I was in the control room when my phone buzzed with a security Google alert. Normally, these lead to cybercrime headlines or iTunes updates, but this one was different.
My shift mates and I watched as Spider-Man, Snow White, Mario and Ali G pushed through Clapham Common Asda, punching bystanders and grappling with the bloke on the door.
I’m a campus security guard. Watching the video reminded me of every scuffle I’ve been involved with, from local kids stoning windows for LOLs to an intoxicated student using Desperados bottles as nunchucks and screaming that he needed to work on his architecture portfolio.
Those sights tailed off once the pandemic struck. During the first wave, it got so quiet we could watch squirrel versus crow on CCTV.
Then, as “stay at home” changed to “stay alert”, humans reappeared. We’d be helping junkies out of car parks, or trying to calm down people whose mental health was suffering.
Wearing bodycams no doubt helps protect us. Today’s generation may have grown up sharing selfies, but no-one wants one of their tantrums played back to a jury.
During my last big altercation, it was me being filmed. I was on the front desk, and an office temp had told me that her stalker was in the building. I found him sitting with three friends. When I asked them for ID, the stalker pulled out his phone, press record, and began screaming about violating his rights.
I recited the visitor policy – I’d memorised it verbatim before confronting him – and said that I’d phone the police to confirm that he was right and I was wrong. The gang bolted shortly afterwards.
Sometimes I get a kicking in my dreams. It’s either that or my colleagues are being attacked and I’m frozen, no leg bones, like I’m on ketamine. Or, even worse, my radio’s sounding, but I can’t reach my belt.
I don’t need therapy to work out what causes that last one: gossiping while accidentally keying transmit. It’s a pratfall nearly every guard’s experienced, but at least I’ve never done it as spectacularly as a colleague of mine who used to be on the docks.
He was recounting the highlights of his holiday while leaning on the mic, and clogging an entire shipping security channel. I apologise if you were one of the cruise passengers who got delayed in the ferry queue he caused.
I’ve been in the job fifteen years, and it’s stress that does the most damage to guards, not brawling. We’re sometimes first on scene for a suspected suicide, and have to administer emergency first aid. Or, in the worst case, lock the area off and call the police.
If it blows up, I’ll stick to my training: don’t let people get close enough to pull your mask off, but use preventative measures before physical intervention. Try to listen. And pray you don’t end up as a Paul Blart meme.
On the subject of web infamy, I’ve already met Spider-Man. It was seven years ago: I was on patrol when I saw a drama student in a red and blue leotard. His mates were filming him trying to do a backflip.
I asked them if they wanted a decent background, and used my master keys to take them to the top level of the nearest block, the one with the view across the city. I even took the photo for them. Being helpful has saved me a lot of bother before Covid-19. I hope it continues to work.
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