Location: marengo, il, United States

Friday, June 03, 2005

Rules and Regulations

As the two men finished their last cup of coffee, Harvey’s good friend Les gave him some serious and sound advice from across the kitchen table.

“I talked to Bart on the phone late last night. He told me all you have to do is keep your nose clean and your eyes open. You do that, he said, and you’ll do okay at the job.”

He picked up his mug, but before draining the last of it, he paused and looked at Harvey for a moment. An amused expression came over his face, and he shook his head.

“Chasing after shoplifters sounds like fun, if you want to know the truth.”

The sun had just begun to crest the treetops off in the east as they left the house. His friend stood and unlocked his car door, and then he watched as Harvey walked across the street to where a mustard-colored Vega sat parked by the curb.

Within minutes both men drove away, Harvey following behind Les.

As the two neared the freeway, Harvey glanced quickly to his left. The number of cars he saw lined up at the gas station made him feel all the more happier to be driving on by.

Les and his Volkswagen shot across the bridge, heading for Route One, while Harvey slowed to make the sharp turn that would take him northbound. Traffic on the interstate below looked light, and the day appeared to be both bright and promising.

The little Vega fell in behind a passing truck at the same time a voice on the radio announced the correct time.

“It’s six minutes after seven, folks.”

A lovely-looking girl standing behind the service desk picked up her telephone and spun the dial once. Then holding the receiver loosely in her other hand, her blue eyes began to scan the store beyond the spot where Harvey stood while she spoke into the mouthpiece. Her amplified voice interrupted music that droned in the background.

“Bart Jones, come to the service desk, please. Bart Jones to the service desk.”

Harvey smiled at her as she replaced the handset back on its cradle. The girl gave him an indifferent look in return, and then went back to thumbing through her thick pile of forms.

Harvey planted his elbows on the high countertop and relaxed, and he allowed his eyes wander up over her blonde locks before they settled on several posters pinned on the wall behind her.

No returns without a receipt.

Please check all bags and packages with the Service Desk.

Two Ids required on all checks.

“Hey, man. You’re early.”

He turned to see Bart looming behind him. Dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a casual shirt, he stood with both hands resting low on his hips, and the man seemed to tower over Harvey.

Clean-shaven, broad-shouldered and athletic, Bart looked to be just a few years older than him, but he had a lot less hair on his head. The sides grew thick and wavy, and what little he did have he wore slicked straight back.

“Yeah, well traffic wasn’t all that bad this morning. Plus I wasn’t sure how long it would take for me to get here.”

Bart kept a non-committal expression on his face, but his dark eyes danced back and forth, probing deep into Harvey’s. His jaw worked side to side slightly, as if he were slowly weighing the integrity of the younger man’s entire statement.

Then without a word, he angled his head as if to say follow me, and he swiveled sharply to his right. Taking large, purposeful steps and leaning forward in his stride, he led the way past several check-out lines. Both men then went inside a panel-covered group of offices set over in one corner of the store. From there, Harvey followed Bart into a much smaller room.

The senior man shut the door before taking a seat behind a desk, and then he motioned Harvey into a chair across from him.

On one side of the austere room, three straight-backed chairs rested against a painted cinder block wall. Next to them sat two gray metal filing cabinets. Simple bookends on the top held a short row of manuals, and a chart of some sort hung from the wall above the three chairs.

Harvey turned the other swivel chair that faced Bart and took a seat there.

Bart pulled open one of the desk drawers and removed a manila folder, which he laid flat on the desktop. Next he took out a single blank form from inside the file, and he slid the sheet and a ball point pen across to Harvey before replacing the folder and closing the drawer.

“You fill this out, and I’ll be right back.”

Minutes later, as Harvey sat and wrote in his name and social security number, along with some past work history, the door opened and a young woman waltzed into the room. She wore a nice ruffled blouse and a skirt, and she smiled openly as she went past the desk to one of the cabinets standing in the corner.

After quickly taking out a sheaf of papers and a thick manual, she turned around to asked,

“Aren’t you the new guy?”

Harvey nodded and introduced himself.

She then placed the large book on the desk next to his application.

“I’m Kathy. Bart wants you to look through the first chapter after you finish. See you later.”

