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I Am A Security Guard: Mother and Child Reunion

As I walked toward my store on July 4, an acrid smell hit my nose. It was the smoke enveloping the area. Fireworks had produced the stench and haze. A mixture of sounds attacked my ears: fizzles, small pops, loud booms that set off car alarms. Apparently, the locals had decided to re-enact the Revolutionary War.

One weary cop walked in the store. "How's it going out there?" I asked. "Every day is a joy," he cracked. Another griped about manning the paddy wagon on one of the worst days of the year.

*

A small boy, about four or five, stood in the cashier's line with his mother and a cart of groceries. He spied the boxes of fireworks on a shelf and decided to join in the fun outside. He grabbed a box as his mother was paying for groceries. She said she did not have any more money, took the box and put it back on a shelf.

In many homes, that would have been the signal for the child to shut up. But the boy's mother had no such standard for her son. The little boy screamed and flailed his arms. He then buried his head in her chest. The drool from his mouth watered her blouse. He quieted down and grabbed the box again. The mother said no again. The boy repeated his performance.

The cashier, filling in for a co-worker who was running late, stood still. He did not even grimace while watching the show.

The boy's wails grew louder. Then he jumped up and down. The mother's soft voice did not settle him. So she relented and reached back into her purse. The cashier rang up the sale. The boy miraculously got silent. The mother followed him out the store, perhaps not knowing that she had set herself up for major grief ten years down the road.

*

The cashier left to empty waste baskets when the Nice Cashier arrived. The Nice Cashier, a short woman with nerves of steel, handled a rush of customers alone.

Shortly afterward, the Lazy Cashier sauntered into the store. She had arrived one hour late and sported blue jeans. The Nice Cashier glared as she walked by, and then whispered to me, "I thought we couldn't wear that here."

The rush had already ended, so the Lazy Cashier served only one customer before cleaning shelves in the back of the store. She split 90 minutes later, saying, "I'll be back." She returned with coffee and a bagel from Dunkin' Donuts and hid in the break room.

The Lazy Cashier would never get Employee of the Month. She often shows up late, takes long breaks or calls off. She gossips about co-workers and eavesdrops on conversations. Once, she conducted a personal call at the register while her line gradually grew longer.

She does not date any managers or possess incriminating pictures of them. But she's shrewd. She knows how to flirt with men, thus making friends with a couple of easily duped superiors. And she notches brownie points by feeding dirt about employees to the Head Manager.

That's why I said nothing while she wandered near my post around 2 a.m. and started snapping her gum.

By then the locals had exhausted their fireworks supply. But I dreaded the hour; usually this is when numerous social misfits emerge from the shadows to shop at our store.

Nothing changed on this night. A regular in a dirty white T-shirt and faded jeans passed me en route to the freezer. He had not changed his attire in at least two weeks. A familiar body order lingered in his wake.

He brought a carton of vanilla ice cream to the Nice Cashier. She rang up the sale. He lingered to chat. She held a tissue to her nose. The man, thinking she had a cold, suggested that Tylenol would help her. She shook her head after he left the store.

-

A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain. Comments welcome.

-

See more tales of security guards, pizzeria waitressing, barista'ing and office drudgery in the Life at Work collection.



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Posted on July 23, 2009


MUSIC - The Week In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Trailer: Swing District.
SPORTS - Ryan Pace's Narratives Are Killing Us.

BOOKS - Chicago For Dummies.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Sears Motor Buggy.


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