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I Am A Security Guard: And A Voyeur

While spending an off day at home, I tried to unwind by watching a foreign film. The movie, Gigante, entertained me. Yet, I could not relax. The plot made me tense because it reminded me about an insidious aspect of my job.

A 2009 movie from Uruguay, Gigante presents a story about the extremes of voyeurism.

The main character, Jara, is a single, overweight security guard in his mid-thirties. The lonely bachelor watches the cleaning crew, cooks and stock boys through a monitor during the third shift at a supermarket.

Jara focuses on Julia as she mops. He's smitten, but shyness prevents him from talking to her. Instead, Jara acts in a creepy manner. He gets Julia's name by sneaking a peak at her employment file. He follows her to an exercise studio, a movie theater and an internet cafe. He stalks Julia while she meets a man for dinner, and later chats with him to get information about her. When the store lays Julia off, Jara punches a manager before tracking her down at the beach. The movie ends as they talk.

The movie unsettled me because it showed the slippery slope that guards navigate. A security guard has to pay attention to others in order to help prevent theft. Yet, it's too easy for a guard to cross the line.

Even when I'm not looking for potential thieves, I cannot turn off the impulse to closely watch shoppers and employees. For example, I stared at a young couple standing near a cash register on a recent Saturday night. The young man ground his pelvis into the woman's buttocks. His hands rubbed her hips. The woman, clearly uncomfortable, grimaced through the ordeal. The scene and the fact that I watched it made me feel slightly dirty.

Other people catch my eye. A grossly overweight security guard buys two bags of junk food every few days. One of the stock boys complains that the Head Manager does not give him enough hours, yet spends a lot of time playing in the aisles.

Occasionally, I've probed a little deeper into the lives of the people I observe. Like Jara, I have gathered gossip about others.

One of the nighttime regulars, a married accounting geek, spends an inordinate amount of time chatting with the staff. He shows up alone and peeks down the aisles to find someone. He often bends the ear of the Cool Cashier, who is too nice to tell him to beat it.

The staff often wonders why the geek spends some much time running his mouth. Another guard provided a possible answer. This guard once spotted the geek's wife walking hand in hand with another man in a different neighborhood. We now figure that the wife cheats when the geek shops alone.

Another regular, a short brunette, stops by the store to look at eye liner and nail polish early in the morning. Her knees buckle while she steps in high heels that are too big for her feet. Multiple bumps cover her swollen hands and arms. According to a cashier who lives near the store, the brunette turns tricks and shoots heroin.

One elderly customer has an even more tragic lifestyle. She's homeless and sleeps in a nearby doorway at night. In the morning, she sometimes sneaks into my store to use the washroom. She carries her belongings and a small dog in a cart and rocks major body odor.

The woman once told a cashier her story. She had lived in Alabama with her husband and four children. When the husband died, she fretted that the meager insurance payment would not support the kids. She left them in the care of her brother and sister-in-law and moved to Chicago. After a few years, she returned home. The children did not want to see her. Heartbroken, she came back to Chicago and eventually carved out a life on the street.

Of course, it's human nature to be curious about someone else's business. But Gigante showed me how a guard can cross the line and act like a creep. I've edged close to that line, but have not crossed it. No stalking for me.

Jara's behavior repulsed me. Ultimately, Gigante did more than help me pass some free time. It provided a cautionary tale.

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

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See more tales of security guarding, pizzeria waitressing, barista-ing and office drudgering in our Life at Work collection.



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Posted on July 26, 2010


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PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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