Wednesday, April 02, 2008

20 years as a Rent A Cop.

I just realized that November of this year will make 20 years working as a security guard. Pathetic isn't it?

November 20, 1988, I signed on with Allied. Security as a guard, and stayed with that company until 2000 when I left to take a job in customer service at Dish Network. I only lasted six months there, and after a few months on the dole, I rejoined Allied for a stint that went from 2001 to 2003 where I was let go. After so more time on unemployment, I was hired by Cauley Security where I presently work. I remember my first detail. It was a high school playoff game at Baldwin between Woodland Hills and I think, Upper St. Clair. Since then, I've worked sites all over the city. I've made thousands of rounds, punched a few thousand keys, carried more radios, Detex clocks and pipe wands than I care to admit and guarded everything from stadiums to office buildings to homeless shelters, college dorms, and damn near every garage and parking lot in this town. If I took all the rounds I've walked in that time and laid them end to end, they'd probably extend from here to Philly and halfway back again.

I spent hours in funky guard shacks, reading, listening to the radio or to my iPods. I checked IDs behind desks, patrolled parking garages and made rounds in most of UPMC's hospitals and research facilities. I guarded the Pitt sidelines in the old Pitt stadium and saw more than a few couples make out in the Duquesne Incline's parking lot. I was within 3 feet of President Clinton and met Mister Rogers and Speedy Delivery's Mr McFeely in person.

It is largely a tedious job that pays crap, gets even less respect, and most guards quit within 6 months to find something better. I keep saying that I want to quit, but I don't know what else I can do. And it did provide a steady income and mucho hours of quiet study time during the Relentless Pursuit of Higher Education.

By and large, I've had few incidents to deal with, but one does stick out. I was working at the Iron City brewery one November when some kids got into the bottle house where the beer was being stored and proceeded to trash the place by running the forklifts into these 30 foot high stacks of beer cases. There was about 10,000 cases of beer destroyed that day and it happened just before I made my first round of my shift. When I went into the bottle house, I was literally rendered speechless, and I thought I was going to be fired onthe spot. I survived that nightmare with my job intact. But just barely. But that was the exception. Most days, guards are stuck in buildings often by themselves with no supervisor to check up on them, trying desperately to stay awake.

The job can be a pain in the ass sometimes. We wear these uniforms so we look like cops, but don't have their authority, so many times people blow us off when we try to enforce the client's policies, which is the main job of a security guard. And we can't retaliate, without losing our jobs. Security Guards only have the authority to carry out a citizens' arrest. And what citizen does that these days? Most guards don't carry guns, and the majority of a guard's training comes from the guys already working on site. And sometimes, the old guys cut corners and tell the newbies that it's policy, so they get busted when the client bitches that the job's not been done right. Most clients don't have drills on their property to insure that the security force knows what to do in case of an emergency, so the safety of a site and its residents often falls to an underpaid, largely unmotivated group of guards that may or may not have read the post orders or even if those post orders have been updated in the last few years. In these post 9-11 days, it is more important than ever that buildings are protected by competent guards who have the training to recognize signs of a possible terrorist threat, the equipment and clear orders on how to respond to those issues, and the backing of the client and the guard company when carrying out the client's orders.

I have no idea how much longer I'll be working in this field. I know I've been in it for waaaay too long.
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Monday, March 31, 2008

We Want 16!, We Want 16!!!

Tonight, our Pittsburgh Pirates open their 121st season against the Atlanta Braves. The Bucs have a chance to share a piece of Major League history if they should happen to lose 82 games this season. That number means they will tie the Philadelphia Phillies for the longest consecutive streak of sub .500 seasons currently standing at 16 years.

The Pirates have a new manager, a new CEO, and a new general manager. But the owner remains unchanged as well as the vast majority of on-field talent from a team that lost a utterly depressing 94 games in 2007. And considering that the owner, one Bob Nutting and his front office have successfully deluded themselves into believing that this virtually unchanged ballclub can actually win despite having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, and having done little in the area of player acquisitions during the offseason, one can safely say that the Pirates chances of getting their 16th straight losing season is all but in the bag. Matter of fact, if I were a betting man, I'd put a bob or two on the prediction that the Bumbling Bucs will lose more than 90+ games and look totally incompetent in doing it. I actually want to see this team implode just like their old ballpark, Three Rivers Stadium was knocked down to make way for America's Finest Pale Pachyderm..., er, uh, Ballpark.

I want to see fielding that made the Bad News Bears look like the '27 Yankees. I crave for inconsistent hitting, comic baserunning a la the Three Stooges on acid, managerial moves that mystify even the most knowledgeable baseball mind and pitching that my high school team could hit. I want to see the fans come out to PNC Park with bags over their heads like the New Orleans Saints fans of the '70s and '80s. I want to see only 5,000 seats filled at Skyblast and every other frickin' fireworks and Bobblehead nights. I want to see how the Pirate PR department spins next year's ad campaign after they go belly up like a dead trout on a July afternoon. I want a trainwreck. I want a disaster that makes George W. Bush's presidency look like a Sunday School picnic. Simeon in the Bible proclaimed that he was now ready to die having seen his Savior. I just want to see the front office of the Buccos actually be serious about putting a quality product on the field instead of going through the motions, saying all the right things, and pocketing the cash. Of course, I won't see any of this because I refuse to go and watch the Pirates live or on TV until this long death march of bad baseball ends. Go figure. Anyone want to enter my pool as to when the 2008 Pirate season officially becomes irrelevant? I put it around June 15th.
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Black Church, White Church;

Despite Senator Barack Obama's speech where he denounced certain comments made by his former pastor Jeremiah Wright regarding the cause of 9-11 and how America should be damned because of its history with non-white folks, people continue to not let this issue go away.

