Friday, 23 August 2013

Portrait of Three Extremely Old Guys

We seem to have a new security guard in the dormitory. He is small and unassuming, and seems to still be getting used to the job. Other than that I don't a thing about him, but really, I'm not exactly a fountain of knowledge on the original three, either.

It's amazing, actually, how they can be such a constant fixture of our everyday lives while being completely detached from them. My housemates, I've developed friendships and rivalries with; the relationship I have with the staff is similar to the one I have with the furniture. I don't mean to sound like a bourgeoisie twit failing to treat the blue-collar workers around me like human beings, but they are so omnipresent, and yet so quiet, that my consciousness just sort of scans past them whenever they are around. I once, just once, heard one of the guards say his own name when answering the phone. Unfortunately, I forgot it immediately. Even so, after seeing this little crew almost every single day for months, I've picked up little observations and attached vague personality traits to them.

They seem to understand quite well that although this is indeed their workplace, it is our living space first and foremost, and I truly appreciate that they treat it with the same respect as you would a friend's bedroom. This is quite easy to accomplish, as the security guards' main task is to walk up and down the various halls of each floor once every couple of hours, and to otherwise be available at the front office, where they fill the hours doing security guard things, mainly watching a lot of dramas. They also pull the worst split shifts ever, seemingly working all afternoon and evening, sleeping for six hours, and then carrying on for much of the morning before finally being relieved. This means, of course, that there is no guard posted during the nighttime, nor is there on weekends, which is strange to me, because those seem like the times when you would most want one to be keeping an eye out. The only thing they have in common with each other is their job and the fact that they are all extremely old.

The first one I like to call the Overly Happy Guy, because I have not once seen him in anything but the highest of spirits. He greets us with great enthusiasm every time he enters the room, and takes the trouble to bid goodnight to each floor every time he signs off. If his countenance and body language are anything to go by, he finds every day to be as physically and spiritually satisfying as Thanksgiving dinner. That really ought to be assuring, but it is actually quite worrisome. No normal person can be that happy all the time. There must be something terrible going on up there that he isn't telling us about. He's actually kind of annoying, as well, as it's best to do away with any engagement whatsoever; if he catches on that you possess even a smattering of Japanese skill, you risk being drawn into a protracted conversation on the most mundane topics imaginable. He is also quite weak and frail-looking, and I fear that if this place ever actually encountered an emergency of any kind he would quickly be vanquished, so I do not find his presence in any way reassuring at all.

Still, I much prefer him to his counterpart, who looks at any given time like he is fighting within himself a deep desire to murder us all. He possesses a glare that would reduce a Viking to a cowering jumble of steel and furs, which he wears at all times. On the other hand, it does seem like if we were ever to fall afoul of a robber or escaped convict while he was on duty, he would deliver a swift blow to the head with the heavy orange flashlight he carries, ending the situation in moments. In the end, I'd rather a stone cold get-off-my-lawn type had my back than a gladhander, though I will never repeal his nickname of the Terrifying Guy. That said, Cough Medicine refers to him as a the Secretly Happy Guy, citing his habit of playing with the little kid from the Indian family that lives on the first floor, and sometimes – reportedly, though I have never seen it – laugh uncontrollably in the French girl's face, evidently enjoying some private joke.

Our final defender, the Bald Guy, sits somewhere between these two extremes of Woody Allen and Conan the Barbarian. Though diminutive and not shy about flashing a kind smile when appropriate, he also looks to me as though beneath his heavy overcoat ripple the muscles of a trained fighter, and he could easily dismantle bodily the first person who made a hint of trouble for us or university property. He appears eminently collected wherever he is, suggesting the easy comfort of a man who has seen it all by now and is now left with neither anything to fear nor to prove. From time to time I like to invent outrageous backstories for him, like that in his younger days he was a Special Forces captain or an enforcer for the mob, and has come here to supplement his retirement with a modest income and a little something to structure his days around. For obvious reasons, this is by far my favourite of the three, and I think he would make an excellent comic book character or soft drink spokesman.

Amazingly, I find it very difficult to envision any one of them at home or on his day off.

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