white trash wednesday: tales from the plastic badge
As an astute reader may have noticed, your humble author is currently employed as a "Security Enforcement Engineer", or, as I prefer to be known, "Rent-a-pig". After a moderate high school performance and a tour with the Army (for a career builder! Ha!) staring at cameras for hours on end and keeping the drunks away from rich people is pretty much all I'm qualified for.
Over the years, I have moved up the low-ceilinged food chain; from retail to hospital to corporate security. Along the way I've met an interesting cast of characters, both in the public and as cow-orkers. I've thought about writing these stories out many times, either as fact or fiction; sometimes as a Bond-satire, sometimes in a more Mikey Spillane style. Today, I'll share with you a story from just last night, titled "Murry and me".
"There's a guy in a green jacket out back, lookin' at the cars."
Looking at the cars? Is that suddenly illegal? Well, if he isn't an employee, he's trespassing, so I guess I oughta go boot him out.
I strap on my radio and butt out my half-smoked square, wishing this guy had waited another five minutes to start oogling other people's wheels so I could finish it. I already know what it's going to be: some bum wandered out of the city and was looking for someplace to sleep, or something to steal for his next bottle. But God forbid the pencil-necked dorks that work in this place tell the guy to scram, he might breathe on them or something.
When I get to the back lot, there's nobody walking around but an employee heading home. I do a circle of the lot for the benefit of the cameras, but I know where the guy's at: at the far end of the lot, there's a set of storage sheds that haven't seen use since the Carter era; the local vagrants build everything from cardboard mats to small cookfires to clotheslines out there. Technically, it's on corporate property, but me and the bums have an understanding: they stay back there and away from the building, and I won't go to the trouble of kicking them into a differant alley.
I check the narrow valley between sheds, and sure enough, there's a pair of blue jeaned legs poking out under a garbage bag blanket.
I walk back to the building where I find the pansy that works on the nightime cleaning crew, standing next to the dumpster smoking. I tell him what's going on and make a joke about how at least the weather is nice; which turns out to be a mistake. The guy promptly lisps out a diatrabe about how it's just so awful, in this country, we have homeless people like that. Just awful. Nobody cares, but he feels so bad for them, they have mental problems, dontcha know, and on and on, in this country, it's so AWFUL, he feels soooo bad.
Anyway, a few hours later my buddy in the green jacket wakes up. The sun had just gone down, and I figured that he must be set up opposite most people: instead of being woken up when the sun comes shining down on him, he wakes up when the sun goes away. There aren't many cars left out back for him to stare at, so instead he stumbles his way toward the building; either toward the dumpster for breakfast or toward the doors to try to get in.
The doors are all locked, but I can't have this guy stumbling around right outside, he might make a play for a secretary heading home late or try to break the windows or something. Hell, he might try to spider-climb the building or just walk around the lot with his joint hanging out; the cleaning guy was right about one thing: alot of these guys are completely fucked in the head, there's no telling what they'll do.
So again, I get a call on the radio and have to butt out a smoke halfway; this guy has no damn curtosey. I walk around the back of the building while the radio operator is bitching that he has lost my vagrant on the cameras. I tell him to calm the hell down, I'm almost there, but when I reach the lot it's empty. He's not in the dumpsters, he isn't yanking on the locked doors like a retard, he's nowhere to be seen. I continue to walk around the building, rounding a curve back out to the front when I almost step on the guy.
He's not quite leaning on the building, but standing really close. Not really standing, either, but staggering; he's so shitfaced he can't even stand in one place, and I can smell the eau de homeless on him from four paces away: piss, very old body odor, and lots and lots of cheap booze.
My buddy dosen't notice me yet, his attention is straight ahead. So I stand and watch him, wondering what he's going to do, until he takes a hesitant step forward. Good, I think to myself, that direction takes him away from the building and outta my hair.
I follow him around a massive set of electric transformers, hoping he dosen't fall into them, keeping my distance so he dosen't notice me when I find out he's not heading away at all. On the other side of the transformers is a small lot for the charity that works out of the fifth floor, and a couple of slicks are standing by their Mercedes shooting the shit. By the time I see them my vagrant has already stumbled a few feet from their back bumper and stopped, swaying back and forth, seemingly entranced by the license plate. The yupsters are giving him nervous looks, wondering if he's going to attack them or piss on their car or what, when they spot me coming up behind the guy. I give them my best "Nothing to worry about, I'm a professional and have this under control" wave, and enter the cloud surrounding my new buddy.
I've had to deal with all types, from the lowest of the winos to irate rich businessmen. One thing I have found to be universal is that, when you're telling someone they have to do something they don't want to do, the best way to go about it is to try being friendly first. Firm, don't apologize or ask permission, but don't be a dick about it either. Some guys like to try to push people around, espeically the bums; take the small amount of power granted them by their plastic badge and whack people over the head with it, but usually all they get for their bluster is resistance and a fight that a different tone could have avoided. Too much work for me. If push comes to shove, I can be as much of a dick to whoever I'm dealing with as I need to be (and when that time comes, it dosn't matter who they think they are, I've been told off by better people and they still wound up doing what I told them the first time around anyway), but I've found it's much easier to try the sugar before pouring on the vinegar.
So after I wave reassurance to the yupsters standing by their car, I go over to the transient and put my hand on the filthy elbow of his Vietnam-era Army jacket. "Hey, buddy. This here's private property, I need you to keep on moving." He turns his unsteady gaze on me; I look into his watery, rheumy eyes, and say it again to make sure he heard. "You need a doctor or something? You feeling okay?" He mutters that he's feeling fine, though he looks to me about ready to suffer massive organ failure and fall over dead right on the spot. "Allright, then, man. If you're okay, good. But you can't be here, you gotta keep on moving." He nods acceptance and starts a shuffle backwards. I tell him thanks and go around him back to the main entrance.
