Putrid Modern Hell #7

by HST UK on April 27, 2011

The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad.
-Salvador Dalí

The week meanders, I feel like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, on board the ‘PBR Street Gang’, slowly drifting down the Nung River. This is before the madness; but the madness. I can sense it, I can smell it. It’s coming.

My Industry requires living within the constraint of an iron cast routine, and self-discipline, not just to get through the shift each day, but also to survive. I’ve seen many people fall in the last eighteen months. Men who physically crack because their legs ache so much due to hours and hours of patrols; others lose their cool. They snap because they can’t hack dealing with people.

You could have a whole career in Security with minimum people contact. Night shift work is perfect for avoiding the BS that comes with Social Interaction. I’ve worked a number of nights in the past. For instance you might be contracted to guard a generic office building. You arrive at the building, and relieve the day shift guard; few words are exchanged because they are dying to get away. For twelve hours you’ve then got the place to yourself. Providing you do a thorough patrol every hour, and make regular check calls, you can pretty much do whatever you like – read, write, surf the net, watch films or listen to music.

If you want a life, then you don’t do nights.

During the day you’re out in the open. You are scrutinized by clients and management, you must be PROFESSIONAL and PATIENT at all times. When the madness comes, this becomes extremely difficult.
Five days into a six day week as a Retail Security Officer. I’m ticking off the days, one of six, two of six, three of six…. and so on. I wake up at Six AM, the alarm clock clicks in to life, I hit snooze. Then the alarm clock on my phone starts up. I click snooze. Then the alarm clock starts again and I get up. I walk to the kitchen and grab a cup of water. I guzzle it down quickly. Yesterday I watched a YouTube video of Jon Fitch talking about his diet; at the start of routine he drinks two cups of water. I down the second, thinking of Fitch.

I run a bath, and in the mirror I practice the Siu Nim Tao form, I then walk back in my room, and I lift weights for a few reps. I then have the bath. After toweling myself off, I get dressed, remembering to put on my knee and ankle supports. I then eat breakfast. Two slices of whole-wheat toast, an apricot flavored yoghurt and a glass of Cranberry Juice.

The clock hits seven and I hit the road. I park at a gravel car park on the ruined side of the city. Where once stood vibrant office blocks, now stands derelict buildings laden with forward thinking graffiti. It costs me three pound seventy each day, almost half of an hour’s pay.

It takes me around ten to fifteen minutes to walk to work from the car park. I arrive at my site, I get to the locker room, dumping my valuables, I then head up to the office, and hook up my radio and ear piece. I then phone up the control centre and book on, then I sign on to the city radio network. Lastly I write that I have arrived in the daily occurrence book.

First hour of the day, I do a check of the building. I check for evidence of theft from the day before, I check fire exits, I check if anything has moved about during the night. Of course I’m half asleep and my mind wishes it was somewhere else. An hour later and my colleague arrives, we rendezvous and talk shop for a bit. I then hit the floor again, walking around and around, up and down five floors.

I observe people. I look for body language (nervous movements, tense posture, shaking), out of the ordinary behaviour, and appearance (be it how they are dressed or personal hygiene). Today, nobody stands out. The blur consists of middle class housewives draped in pearls, the slow zombie lurch of those nearing the coffin, the screech of caffeine addicted toddlers crying in their expensive super prams.
Somewhere around mid-morning I take a ten minute tea break, halfway through my shift I take a twenty minute lunch, if I get time I fit in another tea break two hours before I finish.

This week nothing much has happened. No thefts, hardly any incident. You may think that is a good thing, in that you’ve got no hassle, and this means no danger, no paperwork. Trouble is, time goes by so slowly. A detainment, and subsequent Police arrest of a shoplifter could take over two hours, then you’ve got to write a statement, that makes it nearly three hours of time taken up, almost a third of your shift. Because of this you crave action.

Fifty hours of work completed and I’m not sure exactly what I’ve achieved. Sure, I’ve been a visual deterrent and I’ve carried out my duties, but what exactly have I contributed, what have I learnt?
Working a low-skilled job means that job satisfaction mostly comes from the knowledge that you’re employed in the recession, so you’re obviously doing something right. And doing something is better than sitting on a sofa eating pistachio nuts whilst watching Sky Sports News on a loop for the best part of sixteen hours.

But I’ve been doing this for eighteen months. I’m in the oddest rat race I’ve ever been in. Unlike when I was working in an office, you can’t booze the nights away. Because physically you need to last, like an old cart horse you need to stubbornly drag yourself around, making the hard yards. Questions continue to revolve in your skull – Is this worthwhile? Is this fulfilling?

I like to believe I’m doing my bit, helping to catch shoplifters, keeping the staff and customers safe. Who am I kidding? I’m protecting profit for a massive company. Once I break, either physically or mentally, then someone else will take my place.

Isn’t this the same in every Industry?


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