Saturday, February 27, 2010

Security!

Security guards like me. image
What can I say?
I’m a friendly person.
Security guards remember me, too. I guess not too many American ladies come through their offices too often.
In Poland, I have noticed that security guards usually come in 2 varieties, very young men and women probably at their first job and older men and women, probably at an after-retirement job to earn a bit more money for the monthly budget.
I am especially liked by this second variety. Anyhow, I enjoy the jokes such as “If I had had an English teacher like you…” There was one very friendly security guard who enjoyed kissing my hand, so much so that he had to be asked by management to stop. I remember that in one bank I had lessons with one gentleman 5 days a week for a year and then 3 days a week for another year. That’s a lot of lessons. It was early in the morning so I got to meet the night shift security guard at the end of his shift. I’m sure that he was very tired, but he always greeted me warmly. Imagine my pleasant surprise about 5 years later when I showed up to another company and found the same security guard at the front desk and he remembered me and he was happy to see me “Kogo ja tutaj widzę”, he said. It was nice.
I am always sure to “meldować się” (to register) with the security guards as I know this is very important in Polish office buildings. I also subject myself to whatever security precautions are necessary such as checking my bag on the way out or even checking my person as in one bus factory rife with theft. It was amusing to listen to the 2 young security guards arguing between themselves who was going to explain to me in English that I have to open not only my bag but also my jacket before I could leave. I let them sort it out for a while and then I opened my jacket and gave them a wink.
At the locimageal television station, even registering with the security guard didn’t get me in sometimes. Apparently my ID card identified me as a man so they didn’t want to let me in or give me the keys, 3 keys in fact that I needed for one room, my classroom, because my classroom was third in a series of rooms within a room. I never understood why each of the rooms within a room had to be locked. Why not just lock the outside one? Anyhow, there was nothing more than a table and chairs in these rooms. What was there to steal?
There is also the variety of security guard who does not remember me at all…despite the fact that I have been coming to the same company, on the same day of the week, at the same time, driving the same car, and parking in the same spot for years. One such security guard, his face well-known to me after 3 years, ran out of the building to inform me that this parking spot was for employees only (I am lucky because I have good justification to park in employees only spots and in guest only spots). I said that I was an employee, but he responded that he did not remember me and asked in what sense I was an employee there. I said in the sense that I do work and once a month they pay for me it. He couldn’t argue with that and let me off the hook.
In one company my students were notoriously late, and my classroom was right next to the security guards’ “office”. They often asked me to explain different things to them in English usually involving room numbers and keys, signing in and out, etc. When they were really bored, they invited me to their room, and we checked how far the security cameras could see. We discovered we could recognize faces of people entering the sex shop down the street. We also checked out the cameras located outside the restrooms on each floor. We discovered that Irish men often do a bit of….adjusting….even after exiting the restroom. Polish men do not. Anyhow, I hope they all washed their hands. After that, I was always aware that no matter where I was in the building, a camera could be on me.
In one company, the big fish upstairs got a once a year amount of money that they could spend on “trainings” such as English lessons or other kinds of courses. Some people spent the money on Russian lessons, tennis lessons, MBA courses. My student spent his budget of money on English (yeah me!) and massages (nothing to do with me). His masseur often came for the massage to the office in the evening directly after our lesson. Once as I was packing up my stuff and the masseur was setting up his table, the security guard from downstairs popped his head imagein just to remind my student that there were cameras not only in the secretary’s area but also in his private office. It can be fun to spy, but sometimes you can see more than you bargained for.
I imagine security detail can sometimes be boring and you could look for any kind of entertainment. Once, I was the one providing that entertainment for a bank security guard. Somehow, I got myself locked in the bank after hours. Ok, not somehow, I know exactly how it happened. I had individual lessons in the bank headquarters back office. The lessons, one hour each, started at 4:00 pm and ended at 9:00 pm. Sometimes, one or two students couldn’t attend due to meetings, etc. so they rearranged the order of students, sent me an sms/text message that they’d be late, or canceled altogether. To enter or exit the back office before 5 pm, no security card was needed. After 5 pm was a different story. On this particular day, I had forgotten my mobile phone at home. Student number 1 (of 5) showed up, but Student 2 did not so I waited one hour alone, reading a book. Student 3 showed up but student 4 did not. I couldn’t leave because Student 5 could show up, so I tucked into my book. At 9:00, I decided it was safe to leave (sometimes my students arrived 5 minutes before the end of the lesson expecting me to be waiting so I didn’t leave earlier). I packed up my things and headed to the main door to the stairway. Locked, of course. I began looking for some stray office workers to let me out. No one. Some stray cleaning staff. No one.
What could I do? I contemplated opening the window in my classroom and shouting to someone to ask the security guard downstairs to let me out, but I didn’t want to look like an ass. The office was in the Market Square so a lot of people would hear me and I was pretty high up in the building. I’d have to shout pretty loud and in Polish.
imageI couldn’t call anyone because I didn’t have my phone. There was a phone in my classroom, but I didn’t know any numbers by heart. That’s what my cell was for. I figured that in about another hour when I didn’t come home, Misiu would come looking for me. At least I had my book. Unfortunately, like everything in Polish office buildings, the bathrooms were locked.
Ok, this is a bank. There are cameras everywhere. Somebody has to be watching me, I thought. I decided to dance in the hall in front of the cameras and wait. Nothing. I decided to dance in front of the cameras and down the hall as I checked each door, trying to find an open one. Nothing. I returned to my classroom and began rummaging around in the desk there. Eureka! A telephone book! I found the number for the main office and hoped it would ring the security desk downstairs. But how to call from this phone? The number doesn’t work. 0 and the number doesn’t work. 1 and the number doesn’t work and so on and so on. Finally, 9 and the number worked. “Bank blah, blah, blah. Słucham,” a very bored male voice answered. “Is this the office in Rynek,” I ask. “Yes,” he answered and as I started my explanation he said “I’m on my way up.” He knew who I was because he had been watching me on his monitor. I half expected him to compliment my dancing, but he just let me out with a smile in his eyes. At least he had been entertained. Glad to be of service.
image Security guards are the most important people in the office (well, next to the cleaning ladies) and the most important of all security guards would be the weekend security guard. To get into an office building on the weekends, you practically have to give blood. Who are you? Where are you going? For how long? And of course why? English lessons. Didn’t you hear my accent? No, why on Saturday? I forgot to mention that most of these questions are not required for any paperwork or any security protocol. They are only to satisfy the curiosity of a bored out of his mind security guard.
What do bored security guards do? From my experience, besides spying on people in the building, they also actually secure the building. I mean they walk around, checking that the doors are locked or what’s going on in the parking lot. There are also the guards who are supposed to stay put, to sit at their desk or in their budka and secure the building from a seated position. In my experience, they often read the newspaper, do crossword puzzles, listen to the radio and drink coffee.
So, one Saturday morning as I approached the security booth in one of the City’s office building, I practiced my speech in my head. Security guards don’t usually speak English (but sometimes they do!). Dzień dobry. Jestem Pani od angielskiego….. I approached the booth and rattled off my speech glancing at the clock and noticing that I was almost late for my lesson. From the booth, no response. I leaned down and said my speech a little louder and closer to the “window”. Nothing. I tapped and wrapped, at first lightly on the glass and then louder and louder with no response. I said firmly '’Proszę Pana” and then screamed at the top of my lungs “Proszęęęęęęęęęęę Panaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” Nothing.
Oh shit! I ran as fast as I could to the 3rd floor, burst in the office door and ran to the kitchen where I could hear my student already making coffee for us. “R, R, Robert,” I barely got out his name as I was out of breath from my sprint up the stairs. “What?” he asked in shock. “Your security guard is dead!” I shouted. “Wait here,” he ordered looking all managerial and took off out the door and down the stairs. I waited nervously, wringing my hands and pacing back and forth in the kitchen thinking, “Shit, why do these things always happen to me?” Actually, nothing like that had ever happened to me and technically this was not even happening to me as I was not the dead one, just the poor, old, kind gentleman responsible for handing out the keys to English teachers on Saturday mornings.
After a few minutes, I heard the click of the door and saw my student slowly walking towards the kitchen. He was not in any hurry to reach me, but why should he be? It’s not like the security guard was going to get any more (or any less) dead if he hurried. He approached me, took a breath and I braced myself for confirmation of the bad news. He said with a sigh, “Chris, the security guard is not dead. He’s old, about 70 and wears a hearing aid. He’s not dead. He was asleep and didn’t hear you.” image
I forgot to mention that the most common thing that bored security guards do is sleep.
Sweet dreams!
Check out this post by Sebastian po polsku on the same topic. Thanks for the inspiration.

