The Life Of A Night Watchman Is Way Creepier Than You Think
Working the night watch probably conjures a very specific image in your mind -- namely, catching up on your Sherlock / My Little Pony erotic crossover fanfic in between fleeting glances at a wall full of surveillance monitors. The mind-numbing boredom is only interrupted when you're attacked by magically reanimated museum displays, gorily murdered by the linoleum, or ... well, gorily murdered by pretty much anything else imaginable. In pop culture, overnight security guards are either punchlines or cannon fodder.
To find out what the job's really like, we spoke with Dale Crangle and Dana Fakename, two purveyors of the night watch arts, to find out what it's like to do cop stuff without the benefit of a gun, arrest powers, or backup. Spoiler: It's horrifying.
The Bad Guys Are Armed, And You're Not
The whole reason the culture considers "rent-a-cops" walking jokes is, well, what exactly can they really do if they encounter bad guys? Guns would be too much of a liability issue for their employers, so they're left to deter burglars, rapists, and meth heads with the same arsenal as the cops in that edited version of E.T.: walkie-talkies and flashlights. And sometimes, they don't even get that.
"I recently had a new location added onto my route, downtown behind a bunch of seedy motels," says Dana. "I went down for my first check, armed only with a phone and a flashlight, and found a man standing in the alley with a pickax. The moment I rounded the corner, he holds the pickax up in the air like a sword and tells me not to come any closer."
You're not getting paid enough to risk becoming the first victim of the "Minecraft Killer."
If you're expecting to hear about an enthralling flashlight vs. pickax battle here, well, her employer would have frowned on that. So she called the cops and got the hell out of there. As for exactly how much force she can use, it all depends on the employer. Dana actually works two jobs for two different companies (security work isn't exactly "hump on a bed of hundos" lucrative):
"One is super hands-off. I'm not allowed to touch anyone unless they touch me first. I'm not allowed a weapon. I don't get a walkie-talkie. I even had to provide my own flashlight, and even then, it has to be below a certain size or it's considered a 'weapon.' So I'm approaching people in an abandoned area of town at 3 a.m. with the expectation that I can get them to fuck off using simply my words and charming smile."
That only works in countries where nobody has weapons.
Her other employer gives her a bit more leeway to get rough. "If someone isn't listening, I'm encouraged to get up close and personal," she says. "Just last week, me and another guard ended up throwing a guy down onto a table to pry a weapon out of his hands that he refused to drop. My boss was quite impressed, but I'd have been instantly fired if I had done that with my other company." In case you're wondering about the legalities of the situation, security guards are allowed by law to use reasonable force. If that sounds vague, that's because it is -- it's another reason they're not allowed to bring, say, a katana to work.
Reasonable force is fine, but not reasonably awesome force? Bullshit.
So what kind of shit do you have to deal with in this job, knowing it's going to come down to your bare hands and largely empty threats?
The Crazies Do, In Fact, Come Out At Night
Just ask Dale Crangle, who's been on the job for 14 years. While working a parking garage near a bustling downtown bar scene, Dale was once startled by the sound of shouting at 1 a.m. on a weeknight. It was one of the "local nuts" stumbling up and down the street and randomly yelling at strangers. Dale watched as the guy accosted a young woman leaving one of the bars, a guitar case in one hand and beer bottle in the other. Already, you can see this is going to be trouble ... but it wasn't the kind you're probably expecting:
"He said something to her that I couldn't hear, and she said something back. He gave her a bit of a push, and she dropped her guitar and threw her beer bottle on the ground. She picked up the broken neck as he was walking away from her. She was all of 5'3'', but she was vicious. She ran up behind him, literally jumped on his back, wrapped one arm around his neck, and began hitting him in the head with the broken bottle neck."
Note: We realize some of you are already aroused by this story.
For any woman who's had to put up with one of these assholes, this pic is basically porn.
"By the time I ran up to help, she had already hit him four or five times. I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her off of him ... As I got her subdued and calmed down, he had gotten up and wandered off, bleeding profusely from the head ... By the time [the police] got there, the guy was long gone, but I told them they'd probably get a call about a guy bleeding from some major head wounds."
Likewise, Dana has plenty of similar stories of encountering humans at their lowest point (or at least, we're hoping this was their lowest). "I was recently called into a seedy motel for a noise complaint. When I arrived, I heard smashing and a couple screaming at each other. To be safe, I called the police and was waiting for them to arrive before going in. While I was waiting, the door swings open and a prostitute runs out sobbing. The guy behind her was massive ... probably 6'4'' and built like a brick shithouse. The room is destroyed ... the TV is smashed, the mattress is flipped, and cocaine is everywhere. Everywhere. On the floor, on the walls, on the tables ... when the police arrived, it took about six of them to hold him down. He got taken to the hospital for cocaine psychosis, and they found thousands of dollars hidden around the hotel room."
Which was hopefully his bail money ...
If we're unintentionally making this job seem fairly entertaining (if not hilarious), well ...
They're Expected To Save Lives (And Sometimes They Fail)
"Most (if not all) security guards are trained in first aid," says Dale. "They're usually the ones who are working in public places like casinos, malls, and hotels, and need to be able to respond quickly in an emergency. I've done first aid on a lot of people in my time in security." So, like, when a drunk cuts up his face trying to walk through a really clean glass door? Stuff like that?
You're ... gonna need this in a little bit. Trust us.
Well, in one instance, a hotel's front desk alerted him that a guest was suffering a severe emphysema attack. "I didn't have oxygen in the hotel, so I couldn't do anything for her other than monitor her vitals. When I checked for a pulse, I couldn't find it, and when I tried to listen to her breathing, I couldn't hear anything anymore. She was beginning to turn that bluish color. I heard one last exhale, which sounded like when you blow through a tube that has some liquid in it -- a bubbly sigh. I later found out that was called the 'death rattle.'"
