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I Am A Security Guard: Begging, Addiction And Tax Evasion

As I stood at the security post on a recent Friday night, a man waited in line to pay for his goods. He wore a T-shirt that said. "I Got Out of Bed for This?"

The shirt provided the theme for my shift.

Thanks to a bout of insomnia, I got out of bed and arrived at the store 40 minutes early. The guard on duty smiled. "I'm really glad to see you," he said. "Can you stand here for five minutes? I have to run to the store and buy some bread."

I gladly agreed to perform the favor. Since replacing a guard who had dropped the F bomb on a cashier, he had been a team player. He arrived on time, helped tackle a perp, and gave me tips about would-be thieves and company policies.

So I stood at the post. Five minutes had passed. Nothing wrong with that. Then 10. Nothing wrong with that either. At the 20-minute mark, I started to fume. Why should I get fisted for doing someone a kind deed?

At that point, I saw the T-shirt.

Finally, the guard returned. He had taken 25 minutes from me. He offered to buy me a soft drink. I politely declined, doing my best to bite my tongue. We chatted a bit. I tactfully said my shift would start in a few minutes. I dropped my bag in the break room and walked to the post. He left.

The incident darkened my mood for most of the night.

Shortly after my shift started, a short woman walked up to me and complained that a man in a white cap put his hands on her car. I walked onto the store's parking lot. The man had left her vehicle. Instead, he wiped a Chevy Blazer with a dirty rag. "It's my sister's," he said.

A gut feeling told me the guy had lied. I nearly reached my breaking point. After taking a deep breath, I told him to prove it. He said he'd bring her to me. We walked inside the store. He disappeared among the aisles.

I watched him and considered getting him banned him from the store permanently. He's a tall, emaciated regular who often creates a scene and begs customers for spare change. On this night, he had found a new angle on an old scam.

Within a couple of minutes, he returned with a man. The second man motioned to the beggar and said, "He's okay."

"That's not your sister," I told the beggar.

He said, "It's his wife."

Given that the other guard had used up my humor, I abandoned my usual tact. "Nice try," I snapped. "Stay out of the parking lot."

He left the store, mumbling under his breath. I made a mental note to chat with the Head Guard about him.

For the next several hours, three more characters displayed a lack of class. One woman bought two bottles of water. The cashier asked for the city's bottled water tax, a total of ten cents. The customer squealed, "Are you kidding me?" The cashier waved her away, blowing off the dime. The customer grabbed the water, walked to an automatic teller machine and withdrew $400. She left without forking over the tax.

Another woman, a regular, argued with the cashier over the price of lipstick. She claimed the brand she selected was on sale and demanded to see the manager. The manager arrived and patiently told the customer that she had picked the wrong lipstick. The customer picked the correct one and meekly returned to the cashier. She bought the merchandise without offering an apology.

A young man, reeking of body odor, bought condoms. The cashier and I looked at each other after he left. I suggested that no one would want to get busy with someone who didn't like to wash.

Near the end of my shift, my mood had lightened a bit. But one last observation made me recall the T-shirt. An elderly woman approached the cashier. She had bought a pack of Kools six hours earlier. Now, she wanted another pack. Given the deep lines on her face and her slow walk, cigarettes were the last thing she needed. But loneliness, addiction or both had compelled the smoker to continue a bad habit.

During the transaction, a guilty feeling washed over me. The store needs customers, who keep me employed in a rather lousy economy. But I got a college education in order to provide something useful to the world. Now, I was no better than an enabler. I didn't get out of bed for that.

-

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

-

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 August 4, 2009


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - An Odd Call From Bermuda.
SPORTS - All Is Not Forgiven, Bears.

BOOKS - Turning Points Of The Civil War.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Baxter's IV Bag Shortages.


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