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Why would anyone call himself the Bastard Officer From Hell?  Well, no matter how nice a person you are, no matter how helpful you try to be, no matter how professionally you perform your duties, if your job title has "officer" in it you're eventually going to make someone become very angry with you.  Oh, it's all smiles when you're changing a flat tire, finding a lost loved one, or helping a little old lady across the street.  In those cases, you're likely to hear yourself referred to as "such a nice young man," or "an officer and a gentleman," or even "the most helpful safety/security/police/military officer I've ever met."  On the other hand, when you catch someone violating policy, procedure, common sense, or even local, state, or federal law, you hear yourself referred to in other terms.  As in, "We would have had the equipment moved hours ago, but some bastard officer from hell wouldn't let us prop open the fire doors, throw scrap down from the roof, or haul asbestos out through the lobby.  And now, thanks to that jerk, I've got to go down to the police department and swear out a complaint against they guy he caught stealing tools from our truck."  And, yes, that pretty much is a direct quote.

2004.05.31 Stupidity is NOT a Protected Disability - Part 2

posted Mar 26, 2010, 6:04 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Mar 26, 2010, 6:09 AM ]

As you may remember from last week, my boss got the brilliant idea that security should spend more time enforcing handicap parking laws. All this because I asked an employee not to park in those cute little hashed off areas between handicap parking spaces. It turns out that she didn't know that they were there to keep people from blocking the special ramps and powered lifts that some vehicles had. "I just knew I could always find a parking space there."

The boss never actually got around to getting us trained and certified to write citations for parking in handicap spaces, so I was limited to simply asking people to move and, if they failed to do so, call the local police and ask them to send an officer. This was a pretty low priority for the local police and often the officer would not arrive until after the violator had finished his business and gone home.

It was also a struggle to get some of the officers to actually write a citation, as they felt the $100+ fine and court costs was excessively excessive and didn't want to do that for people. One officer actually told me that since this was a hospital, he just assumed anyone parking in a handicap parking space was hurt badly enough to qualify and refused to write any tickets.

And thus it turned out that little ol' Troy was mostly left to his own devices. These devices included intimidation, sarcasm, and official-looking (but completely lacking in force of law) "noification of indicent" tickets.

Day One

The man walked up as I was writing a ticket. "Don't ticket me! I have a handicap permit in my car, officer."

"Yes, I can see that, but that is only supposed to apply to the person to which it was issued, and you look pretty darn healthy to me."

The man thanked me and flexed his biceps. They were impressive. I wondered why he was trying to impress me. Of course, he might have actually been trying to intimidate me. I don't intimidate easily. "Actually, it is mine. It's because of my high blood pressure."

High blood pressure gets you a handicap parking permit?

"Oh, yes, officer. My doctor says that because of my high blood pressure, I'm not supposed to walk long distances. Good day!"

I mulled that over as I watched him drive off. I have high blood pressure. The way my doctor talks, I'm lucky I'm alive at all. Maybe I should talk to him about this.

"Absolutely not!" was his reply. "You've got high blood pressure. Everyone knows that high blood pressure is reduced by exercise. You should park as far away from the building as possible so you have to walk farther. I've never heard of such a thing! Why, in my day..."

Day Two

The woman walked up as I was writing a ticket. "Don't ticket me! I have a handicap permit in my car, officer."

"Yes, I can see that, but that is only supposed to apply to the person to which it was issued, and you look pretty darn healthy to me."

The woman thanked me and fluffed her hair. "Actually, it is mine. It's because of my diabetes. I have high blood sugar."

High blood sugar gets you a handicap parking permit?

"Oh, yes, officer. My doctor says that because of my high blood sugar, I'm not supposed to walk long distances. Good day!"

I mulled that over as I watched her drive off. I have diabetes. The way my doctor talks, it's going to kill me faster than my high blood pressure. Maybe I should talk to him about this.

"Absolutely not!" was his reply. "Your glucose level runs dangerously high as it is. Everyone knows that blood glucose levels are reduced by exercise and extra muscle mass. You should park as far away from the building as possible so you have to walk farther. I've never heard of such a thing! Why, in my day..."

Day Three

The woman walked up as I was writing a ticket. "Don't ticket me! I have a handicap permit in my car, officer."

"Yes, I can see that, but that is only supposed to apply to the person to which it was issued, and you look pretty darn healthy to me."

The woman thanked me and bent over to display some cleavage under the guise of adjusting a shoe. "Actually, it is mine. It's because of my peripheral neuropathy."

Peripheral neuropathy gets you a handicap parking permit?

"Oh, yes, officer. In my legs. I'm not supposed to walk long distances. Good day!"

I mulled that over as I watched her drive off. The doctor once told me that the tingling in my thigh was peripheral neuropathy. It's not going to kill me any time soon, but it was annoying, and if I could get something good out of it, so be it. Maybe I should talk to him about this.

"Absolutely not!" was his reply. "Your neuropathy is caused by your diabetes. Control the diabetes and it will go away. You should park as far away from the building as possible so you have to walk farther. I've never heard of such a thing! Why, in my day..."

Day Four

The man and the woman walked up as I was writing a ticket. "Don't ticket us! We have a handicap permit in my car, officer."

"Yes, I can see that, but that is only supposed to apply to the person to which it was issued, and you both look pretty darn healthy to me."

The man thanked me for the compliment. "Actually, it is mine. It's because of my high chloresterol."

The woman interupted him. "No, it's mine, because I'm pregnant."

