and to check on the door situation. Jim had been very quiet throughout dinner and I asked if anything was wrong.
"The more I think about what happened with the elevator, the more upset I get. Sure, they couldn't get upstairs because all the floors were locked. But what if you were alone at home, called the elevator and those two wound up on our floor? What would you do then? What if they had been hostile?"
At first I make the argument that I'd be fine, I wouldn't be scared and besides, I'm a seething cauldron of anger, ready to kick ass when provoked. But I stopped, I knew he was right. What if it had been two men, not having sex in the elevator, but ready to rape and pillage whichever lucky resident called the elevator up?
Jim continued, "What if any of the other women in this building called the elevator up?"
I didn't want to think about it, didn't want to admit that we live on a dangerous street full of desperate people, that there was fresh gang graffiti on the building next door. I didn't want to think of any number of close calls I might've had, how badly things could've turned out.
Later that night, I looked out our windows at the quiet city below. A siren shattered the stillness of the night and I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn't riding in that ambulance, or waiting for it to arrive. Lucky that Jim was with me, that they weren't hostile, and that Ken was willing to stay at the door all night.
Oh yeah, we got a new door installed the next day. Now Jim is wondering how long before someone tags it. Such a pessimist. Here I was, wondering if I could put some Hello Kitty stickers on it.