Saturday. 4:05 a.m.
I arrived at Kitchen early, 7:25 p.m. The General Manager Ken Ebner was bent over his schedule book at the end of the bar and gave me a staccato nod. Arranged on the bar around him was a mobile telephone in its perforated leather holster, a hand-held computer, a red marble ashtray full of scotch mints, and a key ring, attached to a miniature vodka bottle. Ken often took up the ring, which was heavy with keys, twirled it around in his hand, and set it down noisily. I arrived at the same time as Mitch Manseau, another Security Assistant, who had a bruise on his cheek. The bartender Mary placed two pint glasses of ice water in front of us. Ken looked up from his schedule book and noticed Mitch’s bruise.
“He hit you first?” he asked.
“I wasn’t hit!” Mitch said. “I fell!”
Ken looked doubtful.
“My new girlfriend takes me jogging yesterday,” Mitch said. “She’s a personal trainer. A jogging freak. Runs marathons and triathlons! She’s like, ‘Okay muscleman, let’s see how you jog!’ So she takes me though the ravine. Not jogging. Full-out sprinting. I told her before we left: I’m like not a jogger. I don’t do cardio. I lift weights, I work out, but I don’t do cardio. So after 20 minutes of trying to keep up with her through valleys full of rocks, I slip on a rock and fall. She keeps running. I’m lying with my face in mud. She jogs back. ’What’s wrong?’ she asks. I’m like — once again — ‘I don’t do cardio.’ Then I puke!”
Midway through Mitch’s story, Ken began to play with his key ring, while swiftly and repeatedly consulting his hand-held computer. He punched a tiny button when the device emitted a just-audible grinding sound. “You meet her here?” Ken asked.
Mitch abruptly ceased drinking his water and coughed. “Meet who here?”
“Your new girlfriend who took you jogging when you fell on your face in the ravine. Did you meet her at Kitchen?”
“Yeah! Sure, I met her here. Friends with Carlo.”
“You guys are on shift,” said Ken.
Sunday. 3:50 a.m.
When I arrived home, Jennifer was watching TV with the sound turned off.
“You’re up late,” I said.
“I’m always up late. But still you say: ’You’re up late!’ every time you get home from work.”
“What are you watching?”
“I don’t know. Something stupid.”
Monday. 3:25 a.m.
Tonight a guy got past Mitch at the door, and did Ken ever get on Mitch’s back about it. You’d think that in a big club like Kitchen, patronized by thousands of dancers every weekend, mistakes might get lost in the sea of bodies, but it is not so. Ken had seen everything.
After we closed, Ken bawled Mitch out in front of everyone. Even Mary ceased cashing out the bar to listen.
This was Ken:
“He paid no cover, Mitch, and he stayed here the whole night. I found him at 1:36 a.m. and had Carlo throw him out. He lied about being on the guest list, got past you, talked his way into the DJ booth. He also got several of his friends past you. I saw them dancing in a circle, radiating violently toward other dancers. It’s known as swarming, Mitch. On the Kitchen dance floor! How did it happen, Mitch?”
“I don’t know, Ken!” Mitch looked around at the rest of us. “They all had those plastic card things around their necks.”
Ken ignored him. “You know what this kind of negligence leads to?” He stood erect, his phone and hand-held computer clamped to his belt. He wore baggy khakis and a silk golf shirt. His arms extended fully at his sides; one hand looked about to grip an invisible gun from a holster, while the other held his key ring, with its miniature vodka bottle, delicately between thumb and forefinger. Ken looked at us. The keys did not rattle. “That’s right,” he said. “It leads to out-of-control dance floor swarming.”
“Everybody familiar with a midtown club called Boiler Room? Does everybody remember Boiler Room, August 20, 1998? No? Don’t remember? Memory a little foggy? Well, I guess that means you weren’t at Boiler Room, on August 20, 1998, because if you had been, you’d remember 10:10 p.m., on August 20, 1998, at Boiler Room.
“Their night staff let known dance floor swarmers — a whole gang of them — through the doors. Now, this gang wasn’t that smart. These gentlemen came in separately, instead of all at the same time. Is that smart? It’s not dumb, but it’s not that smart either. Point is, Boiler Room Security Assistants did not keep their eyes on these gentlemen. They did not realize that they were a gang of swarmers.
“Anyway, that gang commences with a dance floor swarm. They radiate violently. At 12:50 a.m., police were called in. They shut the place down. Ambulances arrived. Six Boiler Room patrons are treated for serious dance floor injuries due to swarming. City shuts Boiler Room down. Victims sue management.”
We stood in silence. We had forgotten about Mitch’s mistake and so, it seemed, had Ken. He shook his key ring at us, as if it were a handkerchief and he was sending us off with a grudging blessing and best wishes.