Monday, June 29, 2009

Jack Martial Arts

In the 2 years that Jack had been delivering to the hotel, he had not spoken to the doorman. They acknowledged each other’s presence with nod or slight gesture of hand, but hadn’t taken the step of introducing themselves. Both were comfortable with this informal relationship.

Last week Jack walked through the front door of the hotel on his way to the elevator. The doorman nodded, John reciprocated but this time he followed him to the elevator. They stood in silence, eyes watching the round floor buttons above the elevator move down from the 4th floor. 4-3-2-1.

Once inside, they repeated the same behavior, watching the floor buttons move up this time. Jack broke protocol:

“How’s the tips here?” looking straight forward, eyes on the illuminated buttons.

“Fare to medium,” appearing to mock his tone, void of expression.

On the 4th floor, Jack got off and doorman stayed on. Neither said goodbye.

When Jack returned to the lobby, the doorman was back at his post. On his way out Jack decided to introduce himself:

“Hi, I’m Jack,” extending his hand.

“I’m Tsan,” pointing to his name tag.

“San?” Jack said, squinting at his name tag, hoping that his printed name would help with the pronunciation.

“Tsan…like Tsan,” once again pointing to his name tag like it would help. Jack thought of his friend Dano who would introduce himself as “Dano…like Drano.”

Jack forced a smile, regretting that he asked. He walked toward the door.

“Jack. Martial arts,” Tsan yelled, not explaining the context of martial arts after Jack’s name.

Jack turned and forced another smile. “Huh?” he replied, pondering if Tsan thought his last name was Martial Arts.

Tsan yelled again: “Jack, you know you hunch over when you walk, it’s not good for your heart.”

This got Jack’s attention, as his glass was always half empty. In 5th grade his teacher told him he would get an ulcer if he didn’t stop worrying.

“I do? You think so?” he said, not questioning the snap diagnosis of a stranger.

Tsan followed Jack outside and asked him to clutch his hands behind his head, like he was a prisoner, and to sit on a bench that was outside of the hotel. Jack obliged and sat down.

Tsan climbed over the backrest of the bench but couldn’t get a good position. He asked Jack to twist his torso where his shoulders were parallel with the bench. Tsan stood on the slanted bench next to Jack and jammed his knee into his back while pulling back his shoulders. Jack grimaced in pain, heard a crack and for a brief moment felt some relief. Before he could raise a concern, Tsan’s knee collided with Jack’s lower back. Feeling great pain, Jack jumped up and was on his way.

That night while lying in bed, Jack worried about what Tsan said about his posture and heart. The next morning he woke up and couldn’t move is neck.

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