Paul has worked as a security agent during two Oregon State football seasons. He wasn’t a guard, wasn’t bonded or deputized. He didn’t carry a weapon. In fact, he was instructed to avoid any kind of physical confrontation. If a spectator was behaving belligerently, orders were to back away and summon Campus Security, who did have badges, and weapons, and authority to make arrests.
Paul was recruited through a temp agency. The agency told him where to report, and when. Hours before the fans arrived at Reser Stadium, Paul would join a group of security agents assembling outside Gill Coliseum. They would talk, catching up with people they had worked alongside on previous football games or at other temp jobs. They would sort through the security company’s uniform shirts looking for their size. A supervisor would address the assembled crew, giving reminders of standard rules (no smoking on duty, don’t leave your assigned post until you’re relieved for a break, don’t just stand there and watch the game), special instructions for the day’s game (if a game was going to be televised, it was doubly important to look professional at every moment, since a camera might pick you up at any moment), and offered words of encouragement. He assigned people to team leaders and assigned team leaders to different sections of the stadium.
The agents marched down to Reser and took up their various posts. Some went to tables just before the ticket booths, inspecting people’s bags to see if they were bringing in contraband. Some patrolled the seats alongside the field, among the densely packed fans who were closest to the action and thus most likely to get caught up in it themselves. Some walked the higher bleachers, where people sat who wanted to watch the game in peace (or watch the game and make out, or watch the game and consume contraband that the checker at the gate missed). It was up in the “nosebleed section” that Paul saw a student drinking from a genuine silver hip flask, just like in an old movie.
Yes, people really do try to sneak beer, wine, liquor, and cannabis into the game. Sorry, folks, maybe you thought the inspection at the gate was just a game, and the prize was getting your stuff into the stadium. Nope, drinking alcohol really and truly isn’t allowed, and smoking anything isn’t allowed either. If an agent catches you with it you will be ejected.
Working the gate, Paul tried to be evenhanded and inspect everyone’s bags and ask everyone to open their coats. Most people understood the need for inspections and some would pull out a concealed bottle and quietly set it on the ground beside the inspection table. The only ones who ever got really indignant about having to show what they were carrying were expensively dressed young men and expensively dressed elderly men. Those were also the ones who were most often caught with contraband.
While working in the remotest areas of the stadium, where fans were fewer, Paul would introduce himself to each group, pointing out his fellow security agents and inviting people to seek their help if there were any kind of trouble. One of the full-time security guards saw Paul doing this and thanked him for taking a proactive approach to his job. She invited him to apply to her outfit and promised to give him a good reference.
One of Paul’s supervisors also saw him doing it and told him to knock it off, though. He explained to Paul that the security agents were supposed to be inconspicuous until trouble started.
Near the end of most games, security agents were called in from their various jobs to stand on the field, evenly spaced in front of the stands, to discourage the fans from rushing the field before the players had left it. The company very much wanted to avoid a collision which could result in an injury to a fan, or to a player, or worse yet to a visiting player. Agents were instructed to face the stands, remaining quiet and “professional-looking.” The truth was, the agents were strictly for show. If fans actually did rush the field, agents were not to try to stop them. Years ago in Boot Camp, Paul had learned the “parade rest” position. Standing there facing the crowd, trying to bluff them with his presence, he finally had a chance to make use of it.
Standing on the field at the end of a game, with spirits running high, was the only time Paul felt genuinely worried. There was a small but non-zero chance that he might be knocked down and trampled by a surging crowd. It didn’t happen, but it could have.
Paul is a graduate of Oregon State University, and had often heard their “Alma Mater” played. He liked the tune, which to him sounded like “O Little Town of Bethlehem” crossed with “L’Internationale.” But it was only while standing on the field at the end of game after game that he finally learned the words.
By John M. Burt