And the girl left as fast as she had came in.

For the next half-hour Harvey sat alone and tried to acquaint himself with the numerous policies of Zayre. The dos and don’t rules he understood easily enough, as well as the dress codes for all employees; the more technical sections on overtime, pay scales and management training he read through fast, and so he retained little useful information for his effort.

He had just begun to reread the first page again when the door opened and Bart entered.

“All done with that?”

Harvey shut the book for his answer.

“Then come with me, and I’ll show you the layout of the store.”

Around the corner from the offices, a doorway led into a stockroom. Harvey trailed along behind Bart’s lanky gait.

Once inside the door, a set of wooded steps took them up to a narrow walkway that went to the rear of the building. Shelves on either side of the dim-lit aisle upstairs held countless cartons and cardboard boxes which rose all the way to a high ceiling overhead.

Every twenty feet or so, Bart paused and pointed to a small cleared area to his right.

“Those are the windows we use, and this is where a lot of your time will be spent, just sitting and watching the shoppers down below.”

Each of the openings measured six by twelve inches, and all were covered with two-way mirrors.

Harvey took a temporary seat on a small stool by one window to peer through the tinted glass.

“Nope. They can’t see you at all up here.”

As they made their way down the tight passageway, Bart asked Harvey if he like to fish.

“Not especially. Why?”

Bart smiled wryly.

“That’s what this job is like. You sit and you wait. It’s ninety-nine percent boredom with one percent of heart-racing excitement, and you can never predict when the fun might happen.”

At the end of the walkway, the men turned to the right. Ahead were many more stacked boxes and several more of the little windows. A steep and narrow staircase located halfway along the walk led them down into a back storeroom. There, three employees were busy unloading boxes as each one came rolling down a long ramp.

Bart spoke low and with some contempt.

“This is one thing I like about Zayre. We work as a separate division altogether, and we can refuse to do anything that Management asks, unlike security guards in other stores. That means they can never tell us to sweep or help out in any way. All we do is our job, and that is it.”

Harvey nodded his approval at that defiant concept.

The two men left the back area and went out on the main floor. Bart took him by a well-lighted snack bar and into a hallway where the restrooms were located.

“You have to be careful and not let people slip inside there with merchandise.”

At the end of the hall, he held a door open. A small sign identified it as the employee break room. Inside, a long table sat in the middle of the room. Several folding chairs surrounded the table. A lone refrigerator stood against one paneled wall. Bart slid a chair away from the table to take a seat, so Harvey did likewise.

“There are three main areas we are concerned with. The first is shoplifters. The second one is employee theft. The third is checks that bounce.”

Bart sat relaxed while he talked about store policies. When he crossed one long leg over the other, Harvey noticed the cowboy boots that he wore, but he didn’t say anything.

“Believe it or not, we lose more money with the last two, and employee theft is the hardest one to spot.”

The door opened then and an older woman entered the room. Bart showed little emotion as he acknowledged her presence.


She wore a pair of glass which had semi-thick lenses. A small gold chain draped from around her ears and looped back around her neck. Her big eyes seemed to dart from one man to the other, and it gave Harvey an impression of a jittery and nervous woman.

Maria sounded almost apologetic as she spoke.

“Oh, hi there, Bart. I’ll just be a second. I forgot to put my lunch in the fridge.”

As soon as the lady left, Bart looked at Harvey with a dead-pan expression.

“Don’t mingle too much with any of the employees.”

The gorgeous girl at the service desk crossed Harvey’s mind.

“Oh, and another thing -- dress any way you want. The idea is to look like a customer. Grab a cart when you are on the floor, and learn to blend in.”

Harvey liked that idea a lot.

Bart stood up and scooted his chair back in place.

“Just don’t ever come in to work dressed up as Batman.”

He laughed as they returned to walking the aisles, and he told about a man who had done that very thing one time, and had gotten fired for it.

While passing by the electronics department, Bart stopped to fiddle with a portable television on display. He looked grim as he tilted the set back and studied the thing, and he spoke in a hushed tone of voice.

“Watch that couple standing over there by the radios.”

Harvey spotted the two young adults right away. One half-sat on the display counter, facing away from the shelves, while the other appeared to be browsing.

