Contract Security Officer
Let me start off by saying, no matter what contract security company (unarmed) that you work for, it is a stable job with a steady paycheck every week or two, but there is no room for advancement with any security company. You are a security officer or security guard, paid to watch a building or watch people, and ensure their safety, and that is all you will ever do working as an unarmed security officer. Better known by many who want to make fun at you, as “Rent a Cop.” (Whatever pays the bills, eh?)
I spent four years working for a contract security company called McRoberts Protective Agency. Generally, the company was pretty good to work for, having contracts in many different states including New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Puerto Rico. They may be in more states now, but those are major states they were in when I worked for them. McRoberts actually offers employment for both unarmed and armed guards, and is often stationed at grocery stores, construction sites, factories, hospitals, schools, and airports or quite possibly, border patrols. The officers must log every hour, on the hour, what happened for that specific time period, often getting a binder and a pen, to be the “ears and the eyes of the police,” as is the philosophy of McRoberts Protective Agency.
I was fresh out of high school and needed a job. I applied to a few local businesses in the area such as Walgreens and Jersey Mike’s, but they did not work out. I saw an ad in the paper for a security company looking for employees, so I applied. A few days later, I got a call to come to their office and I was hired after a background check.
I was assigned to a ShopRite driving employees to and from their cars because it was frowned upon that they park in the limited-space parking area of the mini-mall. It was a cake job, really. Driving back and forth, back and forth, all day long. But it was fun when I got to learn who the employees were, all with their own lives, stories, bills, families, etc. I even learned that I had the benefits of being an associate of ShopRite, as I was able to purchase my meals for as little as a dollar. This was awesome. As comes with the job though, you may be in one area for years, or you may be there for just several months. Eventually they let me know our services were no longer needed, and although I was devastated, my boss assured me that it was normal, that contracts end, and that I was not being fired.
The worst thing you can expect at McRoberts, as with all contract security companies, is no raises, no incentive, no motivation, and boredom, plenty of it. But the boredom can always be changed for something more productive, such as reading, writing stories, researching, or just being creative with your mind, and listening to the radio. Yes, you have to make your daily rounds, you have to deal with a few people, you have to constantly be aware of your surroundings, and especially the occasional visit from a supervisor who pulled up and hoped to catch you sleeping so he could report you and look good doing it. I got caught a few times. Nothing ever happened of it, though I did have a friend and co-worker who was “let go.” They never mentioned it outright that he was caught sleeping at least once a week, but the graveyard shift is certainly the hardest shift to work, and I had to stay plenty of overnights, because the guy before me never showed up.
I remember I had been assigned to Atlantic City where I worked at a Coach store, standing on my feet for nine hours a day, greeting anyone who walked in, and occasionally walking over to just make people aware that I was there. The joy in this job was just seeing many people all day, mostly tourists that did not mind blowing a few hundred dollars on a purse and some other accessories. I was later transferred to a diamond store in Atlantic city that required me to be on my feet for eleven hours a day. I even got to see a woman get fired who had been fraudulently writing a lesser price on diamonds sold, but still charging the customer the full price and pocketing the extra money. I, of course, was there to protect the store from being robbed. I did not have anything to do with the internal affairs of the company.
A drive to Atlantic City is not easy, as it is almost an hour from where I live. But we all need to make our paycheck and where the job required me to travel, I would go. One time, I woke up late and was an hour late already to the job. I got down to Atlantic City, and just as I had stepped out of the car, my pants ripped. I had no backup. So I quickly rushed to work and was holding my jacket over the hole of the pants, while walking around, hoping no one would notice. Around dinner time, I went to the GAP and was able to find the only pair of dress pants that they had to replace my ripped pants.
I worked at a Children’s Specialized Hospital, which I loved, for the longest time, almost a year. These children were certainly very precious and could steal your heart away. Some were terminally ill and others were just there for special surgeries. The place also had a regular hospital for long-term terminally ill, assisted living, and Dementia and Alzheimer’s Patients. I got to meet and see many people, who I must say, was a pleasure to have them cross my path, including one man who is in there every night to visit his mother who was bedridden and with Alzheimer’s. No matter the weather, no matter the day, he was there to visit his mother and comfort her.
One of the last places I worked at which is where I was at for the longest time, almost two years, was Asbury Park. The first I worked at was a place called Phillips Seaview Towers and the other was at a construction site.
Phillips Seaview Towers was an Assisted Living facility for people who lived on their own, but also might require some extra help. During my time there, it was mostly just letting people in and out of the building, writing down the weather, checking the boiler to make sure everything was alright. There were really not a ton of problems. The most memorable things I came across working here was that it was summer, and I got a call from the family of a man who lived there, who asked me to go check on him, because they had not heard from him in a week. I went up the elevator, and as I got near his apartment door, the stench was horrendous. I cannot explain how bad it smelled. It was the smell of death and decay. How do you explain such a putrid smell? I opened up his apartment door with a key, and what I found inside, was a man who had been dead for a few days. And of course, the summer time caused him to decay quicker. He passed away from a heart attack.
