A security guard is both a what and a who.  Both a “title” and a human being.  An occupation and a proper name.

But on the most basic level a security guard is a person (almost always male, usually of a certain bodily type) who dresses and behaves in a certain way.  Leather shoes, badges, caps, synthetic windbreakers, sometimes earpieces (for events), sometimes the word “Security” in yellow (usually for events), walkie-talkies, toolbelts, guns, mace, short hair (usually)…

(This means that anyone can be assumed to be a security guard, at any moment, especially if they are standing still somewhere wearing something official-looking.  Is this a “security problem”?)

As far as Oakland goes, I’ve seen private security around for quite a long time in the hills.  I don’t know why Temescal appears to be more controversial than other places.

Wait, no, I think I do!  In the hills, people just do what they want, because they tend to either have a lot of money or not care what people think, and often both.

They are like “rich people” (another Godforsaken profiling category) everywhere:

She says we need one?  Hire him.  What’s his name?  What?  How do you pronounce that?  Is that Arabic?  Whatever, I have to go.  Luv ya.

“Temescal people,” on the other hand, have a lovable, well-honed “bootstrapping ethic,” like backpackers in the middle of the big city.

Well, we want more guys in uniforms to scare littler guys, so let’s act like we’re broke and can’t afford to pay some guys to walk and drive around with uniforms and guns as a pretext to have a big meeting so we can all talk about it together as if it was up for debate like people used to do back in the days before Bob went electric…

Perhaps it’s because people are asking the same question as I am, wondering what (and who) a security guard really is.  I say hi to a security guard, because even if his reluctant presence doesn’t make me feel more secure, at least I’m breaking his existential boredom for a few seconds.

The people filling the uniforms, of course, look very different depending on where you are in the world.  In Oakland they are mostly old men and young men, and sometimes women.  Sometimes they are statuesque like the Queen’s Guard, other times they’re yelling at people on the phone, but most often they are standing in a way that makes it clear that they’ve been standing all day.  The exhaustion is palpable.  If you’ve worked in restaurants or related industries, you start to understand what it’s like, minus the extreme social isolation.

If you’re an ATM security guard or a security guard in a busy intersection, you might say hello to elderly people, help mothers across the street, smile at children, and pet people’s dogs.  But if you are a kind of God’s Eye, posted as a reminder to someone for some reason, your job is simply to not go away.

Sometimes in my life I’ve worked at corporations and nonprofits where I was explicitly told, and I felt, that I had a “higher” function, that my superiors wanted to hear my voice, to support my opinion, to develop my mind.  It always took me a long time to realize that in many cases, I was actually a finicky God’s Eye, a human being living as an insurance policy, a blinking tail-light, a symbol of something often unknown to me and feared by my employers (and their employers).

10 Responses

  1. R2D2II

    As Harold Ross the first editor of The New Yorker magazine used to note on poorly-written manuscripts: “What mean?”

  2. Jonatton Yeah?

    Congratulations on penning one of the most peculiar collection of words I have ever come across. “What mean” is right.

  3. albert

    So your explanation of this drivel is to question where the writings of Jonatton and R2D2 can be found? How very expected.

  4. Shoshonej

    I don’t have to respond to them, or to you. But I am. If you, or they, want to add more about what you don’t like about it, you may have some interesting criticisms for me to hear.

    Or you might not, and you’re all three venting because you’re bored at work. I hope it’s not the latter! Have a nice day and Thank You, R2D2II, jonatton, and albert.

  5. R2D2II

    The writer of this piece seems not to be aware that writing of any significant quality is invariably the product of at least two minds: that of a writer and of an editor. There’s been no editing here.

    The piece sounds like much like standard American English but it’s very hard to figure out what is the point the writer is trying to make. That’s the experience of more than one reader. An editor could have made all the difference.

    If the writer wants abundant experience of high quality informal American English prose, then he or she should go to the library and spend some time with older back issues of The New Yorker Magazine. There’s probably nothing better available. The quality of the writing and editing in that journal was superb for decades, under Harold Ross the original editor and others such as William Shawn. Perhaps not so good in recent decades. The New Yorker was also famous for the quality of the “checking’ for factual correctness, grammar and spelling.

  6. Jonatton Yeah?

    It’s hard to provide “interesting criticism [sic]” when the what’s written is incoherent. My original comment was probably unnecessarily snarky, but the point remains the same. This post just doesn’t make any cogent sense. It just doesn’t.

  7. Shoshonej

    Thank You for the info. I will read some of the New York Magazine under William Shawn (I am a big fan of his son Wallace). My name is Shoshone. What is your name?

  8. Shoshonej

    I receive that as a compliment. It’s the greatest response to my work I could hope for. I was trying to accomplish what Jacques Derrida did so easily.

  9. R2D2II

    As a last suggestion I would point the writer to the well-known quote from the bassist and composer Charles Mingus:

    “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

    That’s been my mantra and that of my teachers.


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