Beck had a difficult time getting up to breakfast that morning. The dining room which overlooked Central Park and which was one of the main draws of the Castle, was on the 14th floor.
Beck was on the 4th floor, not facing the park.
The building had three elevators, and generally they were crammed with walkers, and Rollators and oh yes, bent over and demented people.
But Beck was into rituals, and he liked to have oatmeal and a boiled egg in the morning. So he waited because the third and largest elevator was out of order. It had been down for three days, and management just put a printed sign on it:
Sorry for the inconvenience
We are working on the problem
And a few other catchall phrases which are the provenance of corporate governance .
So as each elevator stopped, he looked in as the doors opened to find a can of crushed sick people. He wondered what would happen if there was a fire and the elevators were out.
They were directed to take the stairs, but there weren’t 20 people in the place who could make it down the stairs without rollators or walkers which you can’t use on steps.
In fact, a few days ago they had had a fire drill, complete with flashing strobe lights and annoying beeps, and “blue coats” rushing into each room announcing a fire drill was in progress and to stay in our rooms.
Well what else are the people who can barely walk ten steps going to do?
Beep. He was knocked out of this memory by an empty elevator going up. Got in and eventually arrived at the 14th floor. Stepping out into the hallway outside the dining room he was glad he remembered his sweatshirt because there was an arctic blast of air from the a/c in the hall. And several old people were wearing winter clothing.
The dining room doors were still shut. He was early. And slowly the hallway filled with the lame, the insane, and a few who still had their marbles. It was jam packed.
Each day he noticed the deterioration of one of his neighbors. That is for a separate chapter. We will stick to the main incident of Beck’s breakfast: Ricardo and Esme.
Esme came up first and sat at a nearby table. Beck had talked with her once or twice about joining her and a friend to play Rummy 2, which he never heard of, and never followed up on. She was about ten years older than Beck, but still had a nice calm demeanor and a functioning brain (which was rare in the Castle).
Out in the hallway Beck had the daily treat of listening to Ricardo scream at the top of his lungs, with a red face, about getting his breakfast to go and being ignored.
“They ignore me,” he said looking at Beck. “Nobody helps me. I could drop dead and they wouldn’t give a shit. Excuse my language.”
Beck decided to meddle a bit and explained to Ricardo that he would get faster service if he came into the dining room and sat down next to Esme. She was at the table for two a few feet from Beck.
“The same thing happened to me, yesterday,” Beck told Ricardo.
His eyes lit up with pleasure. “You see, I have a witness.”
After a lot of coaxing Ricardo left his rollator in the hallway and sat at the table with Esme.
He continued to scream eat each waitress that walked by: Give me my food. I need my breakfast.
You see, he said. You see how they treat me. They ignore me. They always ignore me.
Esme offered him a piece of her toast.
At first he refused it. But eventually he took one half a slice with the awful margarine and stuffed it in his mouth.
A waitress eventually stopped by and took his order.
But he kept complaining. Beck repeated that if he wanted better service he had to get seated in the dining room. Then ask for it to go.
They don’t pay attention to me, he said.
And finally, Esme quoted a line from Death of a Salesman: Attention must be paid.
Ricardo didn’t know the line but repeated it with a spanish accent: Attention must be paid. That’s right.
Beck asked, Ricardo. How long have you been here in the Castle?
Ricardo: Eight years.
Beck: What did you do before you came here?
(Ricardo was puzzled).
Esme: He means what sort of work did you do?
Ricardo: I was a salesman. I worked in the diamond district.
And as if that wasn’t enough, another spanish guy who Beck knew by sight, walks by mumbling: It’s because we’re old and they’re all young. We don’t get any respect.
Esme looks across at Beck and they both say Rodney Dangerfield to each other.