“They come in here all the time, and I’m pretty sure they’ve both been ripping us off.”

But after a few minutes time he gave up on the suspicious pair, and the men continued with their tour of the store.

Over by the fitting rooms, Bart stopped to show Harvey the two hidden doors. Adjoining but separate rooms for men and for women sat against the north wall, and on each side, and concealed behind a row of hanging clothes, he pushed inward on a short and unnoticeable doorway.

“That leads to two spots above the fitting rooms where you can hide and watch over this entire section of the floor.”

They walked away and went toward a jewelry counter before Bart paused to turn around.

“See the two small windows back there?”

Harvey could only grin at the thought of a secret room.

In the men’s clothing section, he pointed out wire loops that secured a row of leather coats to metal racks, and he shook his head.

“You wouldn’t believe how some crazy will grab a handful of these and make a run for the door.”

They walked over to two sets of double doors by the foyer.

“The law says we have to let them pass the first set of doors before we stop anybody. If they get past the outside doors, they are liable to run on you, so always do your arrests inside the foyer.”

“What are you supposed to do exactly, when that happens?”

Bart reached for his wallet as the two returned to Bart’s office.

“You’ll get a badge like this, first of all.”

After showing the official-looking emblem, he slipped the billfold back into his rear pocket.

“Then you say something like, ‘Excuse me, but you have some merchandise that wasn’t paid for. Mind coming back into the store for a minute?’ ”

Harvey’s head was beginning to spin with excess information. This job might become a lot more complicated than he had initially thought.

The senior man smiled at Harvey's perplexed look.

“And then you give them their Miranda warning.”

Bart took his seat behind the desk, and picked up the form that Harvey had filled out earlier.

Harvey sat back down in the swivel chair while Bart read it over.

“I want you to work with Kathy or one of the others for a few days. I think you’ll get the hang of it easy enough. In a couple of weeks we might send you out for a three-day seminar, but in the meantime, it’ll be all on-the-job training.”

Bart’s self-confidence helped Harvey decide.

During supper that night, Les asked his friend Harvey,

“So how did it go today?”

“It went pretty good.”

“Well, what did Bart have to say to you?”

Harvey speared a piece of broccoli with his fork.

“He told me to keep my nose clean and both eyes open.”


Blogger Gone Away said...

Harvey has a gift for summing things up, I see. Interesting and interestinger. Great stuff, Harry.

3:46 PM  
Blogger flannel04 said...

I've been silently reading for months now, but I had to comment. Not only did my father have a mustard-colored Vega when I was a little girl, but I spent much of my highschool and college years working at Kmart. I used to sneak up to the little room overlooking the electronics department once and a while, just to spy. I felt so sneaky, sitting up there watching people and wondering if I'd actually witness something illegal. Never did, but the thought was exciting anyway.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

I'm thinking you can read Harvey better than I, Gone. I wonder what he might be up to next?

5:21 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

It's good to have you along, Kharney, and I'm glad you commented at last. That's also a nifty tale you told there.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Ned said...

What happens if you go shopping dressed as Batmam? The Boy does it all the time.

Ah, I remember Zayre. Just a few months ago finally had to throw out a TV I bought there at least 20 years ago. Nowadays, you are lucky if they last 20 months.

Harvey was right not to say more, it isn't really security if you give away all the secrets...

5:49 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

There is something about height, Ned. Any Batman over four feet tall attracts the wrong sorts of attention.

Hey, I like the way you let Harvey off the hook the way you did.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Master of None said...

I guess my young age is catching up with me, because I have no idea what a Vega is. But, I'm still enjoying the story.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

Master, you might cruise over to the site below to see a photograph of the little Chevy hatchback. This particular one I clipped off the web somewhere.

The car unfortunately fell victim to an urban legend during the early 70s, and its popularity might have been affected from the results of that.

According to the rumors, the featured aluminum block would overheat easily, and then quickly seize up. Some stories even mentioned an engine that melted and caught fire, altho I never saw any evidence of those claims.

I am most pleased to see that this tale is being both read and enjoyed.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Master of None said...

I couldn't get the photo to load. I can picture it in my mind though.

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