12 comments:

miss said...

:):):)

Chris said...

I wasn't sure anyone would read this post 'cause it is soooo long.

Anonymous said...

I've just read it ! Proszeeeeee Panaaaaaaa, hee hee. Good night, Chris. It's me, Zzo.

Stardust said...

Great story:))) Dead security guard:))))

ds said...

I had no idea the work of an english teacher can be sooo interesting ;) myself I have been working in some banks (though not as a teacher) so I know what you are talking about. and could tell some stories as well ;)

Chris said...

ds- Do tell! Do tell! We won't tell anyone. We swear!

AnetaCuse said...

The story was hilarious, but the most shocking piece was the fact that offices in Poland are so guarded. I had no idea!

Chris said...

...like Fort Knox, Aneta, or even better.

Tabdel said...

ekhm ekhm Prosze Panaaaa a Pan lululu hehehehe
I have many stories like that one, jaw-dropping and unpredictable.
I am like as a sellotape for this kind of situation.
Chris, enjoy your week and the securities as well hihi!!!!!

Chris said...

I'm glad to know that it is not only me!

Prezentuje Prezenty said...

Seriously Chris, you should mark these types of stories with: "to be read when you can laugh out loud!" - it's unfair if you don't ;)

Chris said...

Maybe a new label "LOL"?