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I Am A Security Guard: Origins Part 1

For ten years after graduating from college, I earned a decent salary as an office staff person for a downtown company. My duties included answering phones, maintaining office equipment, filing documents, and photocopying paperwork. But the company's fortunes declined. For first time in my life, I got laid off.

The dismissal initially pleased me. Severance and unemployment benefits helped cushion the blow. I would not miss some of the more immature folks at the old job. I could enjoy some free time while looking for a new position.

But after four months, my feelings changed. A new routine wrecked havoc on my ego; working on my resume, going to the unemployment office, visiting job fairs, and going on interviews. To feel useful again, I took a temp office job. But it lasted only a few weeks. The client couldn't pay anymore. My confidence had evaporated.

So when a counselor phoned to say she'd found an opening for a security guard, my spirits rose. That call would lead to my first security gig: manning the desk at a condominium building west of the Loop.

Of course, my father made fun of security guards back in the day. But a job was a job. I figured the gig would provide some form of accomplishment until something better came along.

The counselor told me to call one of her co-workers, who gave me the number of a recruiter for a leading security firm.

After talking with the recruiter, I completed an application on the company's website. Two weeks later, I stopped by the firm's office and took a computer-based test. Following a drug test and fingerprint check, the recruiter told me to report for a two-day training session at the company's office.

My class, about 20 people, sat at tables while a veteran guard went through the basics. The instructor was a gung-ho type who had once worked as a state trooper. He ridiculed reporters and public defenders, calling them naive types who wanted to link arms and sing "Kumbaya." He bragged about screwing the latter by ripping pages from his notebooks before submitting them for evidence.

The instructor offered practical tips intended to help guards generate goodwill and perform their jobs. Employees had to maintain a professional appearance and demeanor, arrive on time, carry a pen and notebook and avoid using physical force. He emphasized that the guards could not pack any weapons. To describe people in oral or written reports, work from head to toe. When talking about a room, work from left to right and ceiling to floor.

He advised us about a subtle trick to protect tenants. When calling residents to announce the arrival of guests, the guard should make a statement. For example, say: "Ms. Harris, you have a visitor in the lobby." If the guard poses a question and makes a face after the answer, he or she could unwittingly telegraph information to someone with a negative agenda.

Guards could not carry weapons, but the instructor prioritized employee safety. He told us how to escort visitors. The guard should walk behind the other person at an angle and at least three feet apart. That way, the visitor could not surprise the guard with a quick move.

The instructor concluded the session with the adage: Come home from your shift in one piece. Fine with me. Heroism does not run in my family.

I enjoyed the sessions because they provided a taste of the real world. No one talked about handling dangerous visitors at my old office.

All of the recruits passed the test. Afterward, we received the 20-hour certificate and filled applications for the state's Permanent Employee Registration Card. The state requires both.

A week later, the recruiter told me to report to the condominium building. Until later events soured my attitude, I was happy to start working again.

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Tomorrow: Whiny tenants and incompetent co-workers.

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

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



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Posted on October 12, 2009


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
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SPORTS - Why Was This Game Even Scheduled?

BOOKS - Postdictatorship Argentina.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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