Scary Stories From the Field

You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife … and you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

If you take a moment out of your busy routine to ponder that question from the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” most of you would probably marvel at where you are today, considering where you came from and all you went through along the way. I know that’s true for me.

Today I sit here typing this as an extremely conscientious editor. However, getting to this point required a lot of hard work, smart choices and steering clear of bad influences. I’m amazed when I reflect back on all the friends, family members and acquaintances who became casualties of life’s minefields.

When I was a young, impressionable and energetic college student, my best friend got me a job as a cable television installer under the supervision of his father. Before I knew it, I was prewiring apartment complexes, climbing up telephone poles and going underneath houses for installations and service calls.

However, there was much more to my low-voltage education than just knowing how to crimp an RG-6 connector. Under the “guidance” of my friend’s dad – the self-proclaimed Lord of Loaf – I also learned a lot about life and the uglier realities of the workplace. Green and fresh out of high school, I was too uncomfortable to speak out against my associates’ unsavory conduct.

A typical day consisted of meeting my boss early at the office, dropping tools and supplies off at the job site, and then spending two hours at a nearby coffee shop. Then, he would have us put in an hour of work before breaking for an extended lunch. After lunch, he’d have us labor for two hours before calling it a day.

My co-workers would then take a fully stocked truck home and use it to hook people up to free cable, charging them $200 a pop. Then, they would go out to raise hell – whisking around town in a conspicuously marked vehicle. Although I was encouraged to join in, I am glad I had the common sense and character to decline. Eventually, the company caught drift of my boss’ shenanigans and fired him. Unfortunately, they let me go as well.

I was soon hired as a dispatcher for a medical laboratory. There, I supervised 20 drivers, whose routes involved picking up and delivering blood and other specimens for lab tests. As it turned out, the improprieties I witnessed at the cable company were just a warm-up as these couriers rewrote the book on unethical behavior in the workplace.

Ironically, while en route to process specimens that undoubtedly included drug screenings, drivers would cruise through bad neighborhoods to purchase their own recreational pharmaceuticals. Then, at the end of the day, some of them would swing by a nearby gas station to fill up their own car on the company’s account.

Things really got out of hand when a driver whose route took him into farmland outside of Los Angeles decided to try out his new .45-caliber magnum on the job. Returning to the office, he explained how he pulled over to the side of the road and shot a cow at point-blank range. “Dude, I had to keep shooting it over and over again because it kept mooing really loudly! Then the farmer came running out after me!” These were the kind of lunatics I had to contend with. Fortunately, I earned my degree and moved on.

Why have I regaled you with such unseemly tales? Because these exploits offer a valuable lesson, especially since these businesses have much in common with the alarm industry. To keep your field personnel on the up and up, make sure they are thoroughly screened, properly trained, fairly compensated and adequately supervised. Also, base your own security on the fact that most shrinkage has internal origins.

Taking these steps will make your company synonymous with professionalism instead of buffoonery. It’s no coincidence that both the cable company and medical lab are now out of business. Happy Holidays!

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