My name is Stanchion. I walk a cruel beat. I do not work in an office cubicle or behind a counter. The promenades and boutiques of Clover Square Mall are my home. I am a mall security guard.
Don't thank me. I'm not in it for the accolades. If you just respect your fellow shoppers and throw away your cups when you're finished, that's all the thanks I need.
Monday, 12:14 p.m. I am dispatched to Orange Julius on a disturbance call. A Caucasian woman in her early 30s is complaining about a hair in her drink. I can hear her carrying on all the way from The Sunglass Hut. But when she lays eyes on my uniform, she gets quiet real quick and starts listening to reason. She might have torn the place apart if I hadn't been there.
Monday, 2:33 p.m. I get a report of a dog entering the mall at the Sears lower-level entrance. Arriving on the scene, I see an adult golden retriever leading a blind African-American male in his late 50s. Seeing-eye dogs are the one exception to the mall's strict no-pets rule. Crisis averted.
I can still remember my first day on the job. It was trial by fire. Not an hour after my shift started, I exited the service corridor and saw some kids walking up the down escalator. Escalators were apparently a big joke to them. A big joke until they got a taste of mall justice, Stanchion style. I told them that if I ever saw their faces around there again, they'd better not be heading up the down escalator. That straightened them out, but good.
I see the would-be troublemakers every day, those who would shout or litter or run. Then there are the punks who think it's funny to throw wadded-up mall maps or Arby's wrappers off the level-two balcony at helpless passersby. When they see me, a kind of resentment flares up in their eyes. They see me, and they know: Bud is here, and that garbage isn't gonna fly. Their twisted idea of "fun" is not welcome here.
It all started when I was a young boy. Every Saturday, my mother would take me to the mall. My pulse quickened at the sight of the Kay-Bee Toy & Hobby Shop and Dream Machine video arcade. But more than anything, the mall security guards fascinated me. Their crisp uniforms, their regal bearing, that sense of purpose–these were leaders among men.
Then, one Saturday, when I was eight or so, some bullies from school grabbed my hat and ran off with it. A security guard not only stopped them, but told them to give my hat back. I knew right then and there what I would grow up to do.
Today, I have achieved my dream. But do not think it is all glory and parades. My life is a hard one. Without me, there would be anarchy. Anarchy stretching from the J.C. Penney perfume counter to the Suncoast Motion Picture Company, and extending well into the Nordstrom's parking lot. Not in my mall. Over my cold, dead cadaver will teens loiter in the food court. It's not fun telling them to buy something or leave. But if I don't, who will?
There is a T.G.I. Friday's next to the movie theater, and that means mall drunks–the lowest form of life. Last month, a group of such persons decided to "have a few" before tottering off to see The Wedding Singer, and they came out so inebriated that one of the young ladies accidentally walked into Foot Locker, apparently mistaking it for the movie theater. I apprehended the drunk and advised her of the proper facility. Case closed.
Christmas time is the worst. Twice the bodies, 10 times the potential for chaos. I can feel the tension mount the day after Thanksgiving, when Santa's Workshop goes up. That's the day I start going on Vivarin to keep myself alert through the five-week marathon. December is a blur, a roiling river of people, ever threatening to overflow its banks and destroy the carefully maintained paradise that is mall life. Security is doubled for the holidays, but I wish it were tripled. I can only be in one place at a time.
Monday, 5:04 p.m. I pass by Electronics Boutique. Part of me wants to stop and face my demons, but I cannot bring myself to do it. I walk past the store without looking. More than two years later, the memories are still too painful, the wounds too fresh.
Thursday, November 3, 1995. Early afternoon. I have been working as a security guard at Clover Square Mall for two, maybe three months. The world is my oyster. I veer off my usual route and stop for a Mountain Dew at Mrs. Fields.
As I lean against the counter, shooting the breeze with Gail, I hear a distinctive clap-clap sound coming from the direction of Electronics Boutique. That sound can only mean one thing–running. Past Waldenbooks, Eddie Bauer, Lane Bryant and Sbarro runs a young Caucasian male. Paul, the assistant manager of Electronics Boutique, is pursuing him. I give chase, but I am too late. The perpetrator has escaped with a brand-new copy of Madden '96.
YOU COULD HAVE BEEN THERE. I was young, damn it. YOU COULD HAVE STOPPED HIM. I am a human being, not a god. HE IS OUT THERE STILL. I don't know that.
Stop, I tell myself. Wrestle with those demons on your own time. You have a job to do, a mall to protect.
Although I admit it to no one, I still find myself wishing that shoplifter would return. Return and take on the older, wiser Bud Stanchion. Then, at long last, I would have a chance to conquer my dark side and feel alive once again. Then, I could finally spend my nights watching television or reading a book like a normal person, rather than obsessively going over the mall layout, planning heists and plotting getaways in an attempt to understand and anticipate my foe's every move.
There are 120 stores in Clover Square Mall, and a million stories. Mine is an age-old one, the story of good struggling against evil in the clean-swept arena of suburban retail. If I could be in every mall, everywhere, I would. But I cannot. It is up to all of us.