Dale began CPR, counting every millisecond until the ambulance arrived. "When you're in a high-pressure situation like that, time compresses for you and everything outside of the room takes forever to happen. I'm sure the ambulance didn't take more than seven minutes to get there, but it seemed like an absolute eternity. When they finally arrived, they took over CPR. They hooked her up to oxygen, injected her with drugs to try to revive her, and did everything they could to bring her back. It didn't happen."
Things Get Very, Very Creepy
If you get creeped out easily, stay far away from this job. It means long hours alone in dark, creaky places. Dale's most notable "almost ruined a uniform" moment happened at an abandoned hotel: "I'm sitting in the office, and I hear a creak ... creak ... creak on the floor above me. I go up. The hotel was only four floors high, but long. The hall was bare walls, rooms with no doors, and a single dim light bulb hanging from the ceiling. I've seen my share of horror movies, and know this can only be trouble, but I start walking down the hallway anyway."
After that part, we double checked to make sure Dale wasn't a ghost telling us his death story.
That's when he heard rustling from one of the rooms. "I draw my Maglite and get ready to use it. I slowly peek into the room and discover that it's the wind blowing in from the river and moving a curtain. Now freaked, I start checking the other floors and find nothing, but I know someone is in the building. I make my way back down to the ground floor and go into the old ballroom." Picture a post-apocalyptic, pitch-black version of the ballroom from The Shining, and you'll get the gist. "Out of the corner of my eye, I see someone moving, so I spin and shine my light on them, ready to defend myself. It was my reflection in a broken mirror on the wall."
There are spots that, over time, gain a reputation among night watch crews. Dana's mother (who had worked security in the same town) told her of a residence that was simultaneously empty and overflowing with the heebie-jeebies. "At the beginning of her shifts, she would do a walkthrough and close all the doors ... she'd go back later and find the doors she'd closed open again. She passed it off as it being an old building, thinking maybe drafts blew open the doors, until she found a rose on a windowsill in the upstairs bedroom. The original owner of the house, who was long since deceased, was named Rose. My mom refused to go back."
Sounds like the kind of story parents tell their children to fuck with them, right? That's what Dana thought, too. "I always figured she was making shit up until another guard told me of this private residence where he would constantly find open doors. He once found footprints going up the staircase into the bedroom that he swore hadn't been there during his earlier check. He refused to go back, and the contract was eventually cancelled, as they couldn't find any guards willing to enter that house at night." Yep, it was the same house her mother had spoken of. Dun dun DUNNNN.
Apparently, "Boo" is Ghost for "Fuck tha police."
OK, you're probably thinking it was some vagrant sneaking around, intentionally creeping the place up so they could squat in peace. But try holding onto that logic when it's just you, alone, in a creaky dim house in the wee hours of the morning.
Dana has her own site -- a factory -- that feels like it's in dire need of a visit from the Scooby Gang. "There's no reason for it -- it's not abandoned and workers are there every day -- but at night, you get an ominous feeling the moment you pull up. Once, while I was training another guard at about 3 a.m., the overhead speakers suddenly began crackling and fizzing. This guy I was training was about 6'3'' and ex-military, yet he immediately bolted. I followed suit, and we ran into a brightly lit area of the building and broke out laughing. As we were joking about how we were the pussiest security guards of all time, we heard a voice say, 'Are you there?'" Needless to say, they both left behind dust outlines like the goddamned Road Runner.
"A few months later, I was training another guy, and I left to go to the bathroom. He was finishing the patrol when I heard him talking to me. I came out [of the bathroom] and ... a petrified look came over his face. While he was walking towards the entrance, he'd heard a voice say, 'Are you there?' I hadn't even told him that story."
Someone Please Think Of A More Original Insult
We used the derogatory term "rent-a-cop" earlier. You know who else uses that phrase? Virtually everyone you'll encounter doing this job. We'll let Dana elaborate: "During my first week, a hotel called me up at 1 a.m. to go ask a guy to move his car (he had parked horizontally in the middle of the parking lot, blocking four other vehicles). The light was on in his room, so I didn't think it would be too big of a deal, since he was awake. I was wrong. I knocked and announced myself as security, and was immediately told to fuck off. I knocked again and announced myself as security, and this older man peeks through the window, looks me up and down, and yells, 'Fuck off, ya fucking rent-a-cop cunt!'"
This continued for several more rounds, like history's worst knock-knock joke. "I was finally like, 'Fine. You can pick your car up from impound in the morning and pay the $500 fee. Have a good night.' Then the door flies open, and there stands this old guy in his underwear with an 18-to-20-year-old woman sprawled out on the bed behind him. He apologized profusely and thanked me for not towing his vehicle, all while trying to block my view of what was obviously a prostitute."
And the name-calling doesn't end with her shift. "I often grocery shop after work at 7 a.m. when Walmart opens, and I've been called a 'rent-a-cop cunt' approximately five times while browsing the frozen food section. I don't know why that's the go-to insult. Let your readers know that if they're going to insult security, please think up something good, because they'll be the 10th person that night to call us a rent-a-cop. We'll probably cut them some slack if they come up with an insult we haven't heard before."
Dale Crangle has since left the security/surveillance field, and is now a freelance content specialist, helping businesses further their reach and bring in new customers. Jason is an editor for Cracked and a part-time pickax-wielding maniac. Like his Facebook page.
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For more insider perspectives, check out Hidden Changing Room Cameras: 7 Security Guard Confessions and 5 Insane Things I Did As A Cop (They Don't Show On TV).
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