"Okay! Never mind! Go! Get out of here! Move!"

Day Five

The boss called me in and told me we were cancelling the project. It seemed that we were getting too many complaints. But that was okay, because he had a plan to move all handicap parking to the uppermost "unused" level of the parking garage. Luckily, that plan never got off the ground.

Besides, I had enough trouble with parking in the parking garage already. I had recently asked a lady to move because she had parked blocking one of the ramps. Luckily, there were a few spaces open so I could actually point to where she could park. "I had to park there, young man, because there are only four handicap parking spaces in the parking garage and they're all full."

Actually, there were 16, 4 on each of the 4 levels of the parking garage. I told her that she could have gone up the ramp she had been blocking and found more handicap parking. She explained that she could only park on the main because of her husband, whom I was helping out of the car. "He don't walk too good. He'd never make it down that ramp."

"Actually, you're not supposed to walk on the ramps," I explained. "That's why we have stairwells in the corners. And for those who can't walk stairs, we have elevators."

She was aghast. "Oh, he can't take an elevator! He has a heart condition!"

"He doesn't have to take the steps. We have elev... Huh?"

"He can't ride in an elevator," she repeated, slowly. "He has a heart condition."

"I can understand it keeping someone from walking long distances or climbing stairs, but but exactly does having a heart condition keep one from riding an elevator?"

"You work at a hospital and you don't understand a simple thing like that? What kind of training do you get, anyway? Who's your boss?"

I told her, and "accidentally" gave her his home phone number.

2004.05.04 Stupidity is NOT a Protected Disability - Part 1

posted Dec 22, 2009, 5:37 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Mar 26, 2010, 6:08 AM ]

I once had the pleasure of working for a boss who was constantly coming up with brilliant ideas on how I could do my job better. By "pleasure" I mean "undying agony" and by "brilliant" I mean "unbelievably stupid" as this is some of that famous Cheek sarcasm you may have heard about. I eventually learned to stop using sarcasm around this particular boss. It just never worked.

"Troy, you've got to do something about him," a co-worker once pleaded. "You do a great job of keeping the other managers in line. Why not him?"

"He's completely immune to sarcasm," I replied. "It goes right over his head. My powers are useless against him!"

Yes, my co-workers did see those in management as more in need of management than able to provide it. And, yes, I did occasionally speak like a comic book supervillian. "To the Idiotmobile!"

I would occasionally forget about my boss and his total lack of uptake when it comes to sarcasm, like one particular day when the boss called me into his office.

"Troy, please step into my office," he called.

"Sure thing, boss," I replied, closing the office door behind me. If I don't, he'll ask me to, waiting until just after I've sat down and gotten comfortable before he does so. I sat down and got comfortable.

"Please close the door," he requested.

"Sure thing, boss." I didn't move. He looked at me, blinked a few times, looked at the already closed door, blinked, looked back at me. Lather, rinse, repeat. Comprehension slowly dawned. Unfortunately, a sudden stupidity front rolling in from the east quickly clouded it over.

"I've got a complaint from an employee about the handicap parking out back," he eventually said, laying a sheet of paper on his desk. "It's confidential, so I can't tell you who it's from, but basically it says that when she asked you to do something about shortage of handicap parking, you refused to do anything."

The boss never seemed to catch on that I had better eyesight than he thought I did. He also never seemed to realize that I could read upside down. I barely had to squint to make out the name. I remembered dealing with her.

"I remember her," I said, reading her name off the paper. "I refused to do anything because there was nothing to do. There were several handicap spaces available at the time."

"But she says you ran her out of a handicap space to make room for others to park."

"No, I asked her to move because she was parked in the hashed off area between two handicap parking spaces."

The boss gave me a look of utter lack of understanding.

Sigh. "Boss, you know that some people who use wheelchairs or walkers or just have trouble getting in and out of vehicles have special ramps or powered lifts in their cars, vans, trucks, whatever? Some extend to the rear of the vehicle, of course, but you do realize that many open to one side or the other, right?"

He allowed that he did indeed realize that.

"Well, the extra room is marked off around some handicap parking spaces so that those ramps and lifts can extend. This particular employee was parking in that extra room."

I went on to explain about some of the other problems I had encountered. We had employees who felt that handicap markings did not have to be honored if, in their opinions, there was "enough" parking. Also a problem were employees who considered their work hours to be outside the norm. They didn't think that any handicapped people would need those spaces at those times. Anyone who was "running inside for just a minute" felt they didn't need to worry about parking rules, even if "just a minute" included anything up to and including working a full shift minus ten minutes. Some simply felt that working at a hospital allowed them to park wherever they felt like it.

(An aside: Until I worked healthcare security, I never encountered any group of employees who were so full of themselves that they thought they deserved better parking arrangements than their customers. Even if their customers were patients.)

It was not that there was not enough handicap parking, I concluded. We had more than the federally-mandated minimum and probably more than we actually needed. The problem was simply that some employees were stupid and stupidity is not covered by handicap parking laws.

"Ah," he said, nodding his head. "Well, I have an idea which will solve the problem."

"We're going to educate the employees about proper parking procedures?"

"No, we're going to agressively enforce some of the new handicap parking laws to free up more spaces." He went on to explain, for twenty minutes, the new handicap parking laws and their enforcement. "Isn't that a good idea?"

In my most obviously sarcastic tone, I replied "Yeah, boss. That's a great idea."

He smiled so brightly I thought I needed sunglasses. "Great. Since you're so sure it will work, I'm placing you in charge of the project. We start next week."

