A night in the day of doorman LaTerry Dorsey

Posted on Sun, 11/02/2014 - 11:54am

By Tracy Poyser

LaTerry Dorsey

Unless you work very late or start very early, enjoy going out on the town and come home after midnight, or are a night owl for any other reason, you probably will say “LaTerry who?” when you read the headline.

Yet, for a huge residential building like ours, a doorman’s night shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. is important for our security, as well as the comfort of having a friendly face at the doorman’s station no matter what time it is. Buildings tout the advantage of a “24-hour doorman” – but, of course, that would be impossible! Our doormen work in three shifts: 7 a.m.-3 p.m., 3-11 p.m., and the crucial night shift of 11 p.m.-7 a.m. From Thursday through Monday nights, that’s LaTerry’s responsibility.

Like Froylan and Manuel Sanchez, our night maintenance guys, whom you met in a Dialogue employee profile last year (August 2013), LaTerry has a special love for his job and our building. When I interviewed him at the beginning of his shift a few weeks ago, I realized I did know his smiling face and professional bearing from a couple of my own late-night returns, so I hope many of you will also recognize him from the accompanying photo.

LaTerry grew up in Chicago but moved away after school to try out some other parts of the country. For a few years he stayed in Albuquerque, N.M., where he worked and helped run the family diner of a good mentor and friend. But, he missed his family in Chicago, especially his mother and sister, and decided to return. At the time, his mom happened to be working as a companion for a Malibu East resident and encouraged him to apply for a job here. Like many of our permanent staff members, he got his initial “in” about seven years ago, starting in maintenance and as a relief doorman. That’s how he met almost all of our residents. When the night shift became available as a permanent position after a while, he signed up for it and decided that’s where he wanted to stay.

So, I asked, how does he handle the night shift for five nights and then try to have two “normal” days off? It took awhile for him to find a good system, but now he “hibernates” a bit on Tuesdays until around 2 p.m. and tends to stay wide awake until late. After that, his Wednesdays are quite normal, and on Thursdays he gets just enough rest so he can stay alert and awake through the night. It’s a pattern he’s actually come to enjoy.

Like a good concierge at a top-notch hotel, LaTerry is a shining example of discretion and tact. When I asked him to tell me a bit more about the habits of our human Malibu East night birds, he just smiled and couldn’t find a bad word to say about anyone. He did share the plight of a somewhat inebriated party guest who thought he had left his house keys and phone in his host’s apartment, but he could remember only the guy’s first name. LaTerry patiently went through the entire list of 500 residents but couldn’t find anyone named Omar – so the man eventually ambled off and, LaTerry hopes, reached home safely.

Every night is a bit different, with Friday and Saturday nights a bit livelier until around 2 a.m. As a general rule, it gets really quiet between 2 and 5 a.m. Sunday nights are generally very quiet, but with the start of the workweek, there’s much more traffic on Monday nights, with people working late shifts or starting early in the morning. Terry knows the habits of his “regulars” – someone who always needs a cab at 4 a.m., or the lone smoker who takes exactly two minutes to get his nicotine fix. And, the last two hours of his shift get lively with dog walkers, runners and joggers out for their early-morning exercise, or health-care professionals starting or ending their shifts. LaTerry knows them all by name, and the interaction with people is what he enjoys most.

In terms of security, I was very glad to learn that the night shift is generally uneventful, and LaTerry has always felt safe, especially with our security cameras, the extra eyes of the garage attendants, our night-shift maintenance guys Froylan and Manuel, and our own security patrol inside the building. He keeps his eyes on nine screens with full-time camera coverage for the front-door entrance, garage lobby, garage car entrance, Captain’s Walk, atrium view, pool deck, Laundry Room, garage interiors, the stairs to the Captain’s Walk, and the elevator lobby. All doors are locked after midnight, with residents required to pick up guests at the doorman’s station.

Since homelessness is a fact of life in a big city like ours – and particularly difficult to cope with in our cold winters – I assumed that people might try to find shelter and a warm spot in public areas like the atrium. But, according to LaTerry, that’s not the case. Still, he reports seeing all kinds of interesting wildlife after midnight, like a possum, raccoons and even a fox trying to sneak into the garage. One of the most amusing episodes was his and Manuel’s attempt to chase a little bird – most likely a sparrow – out of the Lobby. Every time they had shooed it close to an open door, it flew on top of it and sat there. Finally they managed to get it down the ramp and out of the handicapped-accessible side entrance, but not before it had parked itself on top of that door, too. It took them at least 15 minutes and was a lot more fun than a police chase.

Emergency calls or complaints generally revolve around maintenance issues or excessive late-night noise from lively parties and loud music – so it’s always a good idea to ask guests who are leaving late at night to keep their talking in the hallways to a minimum. It’s always good to remember that our walls, although solid, are not soundproof. According to LaTerry, it’s not always easy to determine the source of noise, so please just be neighborly and err on the side of “lower is better.”

On the day of our interview, I had a chance to observe a number of residents coming and going, since it was still early. It was clear how much they enjoyed being greeted by LaTerry, who, of course, knew them by name. There’s a genuine warmth and dignity about him that adds so much to the joy of residents being home and safe. I’m quite sure life has many more good things in store for him, but I hope he’ll stay at Malibu East for a long time!