A Walk Down Misery Street

“Okay, man, you’re hired, for 15.50 bucks an hour. It is a decent salary for a first job. I am sending you to a great spot.”

Right after the interview in the office, I was handed a uniform, gray wide pants, a heavy jacket, a visor with an emblem, a winter jacket, and two white shirts. The next evening, I was on my way to the new job, which the boss referred to as the “great spot.”

This great spot turned out to be a five-story supermarket in the famous Time Warner skyscraper on Columbus Circle. My new supervisor greeted me there and, after a brief introduction, commanded me to go to the Security Operations Center to get a walkie-talkie and then quickly get back to patrolling the first floor. Thirty minutes later, I was walking along the wide corridors, from the revolving doors at one end of the corridor to the door on the other end, eyeing the shop window displays.

The shops were closing, and patrons were exiting the supermarket. I was walking around, waiting for the action to start. I expected that I would be restraining law-breakers every hour, chasing thieves, and discovering terrorists. However, it was quiet and calm there. I kept roaming, waiting for when I would start doing something specific. Yet on the first day, I had no clue what my new job entailed, its essence. I didn’t expect that when one became a security guard, he would find himself in a purely surreal world of what security guards call “making hours.” “How many hours did you do today?” “How many hours do you plan to make tomorrow?”, etc. These commonplace phrases are found in the security guards’ vocabulary.

While patrolling the empty corridor I started singing my favorite songs. “Yesterda-a-ay, all my troubles seemed so far awa-a-ay…” “Mama-a, I just killed a ma-an…”

I recalled the times when I was crazy about Western rock music as a teenager in Russia. I often visited the record store where they sold some electronics, vinyl records, and CDs with patriotic Russian songs. Usually, there were not a lot of visitors, but outside the store were always scalpers and music fanatics, modestly holding cheap burlap sacks in their hands, with recordings from the Beatles, the Doors, and Queen concerts. The rare records, discs, and posters were sold or exchanged.

Close by in the alley, there were undercover policemen closely watching the sellers of western propaganda. Sometimes they staged raids, taking everyone to the police station (the sellers and the buyers). I was also arrested a few times and taken to the police station, and then my parents and school’s principal were informed that I am a reckless student and not a Russian patriot, but a traitor to my homeland.