By Hank Nuwer
My supervisor was quite clear when he left the bank to drive off in his Burns Detective Security car.
“Under no circumstances open any windows.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, not anticipating any problems.
The bank I guarded on the midnight-to-eight shift was located on Grant Street in the Black Rock section of Buffalo. It was a ten-minute walk from the campus of Buffalo State College where I was an English major.
The job didn’t pay much, but it had real benefits. There were only two floors, and so making the rounds was a snap.
I had plenty of time to study.
The air conditioning was on when my supervisor opened the door about 11:50 p.m. He was nice and cool in his short-sleeve uniform shirt.
The shirt with a badge the agency had given me was made of heavy material and long-sleeved. Definitely not the most comfortable apparel for July.
I had no weapons.
I’m not sure why, but before he left, he switched off the air conditioning unit.
By 3 a.m. I was sweltering. I mean, I sweated bullets.
I discarded the shirt and bade. I kept on my white undershirt.
Then I monkeyed with the air conditioning unit, but it was no dice. I couldn’t get it started.
Maybe 30 minutes more and I said, “to heck with it.”
I opened the biggest window downstairs and breathed in a waft of cold air.
Then I went back to my book and concentrated.
My attention was drawn to the squeal of tires and red gumball machines flashing.
I got even more attentive when I looked out the front glass door and saw three SWAT team officers with their automatic rifles pointed at one very worried bank guard.
Another officer came to the door with a bullhorn.
He ordered me to show my hands and walk slowly to the door.
“No funny business,” he barked.
I guess that meant no jokes.
Like no pointing my finger at the door and blowing on the tip as if it were smoke.
“Now open it.”
Which I did.
Two of the officers hit me like linebackers.
They got up and I stayed down.
I answered a flurry of their questions. Finally, one said, what did you do to press the silent alarm?”
Oh gee. “Silent alarm, duh.”
I whispered, “I opened a window.”
The officer asked if my boss had lacked the sense to tell me to keep the windows closed.
I admitted he had kinda sorta probably mentioned it.
“Get him on the phone.”
The supervisor was steaming as he came through the door.
We’ll skip what he said in this family newspaper.
“I have to pee,” I said.
Lethal weapons pointed at my chest have a certain stimulating effect on my bladder.
“You’ll go when I say so.”
The police officers weren’t very nice to the supervisor as they left.
They had probably been grabbing a couple hours of shuteye at the station when the alarm awoke them.
After they left, the supervisor let me go to the john. Then he lay down the law.
The next 12-to-eight shift would be the worst beat he had to assign. I’d be stationed at the Anaconda American Brass Co.
There would be no time for study, He said he’d meet me before shift.
Which he did. The company was out-of-the-way. It took me three bus connections to get there.
And there, he gave me a huge ring containing a dozen or more keys.
He said I’d be marching all night to fit the keys into the locks. I had a certain amount of time to get from one to the next.
If I failed to get to a lock on time, someone from the police would show up to demand a reason why.
“Can I open any windows?” I joked.
He was not amused.
By 8 a.m., I was sore-footed and brain dead.
The supervisor came with my relief man. So did the company workers to start their day labors.
He told me if I had learned my lesson, he had a trailer I could guard that night. It was a building site. Some sneak thief had been swiping pipes and lumber.
So that night I started the new gig, as I would the next few weeks.
The supervisor handed me a billy club with a leather strap. I was supposed to rap on the window to scare any thieves off, then call police to catch them.
No thieves showed up even once, thank goodness.
So, I got done lots of schoolwork.
And you can bet your last dollar that I opened no more windows.
Hank Nuwer is an author, columnist and playwright. He and wife Gosia live on the Indiana side of the Union City state line. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.