Saturday, May 14, 2011

I carried a badge

A recent post by Guffaw about working as a security guard brought back the memories of my own brief stint as a pseudo law enforcement officer and working the mean streets of the city, well actually, mostly mean vestibules. Starting in '04 I spent over two years working as unarmed security for a local company. At the time I needed extra income to pay off some bills and this was the best job I could find that would work with my schedule.

I did mention it was unarmed security? The company told us that fact four or five times during our initial three-hour orientation. It must have been a big problem with new employees as it was mentioned repeatedly. They also told us as many times that being caught with a gun while working for them was grounds for immediate termination, whether you had a deadly weapons license or not. Know what else would get you fired right quick? Doing anything but observing. You see all of us fledgling "Security Officers" soon discovered that the only thing we were there for was to be a "visual deterrence" for criminals (mostly shoplifters) and to be a good witness if possible. What we were not supposed to do was jeopardize our safety or the company's profits while on their payroll. And they meant it, not even two weeks after we finished "training" one of the guys I started with helped some employees at a store he was working at, he "helped" them by tackling a shoplifter running out the door. Yep, you guessed it, fired on the spot. Poor sap must have thought he was a cop or something. He was mistaken. They tried to tell him numerous times during that extensive half-day training session before we were "signed off" and let loose on the world, guess he wasn't listening. They weren't paying us to "do something," basically we were being paid to stand around and look official and (in theory) we would scare away anyone that meant trouble for our customers. The scarecrow security theory. My first supervisor on the job put it succinctly, he told me to just "stand there and look serious, but friendly."

Being the new guy I got all those exciting jobs that the other employees didn't want. The boring jobs, the uncomfortable jobs, and of course the dangerous jobs. Because of my regular work I didn't have much time available on the weekdays but did on the weekends and I got to work a lot of them. It wasn't unusual for me to have 24-30 hours in before the regular work week arrived Monday morning. The company had a big contract with a local grocery chain and our mission was to stand there in the front vestibule of their store and frighten criminals. I got a lot of those jobs as many of my co-workers refused to do it, or at least found a reason to get out of it. You don't know what fun is until you've stood in the lobby of a grocery store going insane from the tedium, doing your twelve hour shift (usually midnight to noon) with only a very short restroom break every few hours. Good times!

But it wasn't all standing around with your feet killing you for boring hour after hour without end, there was other fun to be had. They also sent me more than a few times to a local downtown hotel notorious for a murder a couple years before, a drug deal had went bad in their secluded back parking lot. My assignment, if I accepted it, was to make a continuous loop, patrolling each floor of the hotel from top to bottom on the hour, including the aforementioned murder site. It was the graveyard shift (12A - 8A) and while it was lonely I wasn't completely alone. As I said the place was infamous for a relatively recent and well known murder and a known drug area. The local police made it a part of their regular beat and I would see them maybe three or four times during the long night. Otherwise I was on my own. The only good thing I can say about the duty was that it wasn't boring as standing looking out the front window of a grocery store for 6 to 12 hours at a time.

Those were the two main duties I had that first year but there were other memorable ones too. Once in a while I worked at a shopping complex in the city center and adjacent to it was a large Catholic Church. Every weekday at noon they would give out food to the needy. Let me tell you that was some fun trying to keep a 100 or more homeless (mostly men), many undoubtedly mentally ill, on the church property and from overrunning and damaging your client's. Your only weapons a harsh look and the threat of calling the real police. Good times!

Then occasionally, maybe once or twice a month, I would get assigned a "gravy" job, typically when someone called in sick or was on vacation. I suppose they were grateful that I took so many unpopular assignments that they would throw me a bone on occasion. It was during these times I would get my own patrol car, ours were little white Ford Focus sedans with a spiffy stripe down the side that read "******* Security" and had a light bar on top. I would usually get the night shift (or course) and would drive around in the nearly empty parking lot, listening to overnight A.M. talk radio while I protected the grocery or department store from evildoers! Good times! Really!

I was popular with my immediate supervisor because I was one of the few guys he had that would take anything offered. I did the dirty jobs many of his other employees wouldn't. Plenty of long shifts and boring posts. I didn't want to either but I had to, I needed the money. I did the work and didn't complain and I'm sure that's what he appreciated the most. In that first year the only job I ever turned down was working the front door at an abortion clinic, that's just something I could not do.

After about 15 months of that kind of "fun" I asked them to cut back my hours. I had paid off some bills by then, I still needed some extra money but I rapidly tired of working seven days a week. Because I had done a good work for them (and without complaints) I must say they made an effort to find me a regular post, something better than what I had been doing. They finally did find something, a nice Saturday only job at a local factory. I would go in the morning at seven and would stay until they were finished, usually three or four that afternoon. I had my own little office, heated and central air. My only duty to sit there at my desk and let people in or out. The rest of the time I could read or listen to the radio, but quietly, and absolutely no TV! Mainly I just tried to stay awake. Infrequently I would still find myself with the odd "interesting" assignment when they really needed me to. Finally I must say I bored of the exciting life of an unarmed security officer and found myself a somewhat better second job, at least it paid more.

Did I ever carry a gun in my "unarmed" security job? Sure did, plenty of times my Smith & Wesson 649 was right there with me. Usually in a holster around my ankle or occasionally in a "tuckable" holster inside my waistband. It was legal for me to carry and any time it seemed prudent to have a gun I did, like the murder hotel for instance. I was willfully violating company policy and knew I would be fired then and there if caught, but it was my life on the line so I decided to take that chance. The company knew to, at least I believe my "field" supervisor did. There were a couple of times he seemed to notice me "printing" but never said a word. They probably sent him on some dangerous jobs too when he first started.


Guffaw in AZ said...

Thanks for the link and the 'follow'.
I have added myself as one of your followers, it's only right.

Wilson said...

Thanks, I had to put you on my list, I was going there every day anyway!

James R. Rummel said...

Good post, Wilson!

James Nonte said...

Some interesting insights, I’ve done a lot of jobs but never had the pleasure of being an unarmed security guard. Sounds like a thrill a minute.

Bluer said...

Interesting reading.

Cornholio said...

Good stuff!