Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The best part of the job
Years ago, I worked as a night watchman for the construction site for what is now the Redfeather shopping center, on Cheyenne between Decatur and Rancho. Twelve hours a night, from six to six, walking about the construction vehicles and trucks, wandering the half finished buildings, moving through the scrapped vehicles and old tires, as I kept a sharp lookout for any possible thieves. One night a small group of said thieves attempted to keep trouble out of the way by placing a homemade explosive device on the little trailer that one of my employer’s other workers lived in, hoping to steal a few thousand dollars worth of whatever they could get while West lay injured or dead. After we’d spooked them off, we examined the little plastic bottle with its contents, then placed it on the ground at a safe location and set it off ourselves, purely for fun.
Another relatively nonviolent but still unsettling incident occurred when I looked across the street and saw four squad cars with the police chopper overhead. Being naturally somewhat concerned, I called 9-1-1 to ask if I could assist in any way. I must say, few things can impart the lesson of self reliance like pressing the buttons 9, 1, and 1, only to hear the following. “You have reached the 9-1-1 emergency line. All our operators are busy…” The next night I began showing up armed, with either a knife, an ASP baton, a wooden sword, or a combination thereof.
Though the police did arrive at a later date. Someone had seen my flashlight and called the police, thinking I was a thief myself. I emerged from an empty warehouse after patrolling the interior to find the police chopper overhead. When I heard the command to get down on the ground, I slowly sat down ,then made a show of drawing my knife, holding it overhead, then tossing it a few feet away. And when the two squad cars peeled in and the four policemen emerged with guns drawn, I called out my name, my job, and my employer’s name. A tense but brief conversation and a few calls made by both parties later, the police drove off, and I was free to resume my patrol. Once I’d stopped shaking, anyway.
Not that it was all guns and explosions. There was also time to spend doing…whatever I pleased, really. Martial arts training, wandering down to the Fiesta casino to munch on one of the post-midnight specials available from their cafe for my “lunch break,” listening to reruns of the previous day’s daytime talk shows on AM radio. But the best part of the job was something that anyone in Las Vegas can enjoy, if they get up at the right time of day and find a good position to watch it. For me, the best position was climbing up to the roof of one of the buildings to watch.
The red comes first, of course. It literally covers every color in the visible light spectrum, but it’s the red that comes first. Then the orange, and then the yellow. After a few minutes the sun itself becomes visible and you can no longer look directly at the sunrise itself (unless there are low clouds to cover the sun), but before that you can see the color green there on the horizon, where red and yellow light blend with a black sky now illuminated and turned blue. It is every color of the rainbow, all splashed across the sky in the unforgettable and incomparable desert sunrise.
It was my favorite part of the job. It was a triumph of beauty. It was a demonstration of the sheer magnificence of nature. It was the sort of harsh beauty that thrives only in the desert. It was a testimony to the wonders of creation. It was the signal that it was end of shift and time to go home.