The BuyTowne Mall officially opens at 8:00AM, but most of the stores don't actually roll up their cages until 9:00AM. That blissful hour in between—after the padlocks have been taken off the main doors but before the button is pressed that turns on the bro-stank machine at Abercrombie & Fitch—is mall security guard Kenneth P. Cole's favorite hour.
He calls it the mall walker's hour, as the only people in the building aside from workers are friendly, track-suit clad seniors striding from JC Penney's all the way to Sears and back again.
At this time of day nobody steals anything, or tags anything, or throws up in the fountain. Ken wanders the halls waving to the elderly walkers and the cleaning crew, who are prepping for the larger crowds to come.
He wanders aimlessly, breathing in the smells of glass cleaner mixed with the tempting aromas starting to come out of the food court.
Ken's day began much earlier. Hugo, his boss, requires that Ken arrive at the mall by 7:00AM each morning. Ken lets himself in through the service entrance hidden at the end of a hall behind Kay Jewelers, then punches the alarm code for the building.
Each shop and kiosk has its own system as well, but those are the responsibilities of the individual store managers. Ken's domain—the area he's sworn to protect and serve—includes the public space from the Sunglass Hut to the Pizza Hut.
Once alarms are off, Ken's first order of business is a meeting with Hugo. He finds him at the main security desk in front of the Calvin Klein store.
"Morning, Ken. Let's talk about the day. We've got a cookware exhibition in the hub nearest to the food court. They'll be hawking crock pots and dishing out beef stew starting at 11:00AM, so keep an eye on the line as people get hungrier. Also, the new video game Glory Smash Seven comes out today, so expect more gamers than usual."
Mission accepted, Ken gets started on his main task at 9:30AM: sweeping each wing of the mall and looking for anything amiss. As he patrols east to west, everything seems in order—at least until he arrives at the fountain, the central hub of the mall.
Normally, customers throw pennies, nickels, and dimes into the fountain as they make wishes. This morning, though, some prankster decided to throw in a bunch of fast-acting dish detergent—or at least that's what the explosion of suds suggests to Ken.
So apparently the troubles today are starting early. Ken un-holsters his radio. "I'm going to need a cleaning crew ASAP at the main fountain for a bubble clean up. We need this done pronto or we're going to have to rope off the area. Over." The janitorial crew radios back that they've got it, and once they arrive Ken gets back on his patrol.
With a few indoor and outdoor patrols under his utility belt, he takes a break around 11:00AM. The mall, a quiet scene of peace and serenity just a few hours ago, has come alive with patrons browsing, employees practicing their best "I'm not selling" sales pitch, and merchandise flying off the shelves.
Ken grabs some food from the food court. Chinese, as usual—one of these day's he's going to try that new sushi restaurant that just moved in, but he's not really the adventurous type. He even wears a helmet when riding the mall Segway.
Back on duty at 11:30AM, Ken spends the rest of his shift patrolling from store to store, keeping an eye out for nefarious activities. All goes smoothly until nearly the end of Ken's day—the law-breakers always seem to know when he's about to clock out.
At 3:35PM, an alarm sounds; it's coming from the Virgin Megastore. Someone hasn't paid for the Miley Cyrus CD they've hidden in their bag. Ken sprints to the scene of the crime and finds the manager in an argument with a young woman. Each person is yelling at the other, casting blame and using words that just aren't meant for public consumption.
Ken steps in—this is why they pay him the "big" bucks.
Assessing the situation while doing his best to moderate, he calms both parties down and sees that the item is returned to the manager. The young lady is escorted to the security office, where she waits less-than-patiently while Ken goes over the security footage—standard procedure with suspected shoplifters.
After showing the woman exactly when the camera saw her slip the disk into her bag, Ken puts on his sternest authority-figure face.
"Ma'am, you realize that shoplifting is a crime and that we could press charges? What I don't want to do is to have to call the police and your parents."
"Please don't," begs the girl. "I promise this will never happen again." Ken's job often requires him to work with situations like this. Since this is her first time and the mall won't press charges anyway, the best plan of action is to give her a bit of a scare and let her go with one bit of advice: never mess with mall security.
Ken does just that. Besides, it's 4:00PM, his shift is up, and he really doesn't want to stay longer to go through the extra paperwork. But he hopes the shoplifter knows how lucky she is, because the next time it happens he'll totally put in the overtime.