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Security Rounds

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Over the course of several years of working at a grocery store, I got to know a police officer who used to work special duty in the store in the late evenings that I often worked. I once asked him what his job was like and without hesitation, he replied, "hours upon hours of utter boredom punctuated by brief moments of sheer terror." Since then, I always wondered about the motivations of special-duty officers and private security guards.

Recently, I was waiting at a bus stop positioned in front of a suburban branch of a bank. It was a quarter before seven in the morning and a private security guard in a tan uniform appeared from around the corner, clearly doing his rounds. His hair was black, as were his soft shoes and the belt that carried his sidearm and ammunition. A good fifty pounds overweight, he walked slowly, with his hands in his pockets, looking down at the ground. He was engrossed in something but I couldn't tell whether it was thought or boredom. Maybe he was thinking about boredom.

He was walking northward along the east side of the building when he appeared. He followed the asphalt to the sidewalk that ran along the street on the north side of the building. Following the sidewalk to the walkway that ran across the neatly-trimmed lawn, and down it to the front door, he reached the door of the building and gave it a tug. Satisfied that the door was secured properly, he continued walking west, but instead of following the walkway, he decided to cut across the lawn. Three steps into his shortcut, he stopped, clearly regretting the decision to walk across the lawn that was soaked so badly that it had standing water in some places. Rather than return to the concrete walkways and resume his course, he followed the path back, returning the way that he came. One hopes that everything was safe and sound on the west side of the building; the guard would not have found anything amiss on that round.

Observing this, I was reminded of my time at a Big Bear grocery store. While I was there, the store went through a fairly major renovation. For a period of a week or two, the back door could not be locked, so we had a private security guard in the back by the opening to keep our product from finding a way to exit the store without going through the check-out line.

We didn't have the same guard all the time, and each one had a different story. Some of the guys sent by the firm were not terribly smart but were dependable and perfectly competent for the job at hand. Some of them just fell into it, liking the hours or the pay. Some wanted to be police officers but found that to be higher-pressure than they wanted. Others weren't so dependable and were generally believed by my coworkers to be barely employable. A few were very clever indeed: students who realized that they could get paid for full-time work and stay up all night doing their studies, simply stopping every so often to do the rounds. They could go in to class after work and then sleep during the hours of second shift.

I wondered about the guard that I had just seen, which of the others he was like, if any—but not for long. Why people choose the occupations that they do always interests me. Shortly after he disappeared from my sight, a bus heading downtown rolled up the street and took me away to deal with my own profession.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2007-01-06 03:46 AM
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