Not too long ago, someone busted up a section of the glass in my apartment building’s inner front door. In response, one of my neighbors has established a Tenant Patrol, and I got roped into serving on it. My first shift was last night. Here are some of the highlights (most of the times stated below are approximations):
8:59 p.m. – I step out of the elevator and into the lobby to relieve the husky, tight-lipped boy who lives on my floor. When I last spoke to him in June, he had just graduated from high school and was gearing up for his freshman year at the University of Miami this fall. This is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve run into him since late August, so something’s happened. Probably something pretty embarrassing.
“Is there anything I should do besides looking fierce?” I ask.
“Huh-huh,” he insincerely titters. He’s never found me funny.
“Are there any instructions?”
“No,” he says. He walks to the front door and out into the night.
I take my place at the rickety table. A big TENANT PATROL poster is taped to its front. The chair is comfortable as hell.
9:05 – The teenager who’s rumored to have smashed the front-door glass walks in. He’s one of my favorite neighbors and I think I’m one of his.
9:15 – Another neighbor arrives with his girlfriend. They’re both in their early twenties. I’m very friendly with the building’s teens and early twentysomethings, and I’d been hoping that none of them would catch me doing this. Now they’ll think I’m a loser who has defected to the other side. But I most likely hate the other side more than they do. This is more of a Special Ops gig than a law enforcement role. They should think of me as that kid from Home Alone – this is my house and I have to defend it.
9:35 – I never knew that a lot of these people coming in and out even lived in the building. Maybe they don’t.
9:40 – The Patrol organizer comes downstairs in her slippers, holding a dish of hot food and a large beverage. She’s not scheduled to relieve me until 10, but for some reason she was worried about the table being unstaffed. I tell her to go on back upstairs and take her time with the meal.
9:45 – An argument (in Russian), between a man and a woman, erupts from an apartment that borders the front door. I’ve long suspected that an Eastern European prostitution ring or escort service is run out of this unit.
9:48 – The man from the argument is now loudly talking on the phone (in English), asking someone if s/he would be available to come in for an interview. “What should you bring?” he asks. “Just bring your smile.”
9:50 - One of the building’s drunks walks off the elevator. He says he’s going to the store to pick up some water.
9:55 – The current head of the household in the sex-trade den emerges, decked out in Diesel, to throw out an oddly-shaped bag of trash. He doesn’t say hello or make eye contact.
10:05 – Here comes the drunk, back from his water run. He’s carrying a black plastic bag filled with at least two bottles. He ambles toward my table, reaching into his bag to pull something out for me. Yay! Maybe he’ll pour some Patron for my patrol!
False alarm – he takes out a bottle of fruit punch-flavored vitamin water and a straw, and sets it all down on the table. “That’s in case you get thirsty,” he says.
10:10 – What’s taking the organizer so long? I told her to take her time, but not like this. My shift was slated to end at 10.
10:15 – The sex-trader heads out of the building wearing a red leather jacket, possibly setting off on a recruiting trip.
10:25 – The organizer reappears, with a troubled look on her face. “I’m going to pack everything up and call it a night,” she says. “I ate too fast and now I’ve got gas.”