I figure I'll stand out front to smoke a cig and make sure this guy gets on his way, but when I check behind me to make sure he isn't harrassing those guys again I find he's decided to follow me. Eventually, he stumbles up to me and asks for a light. I pull out my Zippo, but of course he dosen't have a cigarette to light. I check my smokes, there's only a few left so I just hand him the whole deck. He seems to suddenly think he's fuckin' Houdini, because after fingering every filter with his crusty fingernails he tries to make the pack disappear without me noticing, even though I have no desire to get them back. This act of prestidigitation consisted of him stumbling a 180, stuffing it halfway into the pocket of the sweater he had under his jacket, then stumbling back around.
I lit his smoke (without handing him my lighter) and watched him stumble in place for a bit. He kept turning toward me, then away, taking a few steps in either direction, then eyeballing me out the side of his eye. He was trying to figure out if he should make a play, try to steal my wallet or jacket or something. I hoped he didn't have a knife, and kept my eye close on him. I'm not a big guy, but eventually he seemed to realize that, big guy or not, he's still a shithammered old homeless guy and I'd still kick his ass, knife or no.
I asked him for his name, which got a suspicious look and the word "Mrrrree". I told him my first name, and he said it was nice to meet me. I think. Either way, we were friends now. I said, "Okay, Murry, I gotta go back inside now, but I need you to clear outta here. Get away from the building, or my boss will have my ass. Got it?" I got that shaky nod again, went back in, and watched Murry on the camera.
At first, I thought he was going to stumble right back over to the two slicks that were still talking by their car. He headed back in that direction, and I went back outside figuring Murry must be one of the ones where being nice wasn't going to work out. But Murry shifted course about halfway there, and instead headed to the Jersey barrier seperating our lot from the neighbors.
I figured he was going to climb the barrier and head into the Strip District, which would be fine with me because then the real cops would have to deal with him, but he encountered some trouble with the barrier. I watched him as he spent a few minutes trying to swing one leg up over the two foot high cement, but after several tries he apparently exhausted himself and just leaned on the barrier instead. He turned around and leaned that way for a bit, then fell into a sitting position, legs splayed out in front of him. After some time I figured he either fell asleep or died there, but either way wouldn't be causing trouble for a while. He was still on corproate property, but I've never had much luck explaining exactly where our invisible property lines lie to shitfaced homeless people, so I just let him be.
After another hour or two, Murry roused himself from the curb. He stumbled over to our front parking lot as I watched from the fourth floor. I was hoping he was heading back into the city, maybe to the cardboard box he called home or whatever places sell booze to a person like him.
No dice. Instead, he stumbled into where the late workers, including myself, had parked their cars. Of course, he singled my jalopy out as his favorite, and went into his staring-at-the-license plate routine. I don't know if maybe he was trying to figure out its code or if my rear bumper was speaking to him or what, but I was already on the elevator heading to the lobby.
by the time I exited the front door he had worked his way around to the driver's side window. I don't know what he thought he was going to do; he didn't look to have the dexterity to hotwire a car and if he tried to burglurize it all he'd get would be a psychology textbook and an empty hamburger wrapper.
"Murry, pal." I must've been downwind, I could smell him from ten feet away. He glanced up at me when I said his name. I gave him the hand-on-elbow, a bit more authoritatively this time, waiting for him to try something stupid, and told him to come with me. I led him over the curb in front of my car, which gave him considerable difficulty, and across the grass patch that seperated our lot from the street in front. In the middle of the empty street, I spun him around to look at me, which gave him a wobble.
"Look, Murry, you're making people nervous. Here's what's gonna happen. Don't cross that grass again. You do that, and you're trespassing, and I have to call the cops. If I have to call the cops, then I have to call my boss first and file a shitload of paperwork, and I get off in an hour. I don't want to be here all night doing paperwork and I know you don't want to spend the night in jail, so save us both the trouble and stay on this side
of that fuckin' grass
. Got it?"
He stared blearily at me. Then he muttered something that might have been "Sure, Frank, whatever you say" but instead sounded like "Fuck you." I watched him swaying in the middle of the street for a minute while he again gave me that priceless unsteady "I wonder what I can get if I roll this guy" look, but I wasn't playing this time and he knew it. Eventually, I nodded as if we had come to an agreement, and left him there.
When I left work that night, he was still standing there, swaying side to side, taking a few steps forward then a few steps backward, right in the middle of the street. Eventually, he'd get tagged by another drunk or get picked up by the cops; that road is slow but not totally unused.
Night shift has no idea what happened to the guy. Eventually, he disappeared while they were dozing into their coffee. So Murry, wherever you are, I wish you luck.
But stay the fuck away from my building, dude.
There it is, Tales From the Plastic Badge, chapter one. If you got bored and skipped it, I don't blame you; it's not exactly action packed. Hopefully, I'll be able to make myself stick to this, I do have some fun stories.
White Trash Wednesday meme via Sadie Lou
. Sometimes, I think I like her blog more on Wednesday...feels like home. For more trash than you can shake a Bud can at, visit: It Is What It Is
, MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
, Rachael Ray Redux
, The Ebb & Flow Institute
, Six Meat Buffet
, Vince Aut Morire
, Toner Mishap
, The Jawa Report
, Basil's Blog
, Cranky Neocon
, Cry Freedom
, Dangerous Logic