Any Job Can Be A Nature-Led Job: Essay Part 2 Security Guard

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I was the only female security guard at the private security company. My supervisor was my roommate, a man we’ll call “Bear”. A big, quiet former Marine. We had our own “Jay and Silent Bob” routine. Few people ever heard him speak; he would just look to me to speak on behalf of both of us. There were no women’s guard uniforms, only men’s. My utility belt was the only thing holding my pants up. Once while trying to put myself back together in a tiny bathroom with all my assorted gear, my pager took a dive in the toilet bowl. There were no cell phones back then. I’d get a page with a phone number. Then you find the nearest landline phone and call the number on the pager.

Most of my coworkers were middle-aged, overweight, white men who had once dreamed of being in the military or police but couldn’t pass the psyche tests or fitness evaluations. My roommate and I were the youngest, fittest, and only drop of diversity in the whole company on account of me being female and him being Apache, not that any of them knew he was Apache. Bear was promoted to Supervisor shortly before I joined. He was the only one licensed to carry a firearm on the job. The rest of us had long heavy flashlights and mace.

During training I was with a guard who worked the mall out in the valley. A fight broke out on the mezzanine level between two young women with a somewhat large crowd on young people watching on. The Guard said, “I’m going to deploy my mace.”

“Really?” I asked. “I know it’s only my second day on the job, but why don’t we just pull them apart? You grab one from behind and I’ll grab the other.”

“No, look, I’ve been doing this a long time. We have to be more assertive.” As he pulls out his mace I step into a nearby store where I can watch from behind glass. The Guard muscles his way through the crowd and sprays the girls with the mace, except, you know where I’m going with this right? We’re inside a building with no wind. Of course, the girls get the worst of it with it being sprayed in their faces, but the whole crowd immediately reacts.

People are yelling, screaming, crying and stumbling every which way trying to get out of the pepper spray cloud, including the Guard himself. Fortunately, there was a bathroom nearby. I felt bad for the girls, so I led them to the bathroom to help wash their faces. I learned through sobs and snot that the fight was over a boy and he’d played these two friends. “Alright, well I guess the lesson we learned today is that no guy is worth getting maced in the face.”

By this time the Guard had rinsed his own face and was waiting for us. The girls got a 24-hour trespass notice for the mall and I got lectured about how I needed to respect his authority. Our second day of training was uneventful and then I was on my own for my assignments. There was a streaker at one of the nicest retirement homes in Spokane. Don’t ask me why some guy thinks it’s fun to go running down the halls naked at a senior living facility, but there you have it. He wasn’t a resident and no one was knew which door he would sneak in from. They were all locked except the front door, where the guard spent most of their time. I suspect he was a former employee with a set of keys.

The previous guard assigned to the place was morbidly obese and the streaker apparently was a rather fit fellow running about like he did. The guard could never catch him and couldn’t outsmart him either, I guess. When my roommate handed me this assignment there was an unmistakable twinkle of amusement in his eyes. The Senior Retirement place was one of my favorite places to work. I never got to chase the streaker though. He never showed up on my watch! The residents were lots of fun. It was like college dorm rooms, but no one had to study. They were always having fun! They had an indoor swimming pool, a library, a movie theater, and they went on daily excursions.

My other regular assignment was working out of the Old Flour Mill which had been turned into a cool place for a handful of small shops and restaurants. It was right on the river in the heart of downtown. As a security guard you keep hourly logs to note any activity of interest. Most of the time your log just looks like: “S/O Reynolds – 5:58pm -Nothing to report.” (S/O for Security Officer)

As someone who likes to write, that just seemed like a waste of paper. So, I started working on my descriptive sentence and scene setting. I’d head to a special access point at the top of the Flour Mill so I could describe the sunset. I carried a highlighter in case there was any relevant information I might need to report. One time during a perimeter sweep near the water at dusk I heard splashing, only to discover a large rat pulling a fish as big as it was to the shore. I was impressed. The rat arched it’s back and showed teeth. “I don’t want your fish.” I laughed. Since I didn’t move any closer the rat decided it could eat, but it kept its eyes on me, just in case.

I also once met a guy who called himself “Spider.” He followed me around chatting my ear off for about an hour and then decided to leave. As he’s leaving, he said, “I was gonna rob the cigar shop, but you’re just too cute and I don’t wanna get you in trouble.” Gee, Thanks, buddy. Another time I watched a teenage girl slip a necklace into her pocket at the hippie store. I came up to stand beside her and said, “You can put the necklace back or you can pay for it.” She started to protest, but I looked her in the eyes. She pulled it out of her pocket and put it back. I introduced her to the store owner at the counter. The girl came back and got a job there. A few weeks later she happily skipped up to me and showed me the necklace around her neck and said, “I paid for it.” with glee. It made me happy too.

