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The Greeting Guard

I'm always a little anxious around here about repeating myself.

(Unless -- I say, I say, unless -- I'm in a Foghorn Leghorn sorta mood.

That's Leghorn, son. It's a bird joke! I say, a bird joke! Your firehose don't go all the way out to the reservoir tip, do it, son?)

Repetition, as they say, begets... well, I don't know what they say it begets, exactly. But it's pretty boring reading the same thing over and over, so I try not to do it. That's the idea.

Of course, with several hundred entries piling up in the archives, it's not always possible to be entirely novel. So when I thought about posting something tonight that has to do with a certain security guard where I work, it occurred to me that I'd already posted something about a guard once. Different guard, but same office. And a different complaint. Still. Would it seem too similar? Would people read it and think, 'ah, he's running out of ideas; it's this old thing again'? Dare I risk falling into a guard-bashing rut? Oh noes!

So I looked up the other piece. Turns out I wrote it two-and-a-half years ago. This I can remember, but I have to write my own phone number in the waistband of my underpants. Memory is a fickle bitch sometimes.

And I've decided to press on with my plan. So at the risk of some random asshole checking in here once every thirty months and saying, 'Pffft, all this guy does is bitch about security guards,' I'm going for it.

You didn't need to see all of that. I just thought you'd like to know the lovingly nurtured batshit neuroses that go into each and every post. Even behind the scenes. I can't turn it off. Heaven knows I've tried. So enjoy. Somebody ought to.

At the office where I work, we pass a security station when we come in the door. And one of the regular guards is kind of getting on my nerves.

(SUHR-PRISE, SUHR-PRISE, SERGEANT CARTER!, because you didn't see that coming after eight paragraphs of explaining it, did you?

Sorry. I'm done now. No more parentheses. For a while.)

Most of the regular guards these days just sort of sit there, most of the time. At least at the side door I usually use. Maybe the main door security team is a crack staff of ID checkers, threat assessors, emergency exit path clearers and old-lady-across-the-street walkers. For all I know, they kick name and take ass all up and down the joint, seven days a week -- over at the main entrance.

"If we have to risk letting a whacked-out maniac in the door just so I and the other legitimate employees can shave a few seconds off our schlep through the gates of hell, then so be it."

The side door? Not so much. And that's just peachy with me. I'm not remotely interested in fishing my ID out of my pants every time I walk through that door with a laptop or a lunch burrito or a pillow and down comforter, the better to nap underneath my desk. If we have to risk letting a whacked-out maniac in the door just so I and the other legitimate employees can shave a few seconds off our schlep through the gates of hell, then so be it. Frankly, they'll fit right in.

Evidently, the office is pretty pleased with this particular brand of no-getters, because mostly the same few guards have been on duty for several months now. I see the same faces in the morning and evening, or occasionally aimlessly wandering a hallway or taking a whiz in the alley out back. Most of them will greet you -- assuming they're not actually whizzing in the alley out back when you see them -- with a nod or a quick 's'up?' in the morning, and a 'see you' or 'g'night' at day's end. Simple, friendly, low-effort and pleasant.

Except the one guy.

The one guy is not like the others. He sits a little straighter in his chair, his eyes shine a little brighter. His tail, I can only venture to guess, may fluff a little bushier. I don't know whether it's ambition, a desire to be noticed, a desperate plea for human contact, or if he was just raised a 'nice boy' by his parents somewhere outside the 'eff you, neighbor!' Northeast United States. But the one guy doesn't give you a nod. Oh, no. He gives you a greeting. Fully-enunciated, achingly polite, and with impeccable sentence structure, the one guy GREETS you. Like some kind of cheerful cunning tiger. You think you're safe, and then out of nowhere, 'RAWR! -- oh, it has done been greetened up in here.

Take a typical Monday morning for me. I've got a meeting at 9am sharp, so naturally, I'm hitting the front door at maybe 9:03, 9:10, something like that. I'm in a rush. If I bothered to have breakfast, it's mostly on my shirt. I might have one shoe on, and may well have shampooed with Aquafresh. That's my Monday, and I'm speeding past the security stand to get to the rest of the fun, fun, fun. And usually, I can. But if the one guy is working, I'll hear:

'Hello, sir. I hope you have a very pleasant morning today.'

Often, that'll stop me in my uni-shoed tracks, just to process it. I mean, who says that? I haven't spent that many consecutive spoken words on one human being that wasn't either paying me or married to me in years. But if I stand there long enough, trying to formulate an appropriate response, he'll hammer the next person with something just as mind-blowing:

'And you, ma'am. Best wishes for a lovely day.'

Sometimes we pile up just past the desk, smoke pouring from our tangled bodies like the human aftermath of some flabbergasted demolition derby. The guy's got us by our short and not-enough-coffees. We're just not prepared for that kind of interaction, of putting words together to acknowledge another human being -- and wish them a happy day! -- on such short notice. It's unhuman.

I usually end up stammering out a 'you, too!' or 'yeah!' at him. Or possibly, 'bleargh!', because let's face it -- at that hour of the day, I'm lucky to be walking on only two legs. Language skills will likely not kick in till noon.

(You've seen those 'Evolution of Man' posters, where we rise from chimp to Homo sapiens in four or five hairy hunchbacked stages? That's me, every morning. You schedule a meeting with me at ten, I might discover fire in the conference room, or sharpen a stick for hunting. But the conversation's going to be less than sparkling, I'm afraid. Try me after lunch, there, Tarzan.)

And even this tiny, inadequate victory goes not unpunished. If I manage miraculously to respond in the affirmative, he's back on the prey like an impossibly polite bird of prey on a half-asleep addled hamster:

'Why, thank you, sir -- I will have a good day, too. Much appreciated!'

I'm telling you. The guy is relentless. It's like having tea with the Terminator.

And then, at the end of the day -- just when you've forgotten all about the morning gotcha -- he's there again at the desk. Happily -- some might say inexorably -- wishing you a super evening, momentous night, joyous weekend, or whatever the hell else he can think to throw at you. Wave after wave of pleasantness, day in and day out. He's no man; he's Miss Manners incarnate, come back to shame us mere rude mortals into behaving better. Or taking a shitload of sick days. Or maybe using the main door for a change.

Me, I've taken to wearing a neck brace to work. I take it off in the elevator in the morning, and strap it on again on the ride down at night. If I look sufficiently injured, and maybe my jaw's wired shut or something, I figured it might keep the banter at bay. Clearly, it would be painful -- maybe even impossible -- for me to respond.

Happily, it works like a charm. Now, while Joe Friendly guard piles people up like a sniper with a magazine full of .38 caliber well wishes, I step over the mangled heap with nothing more than a grin and maybe a quick thumbs up. A really friendly, enthusiastic thumbs up, sure. But does that require a response? No. No, it doesn't. Like a charm.

Of course, it's been a few weeks now. I think he's starting to get suspicious that anyone could be in a brace for this long without getting better -- or dying, or something. So I'm just waiting for him to 'accidentally' drop a book on the floor or clap loudly, getting me to turn my neck on the way by. And then the jig will be up. And I'll be back in the two-a-day greeting line, taking my polite medicine with the rest of the cretinous heathens again.

Or I'll walk all the way around the stupid building to the main door. That's got to be easier. It just has to.

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