Another day, a few months later, it was a cold fall day closely approaching winter, and bitter freezing, I had just pulled up to witness the second incident, just a single police car, with a sheet over a figure, it was a man who had jumped from the 11th story floor committing suicide. It was sad to see this happening at my place of work and surely was the talk around the building for at least the next month. But it does happen and it is part of the job.
The second place I worked at in Asbury Park was a construction site. They have built up Asbury Park quite a bit since you’ve last visited.. and they are still building it up, so I am sure, not all of the Asbury Park that I mention is still the same. Asbury Park has many different things going on all the time. At the time, they were building expensive condominiums believing this would drive in the rich and helping to bring in some money to the city. This was when Asbury was almost deserted, and a seemed a bit of dark place to go. On the construction site, sometimes I would see men pull up in their cars after picking up hookers on the nearby streets. There would sometimes be drug deals at the corner of the street. This was a lesser occurrence though, as Asbury Park police and security companies began to populate the streets more and more often.
All sorts of people would be walking the boardwalk. In fact, there would be one gay man who would always come talk to me every night. He too, had a mother, who he was taking care of because she had Alzheimer’s Disease. I forgot his last name, but his name was Michael, an older man. He was a photographer in New York, and from what he had told me, a very well known photographer. He showed me some of his works and it was gorgeous. I was always open to listening to people because everyone has a story to tell, so I definitely enjoyed talking to him. He would tell me stories about his life, about the gay life in the 50s and the 60s, and how he had said it was even better in the 30s and 40s because it was pretty much all underground and hidden, out of sight, and out of mind, so gay men were having a blast. HIV and AIDs were not even a thought, and other common diseases could easily be cured with penicillin or some other antibiotic. He explained that gay men in today’s day are much more inhibited than they used to be, almost to the point where the gay life is not at all what it used to be. That is because gay men have to be much more cautious than they were. He told me about all the friends, and even a lover he had lost due to AIDS. Once a person got AIDS, they would give you a series of drugs that gave a person just a few months to live, and that would be it. It was as if his world came crashing down on him, when almost every one of his friends began to die around him, and yet he remained alive. He told me about the many different celebrities he photographed, including Ronald Reagan before he became President, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra, and many others. I had thought about telling him to just tell me everything he had seen, done, and I would write it all down and make a book out of it. His stories were very detailed. He was a man who was much more active in the 60s, 70s, and the 80s, but was a man that was now retired and just doing freelance work.
There was also another man I befriended in Asbury Park, a healthy 70 year old who was probably in the best shape of his life. He would walk for miles and miles every morning, and to this day, he still does it. I have remained friends with him and think of him like a grandfather. I occasionally pay him a visit in Asbury Park and we go out for dinner to catch up on our lives. I feel as if we are old souls meeting once again for a great conversation over dinner. He has definitely been the big inspiration in my life that got me to start eating more healthy. He told me about how he had been overweight, high blood pressure, on the verge of a heart attack. Doctors had offered him to take this medicine and that medicine, and after taking it for a time, he felt worse. Instead, he did something about it: He sold his car and started walking everywhere, even if it took him five miles to get to somewhere, he would walk there. If it was more than ten miles, he would likely take the bus. And to this day, he is still walking and he told me that several doctors visits have only deemed him completely healthy. No high cholesterol, no high blood pressure – everything is normal.
Once I remember Bruce Springsteen was playing at Convention Hall. I was able to sneak up beside his black SUV and since I was already dressed in a security uniform, I acted like I was security for Convention Hall and was able to get in through the side door. I got to see my first Bruce Springsteen concert for free. I wasn’t able to get close to him, but it wasn’t hard to miss the man dressed in a bright red shirt. When the Boss is home, he tends to be more relaxed. He’ll make mistakes while he is playing, and if he’s not satisfied with the song, he’ll restart his songs from the beginning, even if he was already two or three minutes in, just because he wants to give people a great show, and boy does he ever. It’s probably more entertaining to watch a great artist make mistakes and not care, because it just shows he’s human and having fun. He was practicing for his Seeger Sessions Band Tour. That’s the Boss!
I had vacation time of two weeks, and at the time, you could opt to just take the paycheck or actually take the vacation. I decided I would take the money (and run), put in my two weeks for McRoberts, and get a bunch of paychecks. After some legal matters, I had to contact the union in order to get paid because McRoberts felt that I had to work for another year to get paid two weeks vacation despite being just hitting the four year mark. After the union got involved and started bringing up legal matters, McRoberts paid me without anymore incident. There are plenty of other places I could talk of that I worked at with many stories of their own, but for this story, I wanted to cover some of the major points, experiences, and aspects of working as a security officer for McRoberts. I have no qualms with McRoberts.The job certainly had its perks and excitement. I still see guys in McRoberts uniforms around, and from what I’ve learned, the company will always be the same, a uniform and a paycheck.
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