Me and my big sarcastic mouth.

The project, as it turned out, was for me to closely monitor handicap parking in the rear of our hospital. If I saw someone park without the proper permit, I was to point this out to them and ask them to move. Unless, of course, they were a patient, or a doctor, or a staff member responding to an emergency, or someone obviously sick or infirm or elderly. As usual with this particular boss, the list of exceptions was longer than the rest of the policy and pretty much negated the whole purpose of the project as stated.

One thing I was allowed to be tough on was making sure that any handicap permits displayed actually belonged to the person who was in the car. That was the new part of the law the boss was so keen on. A kid driving his grandmother's car to come visit his girlfriend wouldn't be allowed to park in handicap parking, even if he had his grandmother's permit displayed.

I went home dreading the next week. I spent the weekend wondering what would go wrong.

2004.04.12 Terrorists with Retirement Plans

posted Nov 7, 2009, 12:25 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Nov 7, 2009, 12:39 PM ]

I got a letter the other day which said, when you boil it down to the essentials, that if I didn't act immediately to prove to them that I wasn't a terrorist, the government was going to arrest me and hold me indefinitely. Oh, and incidentally, I'd lose my retirement plan.

It all started some time before when I attended an information meeting at my Bastard Officer From Hell job, where they talked about the importance of saving for retirement. The main point was that you couldn't count on either your employer or the government to take care of you after you retired. As this information meeting was paid for by my employers, which were a government organization, I wondered what they knew that I didn't. But I did take some of the lessons to heart and started a retirement plan with an independent managing company. A portion of my pre-tax income would be invested in several funds, each fund consisting of stock holdings in several companies. The logic was that even if one company or even one fund went broke, the other companies and funds would make up for it and I'd still come out ahead. I wouldn't even have to pay taxes on the money my stocks earned, if any, until I took the money out of the retirement plan after I, well, retired.

Four times a year, the management company would send me my quarterly statement, showing how much I'd invested, how much I'd earned, etc. Very interesting and informative. I'd glance at them and file them, completely forgetting about them until the next quarterly statement came in. Concerned investor, I was not.

In fact, I was downright peeved when I started getting letters asking me to cast votes on things I had no interest in hearing about. The letters would basically say that as I'd invested a certain amount of money in a certain fund which had bought a certain number of shares of Company A, I owned one-third of one share of stock in Company A and had a vote in the upcoming merger between Company A and Company B. If I didn't exercise my right to vote, a proxy would cast a vote for me approving said merger.

As I didn't care one way or the other, I tossed the letter in the trash.

A few days later, I got a similar letter saying that I owned about one-fifth of one share in Company B and had to vote on the upcoming merger. If I didn't exercise my right to vote, a proxy would cast a vote for me against said merger.

After the merger, Company AB had to vote on whether or not to expand their manufacturing plant. I got upset and wrote to the management company explaining that I was paying them good money to manage my portfolio on my behalf, so could they kindly stop asking me to decide on every little merger and expansion, please?

The voting letters stopped. In fact, the quarterly statements stopped for a while, but started up again after about a year.

At some point in here, my employers offered me the opportunity to explore other career options due to my incompatibility with their current paradigm of operations. In other words, I inconvenienced my superiors, they called me a thief and a liar, they and canned my lily-white ass. I had to go out and find another job where I could get paid to be mean to people. That's a story for another day.

But there are apparently degrees of "fired" and this one allowed me to cash out my accumulated sick and leave time. It also allowed me to keep my retirement plan. I was no longer paying into said plan, but most of the funds did well in any particular quarter, so it was still slowly building in value, so I left it in place. All was good.

Until the letter came.

At first, I thought it was another one of those letters asking me to vote to approve a merger, but it was actually a request from the management company for information. It seems that the US Patriot Act of 2001 required them to keep certain information on file for all their clients. My information was not up to snuff. It took them until 2003 to figure that out and until 2004 to get around to asking me about it. I was informed that the Post Office box I had listed as an address was in violation of federal law. If I did not provide a street address pronto, they would report me to the appropriate federal authorities and I would be candidate for arrest and incarceration.

Oh, and by the way, if my information was not corrected, they'd cancel my account and I'd lose all the money in it.

I wrote them back. First of all, I explained to them that I had not given them a Post Office box. I had instead given them a box number on a rural route. For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept, like the people at the management company, let me explain. Since many country roads don't have official names, let alone house numbers, addresses were assigned by the Post Office based on which carrier drove those particular roads to deliver mail. I.e. his rural route. Box numbers were assigned in the order in which the mail carrier reached those mailboxes during his route.

Secondly, I had to give them this address at the time I signed up because, at the time I signed up, the road I lived on was one of those country roads which didn't have an official name, let alone house numbers. It was the only address I could give them.

Thirdly, I'd already given them a new address about a year before. The local phone company had convinced the local government that they couldn't continue to offer phone service to the 911 Center unless official street names and house numbers were assigned. As far as I know, this was completely separate from the Patriot Act stuff after 9/11, but I've never been entirely sure.

The new address was an adventure in and of itself. The first we county residents heard of it was when junk mail started showing up with weird street names and house numbers on it instead of the addresses we'd been using all of our lives. Confused, I checked with my local postmaster. He told me about the phone company and 911 Center (or 9/11) and the new addresses. I developed a headache.

