Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Channeling Sipowicz

Delivery volunteers at my work are asked to do a lot more than stuff and lick envelopes. We ask them to deliver food to 300 plus people in some of the most notorious hotels in the Tenderloin (TL).

They walk over dead people, push past crack heads in stairwells and politely decline advancements by large-handed prostitutes. They’re a hardy bunch and have the utmost respect of the agency. And me.

In my fifteen years at work, I’ve only heard of a few assaults on volunteers while delivering. One had an old school phone thrown at him and the other was mugged TWICE while crossing the street and then mugged again a few minutes later. The first mugger took his wallet and knocked him down and the second mugger, who initially witnessed the first mugging and assisted him, took his Walkman and headphones. The second mugger said, “Are you alright? Are you sure? Yes? Well, then give me your Walkman.” The volunteer finished delivering the meals before reporting what happened.

Part of my job is investigating assaults (Ok, not sure if it was in my job description, but I took it on. It gets me out of the office). Since assaults are rare, I’ve never been able to hone my P.I. skills.

Last week a volunteer was assaulted while delivering in the heart of the ‘Loin. An unidentified man followed the volunteer into a hotel and yelled epithets at him. (The guy sounded crazy and either drunk or high or both. They always are) He followed him to the 5th floor and waited for him to make the delivery. The volunteer hurried past the man and onto the street. He followed him and continued yelling a barrage of epithets and then punched him in the back. As the volunteer ran away, the attacker yelled, “You’re doing a good job.” When retelling the incident, the volunteer wasn’t sure if this comment was meant to mock or praise. Shaken from the incident, he called us and reported the assault.

We urged the volunteer to press charges and assured him that we would not send volunteers into that hotel again. He expressed concern about the clients getting their meals and we assured him that we would find an alternative way to feed them. I gathered my TL Social Worker/Cop outfit (clipboard, dirty baseball cap and shades) and walked to the TL hotel to investigate and inform the clients in the building who were receiving our services of the incident and to talk to them about alternatives to delivery.

I announced that I was delivering food and the manager waved me through. I knocked on a client’s door and informed her of the assault. I explained that we needed to find another way to feed her and I gave her a few options. Since she didn’t have a phone, I asked her to give some thought to what I said and told her I would be back tomorrow. I already knew that her precarious health and disenfranchised existence would be a major hindrance in efficiently serving her.

The next client came to the door in a full Superman outfit. Obviously he was in no mental state to adhere to my requests. I ran through what I said to the other client and said I’d be back tomorrow.

At the foot of the stairs, I approached the office and informed the Manager of the incident. He said he was sorry and would keep an eye on the volunteers. I said there was no need to as we would not be delivering to the building again. He was taken aback by my comment.

While walking out the door, I noticed a tall tranny standing near the entrance looking at me. Thinking that this might be the perp, I braced myself.

“I know who did it,” she confessed. I stopped and walked toward her, not saying a word.

“It was Dennis, she gets that way when she’s drunk. I saw her harassing the volunteer.”

Drawing on my extensive Law and Order and NYPD Blue knowledge, I stepped closer and said, “She? We were told it was a man.”

She awkwardly responded. “Y’no, he…she?”

I confidently replied, “Yeah, I get it.”

At this point I wanted to throw a manila folder at her and say, “Write it down.”

I asked, “Does this person have a last name? Do you know where she lives?”

She said that she didn’t know her name but thought she lived on the 6th floor. I thanked her for the info and asked where I might find her, if I had some follow up questions. I also informed her not to leave town.

I took my newfound knowledge and walked back in the building to talk to the Manager. I asked if there was a Dennis on the 6th floor. He leaned back and gave a look that said, “Dennis, aww, of course it was Dennis.” He gave me her full name and said, “She’s alright except for when she’s drinking.”

The informant followed me to the office, stuck her head under the plate glass divider that separated the office from the hallway and yelled, “It was Dennis, It was Dennis, It was Dennis!” So much for being coy.

On my way back to work I stared down every perp in the ‘Loin, giving them all a look that said “Don’t fuck with me.” I was high on authority and thinking of joining the Academy..

The volunteer didn’t want to press charges, so there was nothing we could do. Staff delivered to the hotel, until Dennis got evicted.

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