Here’s what I learned about human nature. People will often try to get away with things like petty theft because they feel invisible. They think no one notices them and the sad fact is, they aren’t wrong. The people I met who tried to steal things weren’t doing it because they wanted to sell it for food or anything, they were lonely, depressed, bitter and sometimes angry.

I worked that job for nearly two years. I never carried the pepper spray. I never threatened anyone with a show of force. The only holds I ever put on anyone were hugs by mutual consent. All the shops owners at the Flour Mill loved me because on my watch there were no thefts, graffiti or fights. The only shopkeeper that didn’t like me was the Cigar Shop owner, because he couldn’t get over the fact that I wasn’t a man and I didn’t walk around like King Kong.

I was 18 when I started. I wasn’t even old enough to drink alcohol in my state. The craziest assignment was three nights of “guarding” a 56,000sqft industrial building. A fired employee threatened to come back and stab everyone. Again, I was the only guard on duty. It was hot, it was August, there were lots of hot, noisy machinery and long thick plastic sheets that separated parts of the manufacturing line. It also had seven huge doors, left open for ventilation. They were so big you could fly a small plane through them.

Fortunately, that guy never showed to fulfill his threat. The line supervisors were rightfully angry that the only protection hired for them was one guard with a pager and an oversized flashlight. My being there was a joke. It was disrespectful to both the employees and myself because the company was too cheap to provide proper security for such a large, loud, wide-open building. “What do we do if we see him?” The supervisors asked. “Call 911, then scream real loud, maybe I’ll hear you.” I said dryly.

I have a history of training in all manner of violence, but I don’t practice violence. I practice empathy, first and always. No one can “make” you a killer. The decision is ultimately always yours to make. I had brief stint in the Marine Corps. I’ve done kickboxing, Mixed Martial Arts, Karate, survival training, hunting, camping, hiking, rock climbing. When I was younger, it was not unlike me to swim across a lake, just because I could.

For me, my only opponents are the goals that I set for myself.

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Sometimes I’ll choose the path of chaos, but I’ll rarely choose the path of violence. I remember the last time I did, decades ago. I was in my early twenties walking home in the dark, in downtown Spokane. This man was lurking in some dry bushes under a streetlight, no less. Mister Mugger, Are you afraid of the dark? I could clearly see him squatting there, plotting something. I continued casually walk down the middle of the road to see what he would do. Is he dumb enough to try and mug me? Yes, yes he is. As I approached, I was thinking about what kick I might do. As if on cue, my ancestors being the mischievous assholes that they are, turned out the streetlight above him. He jumped out and said, “Give me —” Boom! He got the Half Moon. My leg swung out and up, dropping my heel onto his clavicle (the bone between your neck and shoulder). He fell like a rock. I sauntered off telling him to “Go get a real job.” The streetlight came back on.

You wouldn’t have known it to look at me. I probably looked arrogant dropping a man and strolling off like I do that sort of thing all the time, but in truth I was angry. Angry that he thought robbing people was a good idea. Angry that its people like him that make other young women afraid to walk alone in the dark. Angry that he mistook for a victim. I am a survivor! An embodiment of the three-legged dog with one good eye and a half-chewed ear that goes by the name of “lucky.” I’ve died more times than most people have lived. Was it the right thing to do? Drop kicking him like that? I don’t know. My power isn’t that I know how to fight back, it’s that I know what I’m capable of, and I’m capable of A LOT.

Nature-led Lessons:

Greet new people and opportunities with an open mind.

Practice empathy every day.

Know yourself and you’ll know your power.

You don’t have to be afraid of the dark when you’re the scariest thing lurking within it. Bwhahahaha.

What are your capable of? Do you know what your power is?

Note: I’ve just about finished chewing through my reading on “Deep Adaptation” so that will be my next post.

Any Job Can Be A Nature-Led Job: An Essay – Part 1

I’ve always been a bit “extra”, but people assure me time and again that it’s a good thing. I regularly get what feels like a backhanded compliment; “You’re weird, but in a good way.” I’ve never really known what to make of this. I’ve been me my whole life. I don’t know any other way to be, although I do admit I can be a little weird in comparison to other people, but I’ve also met people weirder than me! On a scale of 1-10, with ten being the weirdest, I’m a solid 8. I talk to animals, and I have a curio full of gargoyles and Japanese teacups. Sometimes I opt for “passing” normal. This is when you keep your mouth shut, speak only when spoken to and only respond with the briefest of answers like “Yes” or “No.”

My first official job that required a W-2 form was at a Marie Calendars restaurant as a Hostess. I was 16, going to high school during the day and working 3-11pm at the restaurant. I quickly became the Senior Hostess, or the “Hostess with the Mostess” as people liked to joke. I was one of the first people in Spokane, WA to learn how to operate an espresso machine. I had a few customers so loyal they wouldn’t even allow anyone else to make their drinks. I had to make the bank runs every day at the start of my shift because my manager thought the bank tellers were “scary” people, so she made me do it instead.

