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I Am a Security Guard: Rest In Peace

A strange man started coming into the store late at night. A burly, tall guy, he wore the dirty jacket and pants of a laborer. Despite his youthful face, he usually looked quite tired. He often wandered around the store touching merchandise. That raised a red flag, so I watched him.

He also shot the breeze with the Nice Cashier. After I had seen this a few nights, I pulled her aside and asked if he made her uncomfortable. She said no. They knew each other because both lived near the store.

He continued talking with the Nice Cashier until the store fired her. Afterward, he occasionally showed up with his girlfriend and their daughter. I never greeted him because I never shook my initial impression.

A tragic event changed my view.

On a Wednesday night, a day shift cashier named Marie called off from work. The Cool Cashier told me the reason. A fire tore through the man's apartment. Everyone escaped except for the little girl. The man rushed back in to get her. Firemen pulled them out. Both were unconscious. Paramedics rushed them to a hospital. Doctors pronounced the girl dead on arrival. The man remained in a coma. That man was Marie's brother.

When the Cool Cashier told me the story, I remembered that Marie had praised her brother for defending her against bullies and giving food money to their mother.

As he lingered in a coma, neighbors donated money, clothes and food. His co-workers organized a dance party to raise money for the family.

Despite the best wishes, he passed away without regaining consciousness.

I've thought about him a lot since the fire. I had watched him for the wrong reasons. The man had not been a creep or thief. During his final efforts on this planet, he had tried to save his little girl. In addition, he was a loyal brother, son, and partner. His friends and relatives loved and respected him. All along, I should have been acknowledging a noble human being.

I can't apologize to him in person. He will, however, stay in my thoughts and prayers.

A Sick Shoplifter
An emaciated man walked to the pharmacy to order a prescription. He wandered around the store while waiting for the pharmacist to fill the order. Raquel saw the customer slip a toy into a plastic bag. She told the Cool Assistant Manager.

The Cool Assistant Manager walked to my post and told me the situation. He asked if we should deal with him before he got to the register.

Technically, we're supposed to wait until a perp walks past the last cash register. But why bother when we know he's stolen something? Also, why risk a scene and scare customers entering the store? I agreed to approach him while he walked in the aisles.

We cornered him. He started arguing. The manager asked him to simply fork over the merch and leave the store. He refused. The manager walked to a register and called the cops. I stayed to guard the thief.

While we were alone, the thief said to me: "I'm HIV-positive."

The news froze me. I sympathized, especially because I'm gay. But I also got a little scared. If he jumps me and transmits any blood, I might be screwed.

I had to protect myself. I called out to a cashier, who brought me a pair of rubber gloves.

The thief never made a move. The cops arrived. The Cool Assistant Manager talked to them. They persuaded the thief to give up the toy and leave. The manager told me to ban him from the store. I exhaled in relief.

Stayin' Alive
A short woman with blue eyes brought groceries to the cash register. She appeared nervous and jumpy, as though she were on cocaine. The Cool Cashier rang up the goods, but the woman's public aid card did not work.

She said she would return with cash because she was hungry.

The woman came back about an hour later. A seedy looking man escorted her to the entrance. He waited outside and peeked through the glass as she entered the store.

She returned to the Cool Cashier with a gallon of milk and cereal. She handed over a crumpled $10 bill.

As I watched the scene, I figured the woman must have made some illicit promise to get the dough.I felt sorry for her. She had to do what was necessary to survive.


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


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


Posted on July 14, 2011

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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