Sunday, October 28, 2007

BUS STORY # 56 (The Security Guard)

Two of us get off the Rapid Ride and walk around the corner to catch the Lomas outbound. Like me, he’s a regular rider. I know this not because I’ve seen him before – I haven’t – but because he’s got an umbrella. We both do, and they’re open against the light rain falling this late monsoon season afternoon.

We both pull up at the bench. He steps out into the pull-in and looks westward. Then he steps back up to the sidewalk.

“Sometimes it’s right here, and sometimes it’s a 20-minute wait,” he tells me.

“We must have just missed it,” I reply.

He asks me where I work. I tell him. I ask him where he works.

“PNM,” he says. That’s Public Service Company of New Mexico, our statewide power utility. “I’m a security guard there.”

He pulls up his polo shirt to reveal a chalk green uniform shirt with a gold badge. I notice the brown pants with the narrow stripe down one side.

“I wear this over my shirt because sometimes the drivers will see my uniform and ask me to go settle somebody down who’s gotten a little rowdy. I’ve done it once or twice, but, you know, it’s not my job. I’m off work, you know? They should hire someone to do that job.”

I agree. I tell him it’s not just wrong, but it’s potentially dangerous to him. I’m not just thinking of random provocation and the unforeseen violent backlash. I’m also thinking he does not look like a security guard. He looks like someone’s nice little brother. He’s all of five-six, compact but not exactly buff, and he has a pleasant, easy-going face. On his head is a cap – not with a PNM or security logo, but with, of all things, a smiling cartoon turtle.

Perhaps he’s reading my thoughts.

“The key to avoiding trouble is all in your approach, you know? I mean, usually you can approach someone and just explain that they’re bothering some older folks up front and would they mind just toning it down a little. They usually just don’t realize how loud they are, and you usually get a ‘Oh, right, that’s cool, man,’ and that’s it.”

He looks westward again, then continues.

“Some guards just have the wrong attitude. It’s like they’re actually looking for a confrontation. I tell ‘em, ‘You want to de-escalate, you want to bring it down.’ Sometimes that doesn’t work. I don’t go looking for trouble, but I don’t back off if someone wants to kick my ass, either. It’s all in your attitude. I kind of puff myself up and I tell ‘em, ‘Look, I was born and raised in St Louis in an Italian neighborhood, and we were surrounded by’ – here’s where you put in whatever your trouble maker is – black, Irish – I’m really Irish-French myself – whatever, ‘and we grew up fighting each other all the time, so I know how to take care of myself. You don’t really want to mess with me, and I don’t really want to mess with you. Besides, if you did mess with me, my neighborhood is all family, and if anything happened to me, they’d come looking for you, and they’d find you, and you really don’t want to be dealing with these people.'”

I find myself wondering how inserting “Native American” in his “surrounded by” in St. Louis would play.

“So did you learn this sort of thing in training school?”

“No, I picked it up here and there. I started in the military. But in the military, they don’t worry about the niceties and all the cultural sensitivity stuff. It’s a lot different out here.” He chuckles, shakes his head. “No sireee.”

The bus arrives. We board, choose separate seats. He immediately engages with his seatmate. You’d never take him for a security guard. I wonder if maybe this is the real secret of his success.


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