I asked for my new address, and he told me that he wasn't allowed to tell me what it was until the new system officially went into effect at the end of the year. Even though I was already getting mail with the new address on it? Even so. So, should I start telling people what my new address was? Not until it was official.

What would happen if mail addressed to the old address came in after the new address was official? Oh, I need not worry about that, I was told. They would still deliver mail with the old address until the end of the year.

"The end of next year?" A whole year to inform everyone of the new address seemed like plenty of time.

"No, the end of this year."

Yikes. "At the exact same time that the new address officially goes into effect? Won't that leave me exactly no (zero, zip, zilch, nada) time in which to tell people the new address before the old address is voided?"

"No, sir, you're confused. Let me explain again."

And he did. Several times. It still sounded like he was telling me not to tell anybody the new address until it was official, which would be the exact same day that the old address would stop working. I ignored him, got my new address and ZIP code off the next piece of junk mail that came in, and informed everybody I thought needed to know about it.

Including the management company managing the Bastard Officer From Hell Retirement Fund.

After I had reminded them of all this in my letter, I then reached my fourth and final point. The US Patriot Act of 2001 was designed to catch terrorists, to make it hard for them to hide their assets and their places of residence while they plan on how to best blow themselves up while taking as many of us infidels with them as possible. I can't for the life of me figure out how any of them would live long enough to need a retirement plan.

I asked, fairly innocently, exactly how many terrorist organizations did that management company manage retirement accounts for, anyway.  Surely, of all the ways that a terrorist organization could hid money, a retirement account was the least likely.

I never got a response. My next quarterly statement was, however, mailed to the new address.

2004.04.16 Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Speeders

posted Nov 4, 2009, 4:38 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Nov 4, 2009, 4:41 AM ]

...endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights...

I spend a lot of time on the road. As anyone who's met me would not be at surprised to hear, because of my wit, charm, and sparkling personality, I have a little bit of a problem finding jobs. My current place of employment is a full hour's drive from my home. Because of said wit, charm, and sparkling personality, I also have a little bit of a problem finding a special person with whom to share my life. My current girlfriend is a full two hours' drive from my home.

In the opposite direction.

While spending so much time on the road, I've encountered pretty much every type of driver there is. Some are courteous, some are reckless, and some are just plain strange. But as long as they're willing to obey the rules of the road, I'm happy to share the highway with them.

As I realized when I wrote my "The Lane Ranger" article back in 2001 (soon to be re-released in HTML format) most people using America's highways aren't willing. Feedback shows that, among those who felt strongly enough to bother to write, nobody thinks that speed limits are a good idea and anybody who tries to slow them down is either a control freak or just trying to enhance the county government's revenue stream.

Another universal constant is that if anyone interferes with our God-given right to drive as fast as we damn well please -- for example, by driving through a 45 MPH speed zone at the unheard of slow speed of 45 MPH -- it's their fault if we crash into them.

Why do I mention this? Well, if what the San Francisco Chronicle reports is correct, these people are about to have something else to go into rages over.

It seems that the town of Pleasanton, California is not too pleasant. Seems that Bay Area community has been discovered by commuters who flood its streets with high speed traffic zipping from one busy interstate to the next. But not to worry, they've come up with an idea to slow it down.

Rather than install speed bumps or run speed traps or let little blue-hair ladies in big black Oldsmobiles take over, they've created "a traffic signal with attitude."

A system of radar guns and cameras monitors key intersections. It "senses when a speeder is approaching and metes out swift punishment."

Automatic tickets? A notation in your driving record? Posting your email address in a Uselessnet forum? No, something much worse.

The system figures out what road you're on and the next intersection you're approaching. When you're about 100 yards away, it tells the light at that intersection to switch from green to yellow to red. In other words, if you try to speed through town, you're going to hit nothing but red lights. You'll actually make it through town more quickly by driving at the posted speed limit.

I think this is a great idea, as do some of the townspeople. The biggest problem some people see is that their husbands aren't bright enough to figure out the relationship between speed and red lights and won't get to work on time, thus losing their jobs and no longer being able to pay for their maid and their health club memberships.

Others think it's the worst thing to come along since, well, ever. Why, it's just another example of the government meddling with our private affairs. Why, it's a prime example of Big Brother and how we're monitored every second of our lives. Why, it's practically the mark of the Beast. Next thing you know, we'll have to put a big 666 sticker on our bumpers if we want to pass through town unimpeded.

Biggest complaint? That it's depriving Americans of their right -- right, mind you -- to drive fast.

It's a damned shame that our public schools don't teach us better. Here I was completely unaware that our Founding Fathers fought and died for us so we could enjoy the right to life, liberty, and driving as fast as we want down Vineyard Avenue on our Harleys.

Oh, sure, they have radar guns and timing traps all sorts of other methods to catch us when we speed, the opponents of this plan whine, but at least we are still free to try. We might get caught occasionally and have to pay a small fine and put up with comments from a self-important law enforcement officer who ought to be out somewhere catching theives and rapists, but that's just the chance we have the right -- right, mind you -- to take.

Yes, my dear reader, there are people in this world who think that it's their God-given right to try to get away with breaking the law. If they get away with it, there was no harm done. If they don't, it's the fault of the person who caught them. I've worked in the security and law enforcement area for the last decade. I encounter people like this on an almost daily basis. I've met people that will tell you with a straight face that if you don't lock your car, you're offering them your radio, CD player, cellular phone, or anything else they can rip loose.

Another complain is the massive gridlock this is going to cause. "If they implement it everywhere," one Constitutional scholar says, "there will be nothing but red lights. Nobody does the speed limit."

