The Key by Darryl Graff

     1978 was all about Quaaludes, vodka, and Valium. I had my first real job, as a bellhop at the Stevensville Hotel in the Catskill Mountains, two and a half hours west of New York City.  At sixteen years old I was, by far, the youngest of the bellhops working there.

      On a typical day, Cadillacs, or Lincolns would pull up in front of the hotel, and mom and dad would get out of the car with, very often, a cute teenage daughter.  I would come out with my luggage rack– a 6-foot-long by 6-foot-tall by 2- foot-wide cart on wheels.  

      As a bellhop, I had a special key; it allowed me to shut down the elevator so we could have more time to unload luggage.  

     Whenever I was lucky, I’d get a girl to come into the elevator with me.  I’d turn off the elevator between floors, and we’d make out. Sometimes, when I was alone with a rack of luggage, I would use the key to stop between floors, and I would open up women’s makeup kits and look for Valium. It was the 1970s, and it was guaranteed that almost every makeup kit contained a bottle of Valium. I would take only one pill from each bottle no one was ever going to know.

One night, however, I had drunk too much vodka and taken one too many Valium, and I passed out on a chaise lounge next to the Olympic- size hotel swimming pool.

    The next morning, when I woke up, someone was hitting me.   It was my friend, Adam, the hotel cabana boy. I was still in my bellhop uniform: black shoes, black pants, white shirt, black bowtie, and red vest.

   “Wake up, Darryl! You’re going to get us both fired.”  

    My head was pounding. My mouth was dry. I frantically dug into my left
pocket, until I found it. Thank God, I still have the key.