security-guard

Snapshots of a HKU Hall Security Guard

March 03, 2015 / by / 0 Comment

ONE EYE ON THE DOOR, ONE EYE ON THE SCREEN

A deft ability in handling inebriated college students who don’t speak Chinese was most likely not a requirement for his job. Yet, Mr. Ben, Head of Security for one of the student dormitories in The University of Hong Kong, has nimbly picked up the art of attending to the intoxicated, the confused, the melancholic, without a glitch.

In his navy tie and crisp white shirt, with a “SECURITY” tag sewn on the left, Mr. Ben sits calmly, as he does night after night. The ceiling light in the lobby of the dormitory reflects off his shiny round head, and his bold glasses. He sits in front of a thick, black laptop, one eye alert and fixated on the entrance of the building, while the other focuses on a fantasy video-game, playing across his screen. A large wooden desk towers above him, leaving only his smooth forehead visible to anyone passing by. On most days, students who stumble in after hours will walk straight past the security desk without a single glance, but Mr. Ben’s watchful eye doesn’t miss a move.

Over the last year and a half, my interactions with Mr. Ben have been minimal. Except for the occasional “hello”, our communication has remained limited to the mutual smile-and-nod. Other students have gotten more personal though, especially after they have a few drinks in their systems.  As we talk about this, his eyes laugh at some distant memory.

“Sometimes, some drunk people, boys and girls, will come back by taxi and the taxi door opens, and they just drop down on the floor!” he giggles. What do you do then? I ask.

“Sometimes, they come inside, too drunk to go upstairs. We make them sleep on the sofas. We push them onto the furniture,” he explains gesturing around the lobby, fitted with lounge chairs and couches. The lobby has a distinct Asian feel, the chairs and sofas are decked to match the oriental look.

“We can watch them here. If they go upstairs, we are afraid they will choke.” he adds.  How many times have you do you do this? I wonder out loud.

“Many times a year. But this semester, things have been okay.”  A student scurries into the lobby, juggling a bunch of grocery bags. Mr. Ben turns away from me and watches her intently, waiting for her to successfully enter the lift without dropping a bag.  He looks back at me.

“And every time a resident lives here and they can’t bring their girlfriend or boyfriend here, they will try to get in from different doors – very naughty!” A bright gleam returns to his eyes.

He begins telling me about his life, away from the nights he spends here. Unlike many of the security guards from Mainland China, Mr. Ben was born and raised in Hong Kong and his fondest memories are from his time Hong Kong’s Police Cadet Academy – almost two decades ago.  From shirking on hours of grass-cutting duty and paying for the naughtiness afterwards, to following instructions to jump out of a canoe into icy waters during winters, Mr. Ben would always pepper his regimented training life with a little fun. It brightened up an overarching sense of control, though he could never disrespect an authoritative figure.

“We had so much discipline [in the academy]. If there [was an] order, [you] must obey!” He looks around the lobby, and two passing students who, like most others, absent-mindedly trudge toward the elevators. “The discipline there isn’t like here. So much freedom in here.”

Mr. Ben is snapped out of his nostalgia. His attention springs toward a large group of students bound into the lobby, laughing hysterically. Another two students quietly troop behind, both focused on their cellphone screens. He returns to me, for a brief moment.

“Some students! Very drunk, very funny!” He chuckles back out of context, as his stories come to a close. I thank him, and wish him good night – a truly futile salutation, I realize afterward. He stays awake all through the night.

“Remember, just don’t drink too much!” Mr. Ben cocks an eyebrow, and adds after I say bye. As I go, he gives me a half smile, and he puts back one vigilant eye onto the door, and the other back onto his video-game.

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