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Laziness Disguised As Excess Caution

, , , , , , , | Working | November 27, 2022

This happened in the early 1970s when the wonderful world of walkie-talkies had not quite reached the peak of popularity and common usage. Keep in mind that this was long ago, so the conversations are approximated.

I was an apprentice, assisting the electrical engineer who was servicing the elevators of a building. The place was high enough society that they had security guards. The electrical engineer sent me out of the building to get a couple of boxes of bolts for control covers for the lift controls.

My mistake: the work was pretty hot, so I had taken off my jacket while working; unfortunately, my jacket had my ID badge in it. The elevator electronics were huge and filthy with oils, so I fully admit I looked like a complete mess. We had been doing battle with the great metal beast that had decided to hemorrhage fluids everywhere and make horrendous metallic noises like a dying UFO. Also, unfortunately, the security guards changed shifts whilst I was out of the building, so they hadn’t seen me previously going in or going out. So now, with no ID badge, the security guards wouldn’t let me in.

Me: “Look, I get it. You have a job to do and I can’t come in without my badge. Could one of you please tell [Electrical Engineer] at the elevator to bring it? You can get confirmation from him and from my ID that I have business here.”

Guard #1: *Pompously* “Nah, I don’t think so.”

Me: “Sorry? Why not?”

Guard #1: “Because you’re some random, snot-nosed kid in filthy clothes. I’m not going to bother a professional.”

Me: “I’m his apprentice.”

Guard #2: “Sure you are, kid. Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal: if you walk out that door in the next ten seconds, I won’t box your ear and throw you out myself.”

I took a deep breath, let it out, walked out to the truck, and leaned against it. Now, we’d been working on this thing all day, and the box of bolts I had been sent out to get was supposed to be one of the last things we did.

Due to me being told to get out, [Electrical Engineer] went over his allowed working hours. I saw him come down to the lobby, looking inquisitive. This is his conversation with the guards, as told to me when he came out.

Electrical Engineer: “Have you seen my apprentice? I sent him out to get some supplies.”

Guard #1: “Eh, some filthy brat tried getting in here, but no ID, no entry.”

Electrical Engineer: “His ID was with me. You could have come to ask.”

Guard #2: *Grunting and lazily scratching his belly* “Yeah, we could have. So, anyway, is the elevator fixed yet?”

Electrical Engineer: “Thanks to you two idiots? No.”

Guard #1: “What?!”

Electrical Engineer: “I called you both idiots. Due to my work hours being up, due to you morons not letting my apprentice back into the building, and due to him not being able to bring me the supplies I needed, the elevator will remain unusable until sometime tomorrow.”

Beaming broadly, [Electrical Engineer] went in and came back down with my stuff as well as his own and we left. We laughed all the way back to our offices as the guards sputtered and protested, only to be ignored. 

There was a very interesting phone call later, where [Electrical Engineer] gave his side of the story to the building manager. Apparently, two guards meant that one was indeed expected to check in such instances, and the building manager was not happy to note that the guards had failed to follow protocol and had just caused a delay in getting the lift fixed. Many building residents were going to have a lot to say when they found out that they would have to walk up or down flights upon flights of stairs if they wanted to go anywhere.

The next day, we arrived early, at a pretty premium rate, and the morning shift guards were VERY pleasant and professional to us the whole time we were there.

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