HALT! Day 1
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In recognition of this week's super high terrorist threat level, we will be publishing 2 pieces (!!) of Halt, a story about being a security guard, every day for the rest of the week.
Chapter one: Freelance Police.
I'm off to Dartmouth, to apply for a job as a security "officer". My friend Jeff had a job like this, but he bombed out after assaulting a man who had pulled a pocket knife. I don't know if I'm cut out for a job where people can pull knives on you and then charge YOU with assault, but then again, I don't know if I'm cut out for food bank living, either.
The ad said that they pay above industry standards, and they have an extensive training program for new recruits. I've heard that there are training programs out there which teach you to not panic when sprayed in the face with pepper spray. It basically consists of being sprayed over and over until you're used to it. I like the idea of being used to pepper spray, I think. It's kind of glamourous. You've got the girlfriend over, and she goes to get her lip chap out of her purse, and accidentally sprays you full-on in the face with her pepper spray.
"My god, I'm so sorry." She says, her hand going to her mouth in shock. You give a nonchalant little chuckle and say "Hey baby, I'm used to it,"
Maybe you could word it better than that.
Extensive training. The mind boggles, trying to determine what this could be. Are they going to send me through police boot camp? Will I learn how to tell if someone is lying just from their body language? Say I'm face to face with some guy who is carrying a machine gun, and he says "I am not going to shoot you, if you just let me in." Do I believe him if he keeps looking up and left, or up and right? What about hand gestures? Both his hands are on the gun, what does that mean? Is he happy? Angry? He shops at the GAP, does that mean anything? I need to know how to read these things.
I keep turning the phrase "Freelance Police" over in my head. Freelance Police. Freelance Police. "That's right, ma'am, I've got a license to open an twenty four hour ass-kicking delivery service in your neighbourhood."
Chapter Two: Everything Holy and Good.
First, and most important, they will not be teaching me how to handle being pepper sprayed. That's alright, because I have talked my friend into helping me with this. Our home brewed training will basically consist of him spraying me, and me trying to kick his ass without hesitation. I trust I will become more effective with practice.
I filled out the application and I asked them this right away. "What exactly do you mean by extensive training?" I asked. The girl behind the counter seemed surprised, and started to stammer some sort of pitch at me, which I wasn't expecting. Something about the dedication to quality training, or the company's "Model". I raised a hand to silence her and put it plainly. "When do I get the pepper spray training?" I said. She laughed and said "That's not part of the training." I looked around the office, at the little wooden toys representing customer satisfaction or the company's business plan, and I began to get that sinking feeling. You know the one. The one you got when you found out that your dad didn't really fight crime, he just dressed up sometimes.
Still, I didn't make a scene. I went home, and they called me later that day. And I went. I'm not going to butter up my motives here. I went because I had been unemployed for a few months now, and I could use the work. My crushing heartbreak was just something to be faced.
The interview brought my hopes back up, though. I was interviewed by a private investigator with the company. He showed me his license, which said quite clearly "Private investigator and private guard license" I was in the presence of everything I held dear. This guy had a license to imitate Bruce Willis whenever he wanted. I pictured him down at the police station, waving his hands through the air, and screaming at the slow witted police chief. "He's guilty. You can't just let him walk!"
"This isn't your case anymore, McCain," The police Chief said, keeping his voice even. "This is a police matter." At this, my interviewer, whom I had decided would be McCain to me forever, no matter what his name actually turned out to be, will punch the police chief. Because he can. Because that is what detectives do.
It brought a smile to my face, seeing the license, knowing that it wasn't out of reach, knowing that one day I would assault the police chief. Then he brought out the big guns. "You know, you learn a lot from this job," he said. I leaned forward in my seat. Was this it? Was this where the music rose, and the movie cut to me decking Officer Whatever because, dammit, he was being a bureaucrat and he wasn't doing his job? "You learn how to read a person's body language." He said.
Extensive training. I almost fell out of my chair. "You can get books, and videos that teach you this stuff," he said, waving his hand dismissively. "But you'll never make it far on theory alone. This job will teach you how to read a person. You'll do it every day." And then he leaned forward and said "You want to know what I can tell about you?"
And he told me everything he thought I wanted to hear. It all came crashing down. It was all a part of the pitch. I hadn't even known that it was a pitch.
This is how great our company is. This is how great you are. Let's get married. Then he offered me the job. I hid my pain, smiled my "I will not be eating at the food bank this week" smile, and I took the job.
"Great," he said. "You'll come in Friday morning for your training."
Training. Extensive training. Was that the faint burn of hope down there in my belly?
Joey Comeau can take pepper spray to the face and keep writing.