Let me take you back to the summer of 2001. I was 19 years old and trying to scrounge up some extra cash before my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
During that summer I painted houses and went back to my old high-school grocery-store job to keep myself working and relatively financially independent. Although, I’m sure my mom would disagree about that point.
Then in early July during Summerfest, Milwaukee’s premier entertainment festival, a friend said I could make some good money working a security job with him. My friend sold me on the ease of the job and it seemed interesting if only because it was different.
One of my favorite lines from the movie “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” comes in the final act. Burgundy (played by actor Will Ferrell) jumps into the San Diego Zoo’s bear pit to save his love’s life (yes, it’s ridiculous) and says, “I immediately regret this decision.”
I was paired up with a veteran worker from the company and thankfully he had a little more muscle than I had (read: none on my end) when I was a much slimmer guy. In the six-hour shift, I broke up numerous fights between drunk young adults (possibly teenagers, I didn’t check IDs) and escorted them to the makeshift holding area on the grounds.
At midnight, my security career was capped off when I collected my pay and politely declined any more shifts.
I had not thought about that night in a very long time, but I immediately had flashbacks when speaking with David Jacques about his experience working nights at Seattle’s King County Correctional Facility. Jacques was the MEP engineer on the complete piping overhaul of the prison, which features a population of more than 1,000 inmates.
All workers that came inside the facility had to have a security detail with them at all times. Workers were warned to not make eye contact with inmates or risk being hassled.
These were far from ideal work conditions, but Jacques and company prevailed. King County has a new system that is working optimally and Jacques has a lot of stories to share. Read the full story on the King County project in this month’s issue.
Now was a security job going to be the apex of my career? No, far from it. But, at the time I ran away from it as fast as possible because of the vigor and potential danger that came with the gig.
I implore you all to not think like I did as a relatively poor 19-year-old. Opportunities to lockdown work on a major prison project or something similar do not come along very often. To shy away from securing a job because of potential, yet manageable, issues would be foolhardy.
That’s not to say you should not ignore or not protect all the valuable assets you provide. Your people, services and time must be properly cared for in such a high-risk, high-reward job. Just don’t walk away from a chance without covering all the bases.
Ten years after that security job, I was offered a new position that greatly scared me. The job would see me leave the friendly confines of sports journalism for a plumbing trade publication group called BNP Media. I’m glad I learned my own lesson.
Plus, now that I’ve put on a lot more weight, I’m confident in breaking up all the fights in our office! (There are no fights in the office.)