Well, it seems to me that if all the lights are red, people will have no choice but to do the speed limit. Well, much less than the speed limit, since the speed limit is usually greater than a dead stop.

Besides, according to this logic, we shouldn't put automatic theft-control locks on the doors to department stores. Since everybody shoplifts, the doors will all be locked all the time and nobody will be able to get in and out of the stores.

People, please, quit complaining and slow down.

2005.09.12 The Bastard Officer From Hell Walks Again... Again

posted Oct 28, 2009, 9:57 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Oct 28, 2009, 10:02 AM ]

...no sooner than you fix one thing...

As I wrote last week, I once worked with an officer whose idea of preventative maintenance on our patrol car was to shut it off whenever and wherever it happened to be and just tell Troy about it the next day. Whenever I'd ask if he checked this or adjusted that, I'd get the same response:

"Hey!" he'd shout, backing away and holding up his hands as if he expected me to attack him. "I told you I don't know nothing about no technical stuff like that."

I'll admit, there are times when I prefer that approach to some of the alternatives I've seen over the years, which include "drive it until it falls apart" and "try to fix it ourselves." I spent many a night shift trying re-wiring an old Jeep after the shift supervisor tried to "fix" the blinky lights.

I guess that's why it was a surprise when my partner radioed one day and said that the patrol car had quit.

Sigh. "Which remote corner of the property did you leave it in?"

"Huh? When I noticed it acting up, I pulled it over next to the smoking area under that shade tree. Why would I leave it out in the back forty?"

"Sorry, buddy. Flashbacks to some other guy. What are the symptoms?"

"Well, the radio was getting distorted and I noticed the lights were barely lighting. When I started it up last, it was a struggle. When I pulled it over here, it kind of stuttered a time or two and then died. Now it doesn't seem to have enough juice to crank. I think maybe the battery's gone completely dead or the alternator conked out."

Bless you, Brother. "Well, the last time this happened, it was because the electrolyte level in the battery was low. Let's check that."

Darn, that was fine. The boss wandered over and asked what we were doing. My partner filled him in while I checked wires. The boss puffed on his cigarette and ordered "If Troy can get it started, take it to the shop and have it checked out. If he can't, call them to send a truck for it."

About that time, I checked the wires going to the back of the alternator and the biggest one came off in my hand. The insulation looked a lot like a marshmellow at your average camp out. I tried to scrape the burnt stuff off to see if the wire was still good inside.

"Well, it looks like Troy found the problem," the boss muttered. "Let's watch and see if he can fix it."

About that time, in my efforts to scrape the insulation off the wire, I accidentally touched the wire to the alternator casing. The metal alternator casing. The well-grounded metal alternator casing.

With the wire which apparently runs straight to the positive terminal of the battery.

BZZZZAPPP! The boss jumped back and very nearly almost dropped his cigarette, which is either a sign of extreme surprise or of an impending apocalypse. I forget which. "Boss, I think I can fix this."

"Call the shop, Troy."

After disconnecting the positive wire from the battery, I called.

"Thank you for calling Cracked Head Automotive, now licensed to service cars and trucks in 49 states (sorry, Tennessee!)."

I told him who I was and why I was calling. "It might just have been a bad connection which caused an arc that caught the insulation on fire, but I'd feel better if you'd checked the alternator function and put a new end on that wire."

"Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves, sir. If it's throwing sparks at you when you try to start it, we'd better start with checking the battery and starter."

"No, it didn't do that when we tried to start it. It did that when I tried to fix it."

"Sir, if you're going to fix it, why are you calling us?"

"Because I don't have the tools or the time or the parts or the diagnostic equipment to fix a car like this. Can you send a tow truck out to the hospital to bring the car in?"

"The hospital! Is everyone okay? Just how dangerous is this car?"

"No, you idiot! I work at the hospital. It's a hospital vehicle. I told you that back when I first called."

"Oh, sorry. Um, sir, we don't dispatch tow trucks anymore. You'll have to call our toll free number to arrange that yourself. It's a free tow if you have your car brought to us for service."

"Fine. What's that toll free number?"

"1-976-"

"Um, excuse me, but since when is 976 a toll free area code?"

"Sorry. Wrong number on the list here. The number is 1-811-CRACKED."

"Of course it is."

I called. "Thank you for calling Cracked Head Roadside Assistance, now licensed to tow cars and trucks in 49 states (sorry, Tennessee!)."

It turned out that I had called my local shop to be given a toll free number which rang a service center in Arizona which in turn dispatched a tow truck from next door to the local shop. The first guy I talked to could have yelled out the window to dispatch the truck.

"And don't worry about paying the tow truck driver, sir. We'll have the local shop just put that on your bill with them."

"Put what on the bill?"

"The charge for the tow."

"They told me there'd be no charge if I had them do the work once it was towed."

"Well, then that will be on the bill."

The truck eventually arrived, pulled into the wrong parking lot, and circled around until someone got suspicious and informed Security. About the time I heard about it, the driver had given up and moved to the back. I jogged around to the back and flagged him down. Well, actually, I flagged down a couple of cute nurses, and they flagged him down.

"Man, I was looking for everything but a patrol car."

"They didn't tell you to look for a blue car with green lights on top?"

"No, they said a green car with no lights."

I showed him how I had disconnected the battery for his safety. He promised to point that out to the guys at the shop. Then he proceeded to try to roll up the power windows.

"They said you'd need to come down and sign a form before they can look at the car. You need a lift?"

