Doorman Confessional: Johnny from the Bronx

Fancy urbanites have doormen. We have a down-to-Earth lovable bulldog I call Johnny from the Bronx. This entryway super-weapon always has a joke, a story, and one hell of a side-eye. Whenever I try to live the glamorous life, if only in my mind, Johnny takes it street level.

“You’re killing me with that ‘doorman’ thing,” Johnny tells me.

“I like to think I have a doorman, so don’t squelch my dreams. And Johnny, speaking of killing, thanks for being the one to keep the killers from getting into the building. We appreciate you.”

“Girl, the killers live IN the building,” he clowns.

A college-aged guy walks in, wearing pajama pants, his sweater inside out. Eight beers in, long before nightlife kick-off, he has locked himself out of his apartment.

Johnny solves his drunken dilemma, then takes to hauling bottled waters for a family of four. The sauced hot-child-in-the-city exits again, and though his arms are loaded, Johnny does what all effective workers do—he multi-tasks. His nurturing words are loaded with street smarts. “Make sure you come back to the building! Don’t make me come looking for you!”

Johnny is our own Mr. Rogers, with keys and a badge, but there has to be more, so I dig for the stuff of urban legend.

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“Johnny, what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen down here?”

“You know, there was this one guy who would come up dressed like a man, then down, dressed like a woman. Young guy. Blonde. Skirt and high heels, every day. He was never disrespectful, never a problem. He never talked, and he wasn’t flaky or nothing. At first, I was like ‘Wow. Wow. What the hell!’ Then, I got used to it. Probably one of the best tenants we ever had.”

I give him the business. “The only thing crazy thing about this story is that you couldn’t get someone to talk.”

“This is true.”

A new mom and her baby girl enter the foyer. Like all others before, they stop to chat. Shortly later, when dad arrives, Johnny is there, alongside the family, to greet him home.

Michelle Obi is a Jack contributor who writes our monthly Mover Shaker column. She also runs the photo blog, Downtown Obi Brown.

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