Now, no one reads this blog. I don't push it and frankly I don't give a rat's ass whether anyone does. But if anything, the recent events regarding Rev. Wright's comments have brought to light the fact that Black folks and White folks may worship the same God, but for the most part, they don't do it together. With relatively few exceptions, Blacks and Whites attend. largely segregated churches. These churches tend to focus their ministries in very different ways.

I venture to say that those Whites who fly off the handle at Rev. Wright's comments have never been to a Black Church. While Rev. Wright's comments about 9-11 are on the more extreme end, and his remarks may be considered anti-patriotic by those Whites. who are used to their pastors wrapping themselves in the American flag in church, the tradition of black preachers calling out America for it's historical shortcomings is not new. First of all, to those who call Rev. Wright a wacko because of his comments, are you willing to throw Rev. Pat Robinson under the bus for statements he made claiming that America's tolerance of gays and lesbians has brought about God's wrath on the nation and that 9-11 was a sign of His displeasure with our country? If you are, I'll grant you credit for your consistency. If not, then you need to spend some time studying the history of the Black Church and its preaching traditions before you decide to slam Rev. Wright for a few extreme comments pulled out of 35 years of sermons delivered. Can you say "cherry picking", boys and girls?, I knew you could.

White folks, please understand this coming from a Black Man who loves America and who wants to see this country rise to its fullest potential for all its citizens. I love the United States. I served her as a sailor in her Navy, and of all the places I've been in the world, I've always reserved the greatest joy when my ship came into US waters. It is out of my love for the country that I and those like me have to make noise when the government does something stupid. If you truly love your children, you don't just sit by and tolerate every wrong thing they do. You administer correction. That is what black preachers have historically done from the pulpit. They want to see America work for all its citizens.

My people are the only group who were brought here against their will. We did not want to be here, we had no potato famines nor religious persecutions to spur us to seek refuge in this country. We were brought here in chains and made to work as slaves. But we are here, and we just have to make the best of our situation and make this country work for us. America has not worked out for us as it has for you. The history of this nation is soaked with the blood of my ancestors in their fight to be free. Slavery, Jim Crow, Segregation. White folks have not experienced these institutions. To you, America has been the shiny city on the hill, the promised land, the land of milk and honey where the streets are paved with gold. You have been taught that all possible with hard work and a belief in the goodness of America. We are not so sure. Our history speaks of a different America. One that chose to enslave one race to another and give legitimacy to it via the force of law. And once that law had been overturned, Blacks were treated as second class citizens under Jim Crow claiming separate but equal which ended up too much of the former and not enough of the latter.

White folks find Rev. Wright's statement about the government designing AIDS to be absurd and anti-patriotic. Most Black folks would also agree. But what about the Tuskegee Experiment where over a 40 year period, 400 Black men who had contracted syphillis were denied treatment so that government scientists could see how the disease ran its course? If this horrendous experiment could be conducted with the approval of the US Government, what other experimentation is happening? And given the history of how our country dealt with minorities, a statement like Rev. Wright's may come off as wacko, but more than a few Black folks have their suspicions due to events like what happened at Tuskegee between 1932 and 1972.

If White folks could live life in America as Black folks, then maybe they'd not be so bent out of shape by statements by Black preachers that expose America's warts. They'd see that we Black folks don't hate America, but that we just don't see it the way they do. But it was White folks who chased us into the balconies of church buildings and then ran off to the suburbs to create their own churches when Black folks got to be too numerous. And because whites did not want to worship with Blacks, Blacks had no choice to create their own congregations. Even today, we would welcome whites into our churches, but would not tone down our sermons or stop speaking truth to power just to sooth ruffled feathers. Rev. Wright proved one thing: The most segregated time of the week is still 11 am Sunday Morning. But with the new crop of megachurches like Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, and locally, Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, Blacks and Whites are worshipping together. This can only improve race relations. But still the vast majority of churches are still monochromatic. I won't throw Rev. Wright under the bus for a few off the wall comments out of some 35 years of sermons. The man has done some good in that time. And most educated, reasonable thinking people will understand the context of his remarks. Blacks and Whites need to stop being so damn scared of each other. We're stuck here together in the same boat, and if we continue to row in opposite directions in an effort to get away from each other, all we end up doing is going in circles. And that does no one any good.

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CORRECTION: It was the late Rev. Jerry Falwell who blamed the 9-11 tragedy on gays, lesbians and pagans, not Pat Robertson although Rev. Falwell made the statements on Robertson's 700 Club and Robertson concurred with those statements.