Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hold The Door!

Every few months we get one of these emails at work. Another creeper incident. They call them "office creepers" and the M.O. of this species of criminal is to walk into busy office buildings in broad daylight like they belong there. They then raid the offices, cubicles and supply closets of small, high-value items and walk back out before everyone realizes their iPhones are gone while the BlackBerrys remain untouched.

The emails usually come with attached security camera screen-snaps of the creeper in action, often with oblivious coworkers cast as unwitting extras in the background.

"Look at him follow Kristy through the side door. Oh, and there's Thomas holding the elevator for him. Tom's so polite, what a dork! Hey Saeid, isn't that your laptop? Wait, was I carrying an iPad when I walked in here?"

Each missive ends with an admonishment to be on the lookout for office creepers. Do not let anyone without a badge "tailgate" behind you through an entrance. Always confront those who doesn't have their badge prominently displayed. Anyone seeking admittance without a badge must be directed to sign in with the receptionist.

Great. On top of everything else I do around here, I'm supposed to handle security too? I'm an engineer for cryin' out loud. Do I look like I went to mall cop school? Don't answer that.

Seriously though, the problem with asking the employees to police each other is that it requires them to unlearn so many of the things they've been taught not to do...

Remember that mandatory, three-day "Diversity in the Workplace" seminar? Well, I suppose it's okay to judge people a little based on their appearance, dress, grooming, perceived level of education, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation... basically whatever triggers that gut instinct they just don't belong. But only if you suspect they might actually be a criminal, behaving with criminal intent, or acting, you know, squirrely.

Oh, and HR wants to see you. Something about a "third strike".

And everything your parents drummed into you about politely holding doors open for others? Really? Did your mommy dress you and pack your lunchbox today too?

Here's the new entry etiquette: Before entering the building, scan your surroundings, being sure to glare suspiciously at other people. After swiping your badge, wait for the sound of the beep followed shortly by the click of the security latch solenoid. Now, crack the door open a few inches and toss in your laptop bag. Slowly and carefully continue opening the door just enough to fit your beer gut, glare suspiciously one more time, then shimmy through the opening. Once you've successfully slipped inside, turn your upper body and push your shoulder against the door with all your might to re-secure the latch. If the door fails to latch, check that the doorjamb isn't blocked by the fingers or toes of criminals/co-workers attempting to follow you in.

The other day I was leaving the office. The second the door closed behind me I realized I didn't have my security badge clipped to my pocket. As I stood there frantically patting myself down, an attractive young woman exited right behind me. We didn't know each other, but I figured the fact that we just left the same office building might establish us in her mind as co-workers. I explained my predicament and asked if she could swipe me back in to look for my badge. As my luck would have it, another creeper alert had just gone out that morning. With a heart bursting with company loyalty, she dutifully told me to go fuck myself.

Did I roll my eyes? Did anyone hear me complain? That's not relevant to this story. The point is that I followed the rules and finally tracked down a security guard at the far side of the parking lot listening to talk radio in his truck.

The next day I was on my way to a meeting in a neighboring building of our sprawling, suburban office campus. This particular entrance is guarded by a receptionist so there's no electronic badge reader. Instead you hold up your badge at eye level, Agent Mulder style, as you walk past the receptionist's desk while her cyborg implant instantly scans your creds against a database of known office creepers, stapler thieves and butt xeroxers. If you come up clean, she nods and you continue on your way. I'm not sure what happens if you don't.

Only on this day the receptionist, who may or may not be an ex-navy seal, had her eyes closed. I thought about asking if she was okay, but didn't want to be the one to embarrass her if she was merely sleeping on the job. (Damn, that politeness again. It's bound to be the death of me or someone in my general proximity.)

I decided to interpret her sustained nod as a grant of admission and made my way to the elevator lobby. I could only assume the growing crowd waiting for the next lift were equally unverified as well. Fortunately the elevator requires passengers to swipe their badges before they can select a floor.

Then, just as the doors were beginning to close, in stepped an Asian man carrying a large cardboard tray full of mu shu pork cartons and rice boxes. "Five please," he said, looking in my direction. Gulp. The Executive Level. What to do? Security protocol clearly dictates I send him back to sign in with the receptionist he obviously just bypassed. But the poor dear so needs her rest...

"Five please," he repeated louder, as if my problem was a hearing one.

I sighed, swiped my badge, and pressed the 5 button, the whole while promising myself this would be my absolute last racial profiling. Ever. Cross my heart.

I spent the next couple days half-expecting to see my low-res surveillance photos in the next edition of Creeper Weekly. Forever branded the guy who swiped in the notorious mastermind of the Atlanta branch of the Chinese mafia to abscond with the CEO's iPhone and scotch tape dispenser.


  1. Your Halloween "outfit" . Yes, you look like you went to Mall Cop School.

    I answered anyways. Sue me.

  2. You do sorta have that "creeper" look down. (reference hallowe'en pic)