"Can you give me a ride back to the hospital once you unload?"

"Um, no."

"Then I don't need a lift. Tell them one of us will be by later."

One of us did go by later and sign. The next day, there was a note on the message board for us to call the shop.

"Thank you for calling Cracked Head Automotive, now licensed to service cars and trucks in 49 states (sorry, Tennessee!)."

I told them who I was. "What's the story on the car?"

"Well, it's just about ready to go. We've replaced the alternator and the wire, and now we're just about to replace the power steering pump."

"Whoa! Who authorized you to do any of that?"

"Well, a guy from your department came by and signed some papers yesterday..."

"Yes, he did. You told us we'd have to do that before you'd even look at the car. I argued with you about it because we'd never needed to do that before. And then I told you to diagnose only and not to do any actual work until you called and checked with my boss. If he doesn't get authorization from the hospital, they won't pay him for any work done on the car, which means that he won't pay you for any work on the car."

"Um, yes, of course. I meant to say that we need your authorization to replace the alternator and the wire. Incidentally, we've also noticed that your power steering is leaking pretty badly. Would you like us to check that out as long as we have the car here?"

"Don't touch the power steering. It was working when the car quit, so I don't want you messing it up. I'll transfer you to the boss for authorization on the other. How long will it take to do the work?"

"Your car will be ready in a couple of days."

"We don't have that long. Besides, you said earlier it was nearly finished."

"In that case, give us an hour."

About an hour later, the boss called and told me to take one of the 2nd shift guys down to the shop to bring back the car. "They replaced the alternator and that wire you found. Hey, was there anything wrong with the power steering?"

"Not that we've noticed. I think I added some fluid to it, but that was a couple of months ago."

"Okay. Well, carry on."

I took Robbie the Robot--I mean, Robbie the 2nd shift guy--down to the shop. I told them who I was, arranged payment details, and gave the keys to Robbie. I checked the receipt and saw that the tow truck was both free and on the bill.

I stood at the desk and watched Robbie walk out to the car, start it up, and pull out of the parking space.

And then I watched him back right back into the parking space.

"Troy, there's something wrong with the power steering. I couldn't even get it to turn."

Luckily, I grew up driving cars that had never even heard of power steering, so I can do pretty good without it. Even so, I could barely drive the thing around the parking lot and I didn't want to try it on the streets. I went back inside.

"Excuse me, but is it possible that you neglected to put the power steering back together under the assumption that you'd convince us to replace that pump after all?"

He looked aghast. "Sir, we never had your power steering apart. You never authorized those repairs."

"Well, the power steering was working a few days ago, and now it isn't. I know I haven't done anything to it, because it's been with you."

"Sir, it was leaking pretty badly. Are you sure you don't want us to replace that pump for you?"

"Not unless you want to pay for it yourself."

"Pull around to the side and we'll put some fluid in for you."

I pulled around to the side, popped the hood, and checked the power steering system. I didn't see any indication of leaks. I did see that the power steering fluid resevoir was bone dry. Well, there was a little sticking to the sides and in the corners.

A rude young man came out to the car carrying a jug of fluid. He had Robbie crank up the engine and turn the wheel as the fluid was added. It took a quart and a half to "top off" the resevoir.

I asked him "Why did you drain the fluid?"

"We didn't. It leaked out."

"It had plenty when I last checked it two days ago."

"You have a leak in the pump and the high pressure hose. Fluid is just going to pour out of it."

"This is me looking skeptical." Besides, I still didn't see any leaks.

"We told you about this the last time the car was in for service."

"The last time the car was in for service was two weeks ago for a blower motor and new tires."

"And we told you then that it was leaking."

"I don't remember that."

"Well, maybe the guys at the front desk forgot to point it out to you, but it was certainly on the diagnostic report."

"This is me still looking skeptical."

He shoved the remaining half quart of fluid at me. "Here. You might need this before you get home."

I would have argued some more, but I could hear somebody in the back on the phone saying something about "just get down here and get this bastard out of here!"  Discretion is the better part of valor and all that.

I sent Robbie on his way. The running gag for the next week was to ask each other if the power steering had quit yet. It hasn't yet, but it has leaked down from overflowing to just plain "full." I may have to add some more fluid.

Here in a month or two.


2005.09.05 The Bastard Officer From Hell Walks Again

posted Oct 25, 2009, 1:31 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Oct 25, 2009, 1:34 PM ]

The only thing worse than driving that stupid patrol car is not being able to drive it...

I once worked a security job with a guy who claimed to have no mechanical skills whatsoever. Not only that, this guy actively and strenuously fought to keep from acquiring any. To keep from having to invent a name, I'll just call him "that guy," or "Guy" for short.

Guy had a long career in the US government before entering the field of private security. To hear him talk, he was one of those people with the ultra high super secret security ratings who are privy to everything going on in the world. Not that he actually learned anything sensitive, mind you, as he had no need to know. The guys manning the gate at the edge of the property seldom did. But, rest assured, he had a security clearance high enough that he could have picked up and returned any dropped document without causing an international incident.

If I had a security clearance that high, I'd not only find out where the government is hiding the alien spacecraft, I'd be renting it out for weekend trips to Alpha Centauri.

Which is probably why I don't have that kind of security clearance.

Not that I would anyway, seeing as any acquaintances they interviewed would tell all those horrible truths about me.

Irregardless, Guy was mechanically declined and had no wish to change.

