About two weeks ago, I was walking through the mall I regularly patrol as a security guard, making my rounds. The usual tourist groups were gathered in the food court, eating pizza and Chinese food, when a restaurant employee waved me over and pointed out a diner.
A middle-aged man with gray hair, dressed in a soiled white shirt and jeans more brown than blue, was sitting in a corner behind a pillar. As I approached, I saw that the man had something stuck to the end of a chopstickfrom a distance, it looked like maybe an old, dirty sock or a piece of fabric. When I got closer, I was able to make out the tiny rib cage, skull, and tail of some sort of skinned rodent. If it wasn’t a squirrel, it was a rat.
“You can’t have that in here,” I said to the man, fighting back a wave of nausea. He wrapped it up in a piece of paper, put it in a Big Gulp cup, and left.
On the job, you can’t ignore the disgusting situations. And you don’t really want to. Every little distraction helps fight the tedium. I watch people from nearby theaters come and go. I listen as every single white person, without fail, walks into the mall and exclaims, “Mmm, Starbucks” or “Oooh, honeyStarbucks,” as if they weren’t on every other corner. A homeless man with a dead animal on a chopstick qualifies as full-fledged entertainment.
I have been working security for almost two years. My main post is in a shopping mall, but I also work in office buildings around the city.
Guard duty is not like any other job I have held. With other jobs, the actual work can be tiring and trying. On guard duty, there’s hardly any physical or mental effort required. I’m there to make sure nothing happens, so a successful night is a lazy night.
For security guards, the worst part of our job is boredom. Most nights, I’m alone in a building for eight to 16 hours. After normal business hours, I don’t see or speak to anyone. The most important thing for me, or any security guard, is keeping the mind occupied with a good book or a magazine.
But there are times when I have only one magazine and about 10 hours to kill. When I’m in this situation, I have to attack the magazine from different angles.
The first thing I do is read all of the major articles, even the ones I’m not particularly interested in. After that, I go to the smaller articles, letters to the editor, and the advertisements. Then I usually go back over the features and read them again, trying to gain something new from them. If the situation becomes completely desperate, I go to the pictures and imagine myself on lush golf courses, or driving fancy cars, or styling expensive watches.
When I’m not trying to extract hours of entertainment from one magazine, I deal with crazy, irrational, drunken people. Many of the area homeless have chosen my mall as a hangout. Some just come in to get themselves situatedwash up, escape the cold for a minutethen leave. Others come to drink, or arrive drunk. They are rarely belligerent; many just want some attention or a quick conversation. But there are occasions when the alcohol becomes a problem. Many of the people roam around talking to themselvesone regular likes to sing, dance, and shadowbox. Last month, one woman who had been drinking heavily fell and seriously injured her mouth. It was swollen and bloodyshe could barely talk. Still, she refused to go to the hospital.
Although trying to help these mall visitors or gently move them along isn’t exactly fun, it beats getting dirty looks from workaholics at the office buildings when they catch me using my PlayStation 2.
Besides, I find it easier now to relate to the strange characters who roam the city. After spending long shifts alone in a cramped security station with nothing but my thoughts, I can imagine how someone could be slowly pushed over the edge into the realm of mental illness.
If the boredom and periodic brushes with skinned animals don’t scare you off, though, security-guarding is definitely a lazy person’s dream job. Occasionally, I’ll bring a small TV from home. Or I’ll tote my golf clubs and practice my swing.
My most rewarding experience happened in an office building, late last year on a Saturday night. I had just finished my shift in the lobby, and I grabbed my chair and headed downstairs to lock it in the security office. I was a little tired, so I decided to take the elevator. I was riding the elevator down when I decided to sit in the chair. The most amazing feeling came over me. I was riding down in an elevator, sitting in a chair. I had reached the pinnacle of laziness. CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Illustration by Robert Meganck.