Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Another tough guy post...

I hope it’s a well established notion by now that bouncers are more than willing to do favors for certain preferred customers, provided we’re paid for our troubles. We’re able to perform these favors because we’ve put in enough time to earn some measure of autonomy on the job. When a bouncer works at a club long enough, as I have, he’ll eventually make his way to the staff’s inner circle, becoming part of the “core.” At my club, I’m an essential part of this core, simply by dint of seniority.

Once you’ve become a member of the core, you can pretty much do whatever the fuck you want. I can go anywhere in the building, at any time with no restrictions, because I’m trusted. Unlike many of my esteemed colleagues, I also know when not to wander around the property. So when I’m traipsing about the campus - whether my intentions are aboveboard or not (they’re generally not) - I’m always given the benefit of the doubt and never questioned.

This works in my favor – and yours, as customers – because when you want or need something from a bouncer, I’m one of the chosen few who can provide whatever it is you’re looking for. I can pull you and five friends off the line, walk you inside, hand you a stack of drink tickets and send you on your merry way without so much as the batting of an eyelash from anyone in management. It’s taken completely for granted that I’m not prone to dishonest dealings at the door, so damned near everything I do flies far under the radar of anyone who counts.

Of course, none of this is free. As outlined last week, you pay me for these services, and I take a percentage of what I collect and kick it back to the head bouncer, who, in turn, is obligated to “hit off” his superiors at the end of every night. The system works just fine once the customers realize one thing: that if they want something nobody else is getting, they have to pay for it. You can’t just ask.

Once a customer figures out how much of a bargain he’s getting – relatively speaking, that is – to get his little favor, he’ll come back to you again. And again. And again the following week. They’ll come in and ask for you by name, and you’ll know exactly what they want because they’ll want the same thing every single week. The ones with any sort of “class” know exactly what the going rate happens to be. They’ll gladly cough it up, and then some, to avoid suffering in the pit with the gen pop, and we’re usually more than happy to oblige.

Every door guy has clients. Most nights, I siphon funds from several of my own. My most generous clients don’t wait in line, they sit on sofas in the VIP section and use our “private” bathrooms, and they’re given several drink tickets before they make it inside. I’ll even escort them into the club on particularly crowded nights, clearing a path to one of the sections where the unwashed won’t dare tread.

As a bouncer with a clientele, you have to respect – at least in a favor-granting sense - clients belonging to the other guys on your staff. If you’re fortunate enough to have a stable of people who pay you, you need to make sure you don’t step on the toes of your coworkers when they ask you to do favors for their clients. For example, if Bouncer A’s cash cow needs an escort to the bathroom while Bouncer A is too busy to leave his post, Bouncer B – provided he’s posted at a money spot, and earning – is essentially obligated to fill in for Bouncer A and provide whatever the customer in question needs, despite the fact that he likely won’t see any money as a result. Conversely, Bouncer B would expect Bouncer A to “do the same for him.” Because we’re all doing the same thing – bouncing, for chrissakes – things usually even out favor-wise.

There’s a caveat to this. If you’re a bouncer with clients, you can’t ask a rank-and-file “inside guy” to do you a favor without giving him a cut of what you’re making, which is why we generally don’t ask bouncers outside the inner circle to fill in for us when we can’t provide something. You’re taking a risk when you hand over your cash supply to someone you don’t know very well, because there’s always a chance an inside guy will alienate your client by attempting his own ham-handed little shakedown while you’re not around. I’m always very careful in these situations. To a fault, in fact.

I’m so careful because I don’t want to piss anyone off the way I was pissed off on Friday night. Midway through a rather tedious shift, “Kevin” asked me to walk one of his clients to the private bathrooms. I don’t like this particular customer. I think he’s an asshole, and I want to shove one of his ribs up his ass. He’s too loud and too abrasive for civilized society, and we’ve “had words” in the past as a result of his poor behavior. Kevin is a friend of mine, however, so I followed proper bouncer etiquette and honored his request.

As expected, Asshole was an asshole from the time I took custody, despite the fact that I was magnanimously doing him a favor, and despite the fact that it was just the two of us walking down an empty hallway with nobody around for him to “impress.” I’ll skip the litany of things he did wrong en route to the bathroom – the shouting, the clapping and the touching of me – and move directly to the payoff: the point when I turned around and told him I was going to punch him in the face if he didn’t shut the fuck up.

“What’d I say?”

“Look,” I said. “Just go in there and shut your fucking mouth, otherwise we’re going back up front and you’re not getting shit. Seriously. I don’t wanna hear one more fucking sound.”

“Here,” he said, holding a twenty. His hand was shaking. “Take this…”

“I don’t want your fucking money. Just go take your fucking leak and hurry the fuck up.”

See, if you know I can’t fucking stand you, but there are bouncers around who’re on your payroll, it’s fine if you can’t help acting like an asshole because I’ll swallow it and move on. I’ll do this because I don’t want to take money out of my friends’ pockets. But when it’s just you and me, and I’m doing you a favor that you’re not paying me for, it’s a completely different story and you need to cut through all the drugs and Red Bull and realize that your best move is to go quietly and leave well enough alone. Some people can’t do this. Some can’t overcome the chemicals. Others are just too damned stupid. Either way, nobody wins.

“Why didn’t you just take his money?” asked Kevin a few minutes after I’d returned to the door. “That guy’s fuckin’ loaded.”

“I don’t want his money. I don’t want anything to do with that fucking guy.”

“He gave me a twenty and said to give it to you. You want it?”

“No,” I replied.

“You serious?”

“Yeah, I’m fucking serious. Keep it. I’ve had problem after problem with that motherfucker, and he’s still mouthing off to me. I let him in, and I let him use the bathroom, and I let him have whatever he wants because he’s your boy, but you gotta tell him to keep his fucking mouth shut when I’m doing it.”

“I did,” he said.

“You did? What’d you say?”

Kevin smiled. “I told him exactly what you woulda wanted me to tell him.”

“Which was?”

“That he was lucky he made it back from the bathroom.”