For example, one morning I came in and noticed that the patrol car was parked at the top of the parking lot. This wasn't too unusual as that was a good place to watch the entire parking lot from. What was unusual was that a) nobody was in it and b) it was blocking the drive.

I went to the office and found Guy. "What's up with the patrol car?"

"It quit on me, so I shut it off."

"Did it quit, or did you shut it off?"

"Both."

"Guy, if it quit, then it wasn't running, so you couldn't have shut it off. If you shut it off, then it was running when you did so, so it didn't quit. So did it quit, or did you shut it off."

"You're confusing me again."

Sigh. "Okay, Guy, just tell me what happened."

"I was patrolling the parking lots like you told me to do, and the car quit. It started right up again, but I noticed that fuel hand said empty, so I drove up to the top of the lot where the gas can is kept. While I was out checking to see if there was any gas in the can, the car quit again. There wasn't any gas, and I couldn't get the car started again, so I shut off the switch and locked it up."

"Why didn't you go fill up before you ran out?"

"I didn't notice it was that low. We had nearly a quarter tank when I started the shift."

"You're supposed to check it occasionally all throughout the shift."

"I thought you told me to check it only at the start of the shift."

"No, it's the oil, water, and other fluids you're supposed to check at the start of every shift."

"Oh, in that case, I must have forgotten to check those."

Sigh. "And you left it in the middle of the road why...?"

"Troy, you can't expect me to push it. Remember my bad back."

"Yes, Guy, I remember your bad back. You threw it out while getting behind the wheel of the patrol car your first night here and have been using it as an excuse not to do any real work ever since."

"Hey, it's not my fault the tilt-wheel steering was so low."

"Those things adjust, you know. That little lever on the side."

"Hey!" he shouted, backing away and holding up his hands as if he expected me to attack him. "I told you I don't know nothing about no technical stuff like that."

"I remember. But tell me again why you left the car blocking traffic."

"I can't push it. Bad shoulder."

Sigh. "Guy, you're at the top of the hill. Why couldn't you put it in neutral and let it cost down to one of the parking spaces below it?"

I swear, he looked at me like I'd just corrected the rounding errors in Einstein's Theory of Relativity. "I would have never thought of that. Wow, I can't believe how smart you are. I've worked with some pretty sharp guys in Intelligence, but you leave them all in the dust..."

And he kept on for another twenty minutes, which just happened to be all the time left in his shift, which meant he was off the clock and couldn't help me fix the car. No problem. I hoofed it up to the car and tried to start it. No gas. When my partner came in, I gave him a few dollars and sent him off to the local Stop-N-Rob for gas. We sloshed a gallon on the ground for every quart we got into the tank.

The car still wouldn't start. Hmm. Battery was still charged. We appear to be getting a spark. Hmm.

My partner asked "How much did you crank on it?"

"Hardly any. About 10 seconds before I gave up. I didn't want to run down the battery."

He looked thoughtful. "You don't suppose that Guy cranked on it so much without any fuel that he messed up the fuel pump, do you?"

"Anything's possible." I had him put it out of gear and, just to show off, I pushed it up the hill into the parking space behind him. Mumbling something about crazy rednecks, he went off to find the boss and get permission to have the car towed to the shop. While he was gone, I commenced to thinking.

I remembered reading the owner's manual of the patrol car back before said manual disappeared. It said something about a fuel pump reset switch that you had to hit to reset the fuel pump (duh!) after any minor accident. I checked the trunk and found one. I hit it and wham! the car started right up. I guess all that cranking and no fuel caused something to overload and trip the switch. I radioed my partner and went for gas.

A week or two later, I notice the car parked again. This time, it was at least in a parking spot. "Guy, what's wrong with the car."

"It's broke."

"I can see that. Otherwise, I'm sure you wouldn't have left it at the extreme South end of the property. How is it broken?"

"I couldn't push it back. I have a bad hip."

"Never mind that. How is it broken?"

"Well, it's running rough, and when you hit the gas, you can hear this clackety noise."

"Clackety" is Guy's all-purpose descriptive sound. A bad radio makes a clackety noise. A bad door makes a clackety noise. A nurse complaining about Security's job performance makes clackety noises.

Since this was the patrol car, I could guess what he meant. "That would be the lifters rattling. It does that when we run cheap gas, which we do all the time, or when the oil gets low. How much oil did it have?"

Silence.

"Guy, when you checked the oil, how much was on the stick?"

Silence.

"Guy, you did check the oil, right?"

"Hey!" he shouted, backing away and holding up his hands as if he expected me to attack him. "I told you I don't know nothing about no technical stuff like that."

I shuddered and sent him on home. Then I went out, checked the oil, and added two quarts. No more clackety noise.

A few weeks later, the patrol car was down in the extreme lowest part of the property. "Guy, what's wrong with the car this time?"

"You can't expect me to push it back here. I have this bad knee."

"All I'm asking is what's wrong with the car."

"The air conditioning was blowing hot air and a red light was flashing."

"Well, it's the middle of summer and you tend to run max A/C wide open all the time. It probably just overheated. Did it have plenty of coolant?"

Silence.

"I said, did it have-"

"Hey!" he shouted, backing away and holding up his hands as if he expected me to attack him. "I told you I don't know nothing about no technical stuff like that."

Coolant level was fine. I checked with some of the other officers, who said they'd noticed it running a little hot from time to time. They'd been just turning it off and letting it cool down any time the A/C started blowing hot air.

I had to get the boss to write an official memo to Guy to get him to start doing that.