I liked doing it because it gave me the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air while crossing the street and I didn’t have a problem with the bank tellers. There was one that was extra frosty, but I thawed her out when I discovered she liked peppermint candy. The restaurant provided free complimentary peppermint candies at the Hostess station, so why not use a few to bribe a little goodwill out of her? It worked.

One Saturday night moments before closing two big guys in jean overalls and white, ribbed tank tops and two boys around the age of nine came in and sat in the smoking section. The men were loud and crude when the waitress went over to take their order. They told her to give them hot, regular coffee in their own foul personal coffee cups and if she tried to wash the cups first, they would beat her. Several other patrons decided they were done with their meals and ready to skedaddle (leave). As the waitress came back to the main serving station to pour the coffees I went over and stood beside her. She was so nervous her hands were shaking. I was furious. She was sweet, hardworking and in her late fifties working a low wage job with no health insurance. I put my hand on hers and said I would take the coffee to them.

I walked over to the men and said, “Here’s your coffees, on the house, because you’re taking them to go.” In a slur of profanities, they asked me who I thought I was and demanded to place food orders. I calmly stood there and said, “No, you need to leave.” The boys were looking up at me in awe, they’d clearly never seen a woman, certainly not a young woman, stand up to these men before. The men stood up cussing at me, threatening to kill in a variety of ways. “I will make you leave.” I said in a low growl. The men laughed at me then said, “Oh yeah, you and what army?”

This is when the entire restaurant staff came to stand behind me, the servers, the cooks, the dishwasher, and some old guy in a Navy Veteran hat that had hung around to see what would happen. The men left. My coworkers nicknamed me “Brass balls” after that, or “Brass” for short.

This was back in 1990 when a lot of people, especially in the restaurant business, smoked cigarettes. I didn’t smoke and since I didn’t smoke, I wasn’t getting any breaks during my shift, because I didn’t *need* a smoke break. So, I stated taking non-smoking smoke breaks. Sometimes I’d hang out back by the dumpsters with the smokers and chat, but more often than not I’d just go for a quick walk around the block.

When summer came and school was out, I took a second job at the restaurant as a Prep cook and quickly became the head prep cook after the guy who had been the head prep cook spent a night in jail for drinking and driving. Being Senior Hostess was easy, but now I was seventeen and supervising men in their late 20s/early 30s. The incident with the two guys had already become legend and because turnover in the restaurant industry is high, the guys in the kitchen started to question whether it had really happened. A couple of them decided to test whether I was “worthy” of my nickname. One line cook threw a plate back into the prep area. It hit the wall and shattered barely missing me and another prep cook. We had to toss the chicken we’d been portioning into the garbage because we could risk it being contaminated with sharp ceramic bits from the plate. This same line cook then had the audacity to bark at me to get him a carafe of water. I served him a carafe of distilled white vinegar. He took one big chug of it and freaked out trying to figure out where to spit or throw up. He leaned over one of my back sinks coughing and trying to drink water from the faucet. I give him a moment to recovery, then grab him by an ear forcing him to look me eye to eye. I was two feet shorter, so it was pretty awkward for him to maintain his balance, let alone his composure.

The whole kitchen staff: line cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers and a handful of servers were all watching. I made it crystal clear to him and everyone standing there how unacceptable it was to threaten the safety of the food, the reputation of the restaurant that employs us or to harass another staff member. If anyone had a problem with me, they could take it up with me directly. I ended by saying, “You’re on notice. You mess up one more time and you’re fired! You don’t have to like me, just do your flippin’ job!” Because the restaurant had no Chef, I was the only kitchen staff in a supervisory position. We had a day and a night manager, but they were hardly ever there and loathe to do their jobs, so they left it to me. In fact, the male manager was there when I yelled at the line cook and all he did was hide in his office and lock the door. So, then they started calling me “Brass knuckles”, again “Brass” for short because they knew then, I don’t back down.

I eventually went to work a variety of hospitality and restaurant jobs and then for something completely different hired on to be a security guard.

Stay Tuned for Part II: The Nature-Led Security Guard.

Nature-Led Lessons:

Don’t back down; know your value, know your strengths.

Take the breaks you are legally owed to avoid burn out.

Take walks outside, away from the work chaos to clear your head. No one said you have to take up smoking or doom scrolling on your phone to catch a break.

A Day of Thanks, A Day of Remembrance

Alder Leaf

Small Maple Leaf

I don’t have much to say about Thanksgiving in the United States. I find it a rather awkward holiday. So, let’s move on. This is a Nature blog, not a holiday blog after all!

I’m planning to do two posts for the month of December.

Right now, I’m doing some “not so light reading” in preparation for my next high-level post. Its rather depressing, but you know once it passes through me, I’ll make it much more enjoyable for you to read! I’ll also share a funny personal story about how to make ANY job a “Nature-Led” job.

Until then……

Pull your weeds after the rain.

Go for a walk in Nature.

Stay true to yourself.

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