It was the last day of my security guard job. I had a stain in the collar of my blue shirt that refused to come out and the scent that a skunk shared with me during my nightly bike ride home 5 months ago still lingered on my fur (fake) lined security officer’s jacket. The post property I’d been paid to protect was the “Land O’ Lakes Apartment Complex. I’d been at the Lakes for a year and a half. I remembered the bike rides home at 1am. It was good exercise but it wore me down over time (The bus service in the area was cut leaving me no other choice but the bike). I recalled the near misses I’d had with animals on the way home. I nearly ran over a raccoon as I headed from Skyline towards Sloat. He froze and I swerved, almost hitting a pole. Another time, I almost hit an opossum. He, like the raccoon, froze. It was almost as if the opossum was daring me to run him over. Again, I swerved.
I’d been trying to get out of security since I got hired nearly 2 years ago. I sent out many resumes and got only a few responses. In the bad economy, people are selling themselves out in record numbers. I applied at non-profit organizations mostly and got a couple of responses but no job. In fact, I interviewed at one place with a white haired saintly man and a woman who looked like she’d dropped out of a convent. It was my second interview with this pair in 2 years, this time for an on-call employment counselor position for an organization serving folks with developmental disabilities. The interview was a repeat of the first. I thought I was a shoe-in. I had them laughing and pouring me cups of coffee. I left thinking it was in the bag. Before I walked out the door I went to the restroom, inadvertently walking over the janitor’s freshly mopped floor. He gave me a scowl and I thought to myself: you can kiss that job goodbye. I never got a call from the saintly white haired man or the convent drop out.
I met a lot of good guys at “Land O Lakes”. The common thread among them is that they are mostly men in their mid 50’s and have been security guards 15 years or more—lifers. I said: I ain’t gonna end up like them, I’m not gonna guard the hen house for the man for an extended period of time. Hell, the man’s lucky I’m even doing this. Then I thought about the fact that I’d been working as a security guard off and on for almost 20 years. Maybe I am a lifer too.
The job had its good points. It was a multi-layered quilt of multicultural private security goodness. There was Norman, the Samoan guard who was one of the best human beings I’d ever met. He was a big muscular guy with a big muscular smile who used to tell me stories about fishing at night back home in Samoa. His favorite thing to eat was king crab, which, when he said it, sounded like king crap. He directed the choir at his church and was taking classes to become a minister. He would bring leftovers from Sunday Service—ham, taro, chicken, noodles—never reciting scripture but sharing his food and his laughter and his smile—which told me more about him than anything else. Once he brought a tin of fancy cookies. I said, those are some white people cookies. He laughed and with a mouthful of cookies said, brown people can eat these cookies too. He went on to tell me about his uncle who was a minister: He is a bastard. (It sounded like he said bastard, but what he actually said was pastor). There was another guard who we called Shark, who used to guard nothing but the swimming pool, smiling at the girls. The was Billy, who everyone called ‘backwards’ because he got things backwards…such as pronouncing the word harmonica as marhonica…and so on. We’d all sit in the security guard shack talking about the job, about who was trying to sneak into the pool, which tenants played their music too loud or who was stealing recyclables from the garbage dumpsters etc. Those conversations were boring. It made me crave white people cookies and king crap (crab).
I decided to quit the security job. I’ve thrown off my security rope—which I never got a chance to hang myself with—and have traded it in for a new rope—with another security guard company paying 2 dollars an hour more.
My orientation with the new company was yesterday. I watched some training films on workplace safety and various forms of harassment. The films are so bad that they themselves qualify as harassment. The orientation manager informed me that my supervisor would be either Ted or Rich. I was a little tired and thought he’d said I was going to get rich. I sat in the training room in anticipation of getting rich. “I want to get rich” I repeated to myself over and over, taking sips of lukewarm coffee. The door finally opened, I was going to get rich I thought. The orientation manager smiled as a man followed him through the door. This is Ted, he said…smiling.
© Revolutionary Worker Scholar 2010