2004.11.08 Bastard Officer From Hell

posted Oct 25, 2009, 11:34 AM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Oct 25, 2009, 12:51 PM ]

The very first Bastard Officer From Hell story...
Even after working all these mumble mumble years in the security industry, I'm still constantly amazed at how many people think that I'm harassing them because of some personal vendetta. That is, each and every single one of these people is of the opinion that I am picking on him (or her) and only him (or her).

Which is nonsense, of course.

I pick on everybody.

They are also convinced that I am picking on them because I personally do not like them, am jealous of their position with the company, have a problem with their profession, or am an ignorant bigot with an unreasonable hatred for whatever race, religion, gender, body type, sexual orientation, age, or national origin that they happen to be (even if I have no way of knowing whatever particular thing it is about them that I'm supposed to be bigoted against).

All of which is nonsense, of course.

I pick on people only for clear, obvious, legal, and easily documentable reasons.

Take, for example, parking lots. Some sections of a lot which nominally "belongs" to employees might be marked off for other purposes. A department which needed extra parking close to the building from 8AM to 5PM for their customers is a good example. This was a decision handed down from the CEO after a huge department head meeting involving three years of parking lot utilization figures and many multicolored graphs.

Naturally, the employees as a whole decided that this was an arbitrary decision made by the junior 2nd shift security officer who was unlucky enough to be assigned the task of blocking off the parking spaces for the painters.

We never did find his body, by the way.

RING RING

"Security, this is Troy," I said in my closest approximation of a professional tone.

"I'm going to complain to my supervisor about you, Charlie!" came the reply.

"And why would that be, ma'am?" I asked.

"You put a ticket on my car just because you don't like me!"

"Ma'am, I don't even know who you are," I tried to explain.

"Then why did you ticket me?" she asked.

"Well, what does the ticket say?"

"It says 'reserved for customer parking - no employee parking 8AM to 5PM.'"

I remembered that I did indeed write several tickets for that very violation earlier that morning. "Then I probably wrote you a ticket because I believed you were an employee parking in a customer parking area. Is there a problem with that?"

"I work third shift, Tony. I'm not in that parking lot from 8AM to 5PM."

I dug through my ticket book. "Exactly what time is indicated on that ticket?"

"9:08 AM," came the answer.

"I think 9:08 AM is between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM, so I'd say that if your car was indeed parked in that area at that time, it was in violation of published parking regulations."

"But I had it moved by 9:10!" came in the indignant reply.

"But, ma'am, it was still there until 9:10 AM, which is well after the time when the customers start coming in. I didn't even start writing tickets until after 8:45 when they called to tell me the customers were complaining about the lack of parking."

"But I wasn't planning on staying all day!" Even more indignant.

"But you and enough of your coworkers were there at that particular moment and that caused a problem." Which caused complaints. Which is the only reason I got out of my nice warm patrol car and wrote all those tickets on such a cold, windy day.

"But my supervisor told me that I could park there because I work 3rd shift!" By this point, she had gone past indignant and was rapidly approaching whiny.

I pulled out my copy of the memo, which was identical to the one she was emailed months ago. "2nd and 3rd shifts are allowed to park in that area so long as they are not there between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM."

"I work third shift, Tony. I'm not in that parking lot from 8 AM to 5 PM."

"You were there at 9:08 AM."

"But I had it moved by 9:10!"

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I eventually got the idea that she was trying to say that since she wasn't there in the parking lot the entire time between 8 AM and 5 PM, it didn't count as a violation.  I think she tried to explain at one point that if her car was absent from the parking lot for a single second during the forbidden time, it didn't count.  I was never sure, because any time I'd try to pin her down, I was accused of not listening and trying to put words in her mouth.

After the third or fourth repetition, I might have "accidentally" disconnected her while trying to transfer to my department head's voicemail.

RING RING

"Yes, ma'am. No, ma'am. No, that's for the section marked off in the back parking lot. For the front parking lot, you can't park there no matter what shift you work. No, not even call in. Only on weekends. Thank you. Bye."

RING RING

"No, ma'am, you can't park in parking lot 'C' just because parking lot 'B' is full. You aren't supposed to be parking in lot 'B' anyway. No, lot 'A' most certainly is not already full. I parked there myself this morning. Try lots 'D' and 'E' if you have to. Thank you. Bye."

RING RING

"No, ma'am, even if your name badge won't let you through the security door at the employee entrance, you still have to park in the employee parking area. You just need to report the malfunction to Security so we can check it. No, you haven't already talked twice this week to the idiot in Security who handles name badge access. No, you haven't. Because I'M the idiot in Security who handles the name badge system and I don't remember ever speaking to you before. What was your name again and I'll check your access level. Hello? Hello?"

RING RING

"Yes, ma'am. No, ma'am. No, there's no exception for time of day. It's always illegal for you to park there. No, not even call in. No, not on weekends, either. What am I going to do about it? Nothing, ma'am. I have no authority to ticket cars parked in the handicapped parking areas. None whatsoever.  That's right.  Completely powerless. Thank you. Bye."

DIAL DIAL DIAL

"Police department."

"Yes, this is Troy with Security down at the Complex on Main Street. I was wondering if you could spare an officer to drive by and check our handicapped parking out front? We've been getting a lot of complaints lately."

"We'll get right on that."

"Incidentally, are those tickets still a $90 fine?"

"No, we upped them to $100 last year. $120 if not paid in 90 days."

Okay, so sometimes I really am a bastard.



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