What it's like being a security guard.

by Peter Marus


Those gut I'd vent and get out something that's been on my head for a while.

When you see the security guard in a store or a building, you probably don't think much of him.  You probably think he's some idiot and only there to give you a hard time.  Sometimes this is true, but sometimes there's a lot more going on with them.

I am a security guard at this moment.  I am not proud to say I am but the reality is that I am because I was desperate for a job and this opportunity is the only one that was available at the time.  I didn't have the luxury of trying to negotiate the best deal for myself.  Like many who are in this line of work, it's a take it or leave it situation.  I'm going to tell you a little about some of the people doing this work, that quite frankly are ashamed to have this job.

Most security falls into two categories: retail and corporate.  As much as there is differences to the job, there is some similarities.  Despite whatever your training says or what your bosses tell you to try to feel important, a security guard is a body there to be a player in the theater of security, a guard has no real "powers" beyond a citizen, and even those powers are limited further by the company you work for or the client, thanks to the wonderful litigious, sue happy society we live in.  Whatever you as a guard should be able to do, you are handcuffed and knocked down to being just a fulfillment of an insurance policy requirement.  

So for whatever you are assigned, you do nothing, and paid as much.  For all the hype of security and its importance, you may get slightly above minimum wage.  That's how much security is truly valued.  

A lot of security guards are people who are much more qualified to do a better line of work (college, even masters, degree earners who are stuck with this job due to the economy), and usually feel like the gifted student in a remedial class.  All through their shift thoughts are usually in their minds like "what the Hell am I doing here?" "Is this really the best I can do for a job?" "How am I making that payment with this salary? Do I pay it and starve until the next payday?" And other thoughts.  Granted you have the complete garbage who have this job because they have absolutely no skills to get into school for better options, and they accept it and don't care.  But most of the guards are just those who lost the jobs musical chairs.  

I mentioned the pay, but the funny thing is what you are expected to spend it on for this job-and get ZERO reimbursement for.  A lot of corporate and retail security jobs require you to wear a full suit, shirt, tie, and shoes.  You may have one already, but day in and day out you need to clean it at some point, so naturally you should get another suit as back up.  Ok, but with what money?  People doing this work are broke 5 mins after getting their pay because they have bills or expenses that are necessary to pay.  On top of this, you are usually required to keep your outfit in tip top condition.   Same goes to any uniform you may be issued.  If you want to get a new one, some places require you to let them inspect your current one to see if giving you a new one is warranted.  On top of your uniform, no matter what it is, you still need to put for your lunch and travel.  Again, not reimbursed by the employer, which is normal but puts a big dent in whatever pay.

So, during a shift where you are doing nothing, you'd think you would have time to think.  You do, but you run out of things to think about.  Then at the end of your shift, you are physically and mentally fried.  So whatever after-work activity you are doing is always a blur.  If you are "asked" to work later (usually required since if you don't you will be removed from that assignment), even more fatigue happens.  Sometimes you have to stay because the guard relieving you of your post decides to either not show up or shows up late for no reason.  You can't leave, and usually your supervisor won't help out, saying his hands are tied.  So whatever you want to do with your free time depends on the whims of the client.  Calling out is frowned upon, and could lead to you getting taken off an assignment.  

You aren't fired usually.  What happens is you aren't assigned anywhere and not paid.  This is done so the guard can't file for and get unemployment.  The filing is always contested and shown the guard wasn't terminated.  

"Why not get another job?" You ask.  Many are trying, but to do so, you almost have to quit the current job due to the scheduling that I feel is set up to keep people from looking and interviewing for work.  You'd have to take a day off, and maybe lose out on money (if you use up your sick days), and also hope your suit is presentable for any interview.  Also, when a guard is done with work, again most of the time they are mentally fried and don't want to deal with anything.  

That's the scariest part: sometimes you feel like you're in quicksand, and the harder you try to get out the deeper you get.  One other scary thing is once in a blue moon complacency set in, where you think it's not that bad.  I get rid of that right away.  Complacency is loser talk, and anyone who is happy or content in a job like this, with all the BS and the low Ptah truly is a loser.  I am not a loser.  I DONT WANT THIS FOR MY LIFE.  

Ok I'm done ranting.