I got out of the Air Force in Omaha, Nebraska, and my girlfriend was living in Hawaii. Before I had signed my last separation document, she’d already booked my airline ticket back to the Islands.
She made pretty good money, and, the first thing she said when I arrived, was for me to take some time off, relax, go to the beach and do some of the things I didn’t have time for when I was stationed in Hawaii.
My time off lasted about two weeks, I got bored; I missed working. Since I wasn’t really ready to join the police department, I figured I’d get a security job. I wanted to do something to put a little extra spending cash in my pocket.
The first place I went to was a company named Freeman Guards. I filled out an application; they issued me uniforms and a schedule, all in little over an hour. It was so quick; I had to ask the lady twice if I was already hired. I worked the same night in a high-rise building in downtown Honolulu.
The first night was uneventful, but, I did learn a few things about working as a guard. First, very few of the companies paid guards on Fridays. This was because, when they did pay employees on Fridays, no one came back to work until after they were broke or when the weekend was over, whichever came first.
I learned, whenever they told you that your relief was on the way, chances were, they weren’t. They were just stalling you while they were trying to find his replacement. This lesson I’d learned, firsthand, a couple of days later.
For my second assignment, they sent me to guard a nice house in Hawaii Kai. I arrived there just as it was getting dark. My relief met me at the gate. The house had been recently purchased by some wealthy Japanese businessman and although it probably didn’t need it, he’d decided to have it renovated before moving in. My job was to be fire watch until 6 am.
Not a bad assignment. I could read and walk down to the beach, and, basically, patrol the property which really didn’t need it because it had a ten-foot high fence all the way around. My first night went by fine. My relief arrived a few minutes before six o’clock and I went home to try and catch some sleep.
On the following shift, I started experiencing problems. My hours were from 10 pm till 6 am on a Friday. The night was cool. But, in the morning, it was 6:15 and no relief in sight. I called the control center, asked where my relief might be, and was told he probably was just running late. Ok, I’d give it a little more time.
At 6:30, he was still not there. I called the station and this time was told that he had a problem with his car and he’d be there to relieve me about 7 am. When I called at 7 am, I was told that he wouldn’t be able to make it and that they were trying to find someone to take his shift.
At 8 am, they called me back and asked me if I could possibly work till 10 am because the only person that could relieve me wouldn’t be able to get there until then. Also, they reminded me that the extra hours would be paid at time and a half.
Around 10:15, I called the control center and inquired about my relief. To my amazement, the operator I’d been talking with had been relieved. The new one had no idea what I was talking about.
After explaining the situation to her, she assured me that she’d find out who was supposed to relieve me, and, make sure they were on their way. She called me back an hour later and informed me that she had no idea who was going to relieve me, because the girl she relieved wouldn’t answer her phone. Of course, not only had the previous operator not informed her of the situation but she had also left no notes.
I was beginning to get frustrated, but she was so nice I allowed her to talk me into staying the complete shift. She too reminded me it was for time and a half pay.
To make sure they had found someone to relieve me at 2:00, I called the operator back at 1:45. She assured me that my relief would be there by 2:00 and how much she appreciated my working with them and covering the location. By this time, I was really starting to get tired, and I was past being bored.
At 2:15 pm, when there was still no relief, I called back to the operator. This time, I was not very nice. She assured me that all was well and someone was on the way. My stuff was packed and I was ready to go home.
At 3:00, the phone rang and it was a different operator. She was all nice and polite, and begged me to man the post until 4 pm. She told me she’d have someone from another post relieve me by then, to stay until that person had arrived. What the hell, I’d been here for 13 hours already anyway. What was one more?
Needless to say, no one arrived at 4 pm and when I called the number I had for the operator, no one answered. I couldn’t bring myself to just walk away; the military had drilled into us that you never ever abandoned your post!
I finally reached someone at 6 pm, a new operator again. She had no idea what I was talking about or even who the hell I was. It was at that moment I realized that civilians didn’t have the same standards as military personnel, and if I wanted to survive in the civilian world, I’d have to adapt quickly. I hung up the phone, grabbed my shit and left.
As I was locking the gate behind me, I heard the phone ringing. And I wondered, what new lie they’d made up to keep me there a little bit longer.