I was a security guard in 1986 and 1987, working for a well-known multi-national computer company. It wasn’t an exciting position by any means, but I did my work to the best of my ability, and used whatever spare time I could arrange to do homework.
The position was at a small warehouse in Markham, North of Toronto – a place where old machines were broken up, salvaged, and disposed of. The warehouse was about 400,000 square feet, with loading docks, industrial machinery, and high shelves accessible only by forklifts. My responsibilities were simple: six nights a week, from 5 to midnight, I was to conduct regular patrols for safety and security, supervise the cleaning staff until they were finished (usually around 8pm), and accept any late deliveries that happened to come in.
Most nights, when my patrols were done the cleaners were gone and I was alone, I would do my reading and writing for school. Then I’d turn on the radio and listen to the baseball game, a hockey game, perhaps followed by some late night easy-listening. Sometimes I’d tune in to the CBC and catch some of the radio plays they used to air. Quite often though, I’d sit alone in my little office, staring through the windows that looked out into the warehouse, just contemplating the world and the near silence of the building.
I say ‘near’ because in truth it was far from silent. There were many ambient noises that I was used to, and which were always expected. The heaters in the ceiling would kick on and off at intervals, for example, and the electrical hum of the fluorescent lights and forklift charging units was pretty much constant.
When the cleaning staff left every night I would always do a final patrol. Typical stuff – check that doors and windows were closed and locked, confirm that the motion-sensors were unobstructed, make sure that all the slide locks of the roll-up doors were engaged. As a matter of course I would ensure that loads were secure on their pallets, and that nothing looked precarious. The basic idea was – no excitement. Once I knew everything was locked up and stable I could basically run the place from the motion panel in my office. Thus, once the cleaners were gone the night was basically my own.
For the most part this was the extent of the job. Show up, supervise, patrol, and do my homework. But once in a while things were a little different. Putting it mildly, there were a few occasions when the warehouse became significantly more mysterious.
The first time it was a simple thing. I was in my office, the radio was off. It was silent in the building. Suddenly there was a loud noise in the shelving racks – a bang or crash, as if something heavy had fallen from a great height to the hard cement floor. What first sprang to mind was one of the steel hand trucks – but that was crazy – they were low and heavy, and they weren’t kept in the racks. I checked the panel – everything was quiet – so I ventured away from my office a few feet, head cocked, listening as closely as I could. There was nothing more to hear, though, and as I sidled into the darkened shelving racks to have a closer look, there was nothing to see either. Everything was exactly as it should be. There was no sign of anything having fallen.
That was the first time. It was several months before the second. More on that soon.