Since we’ve gotten the puppy I have the middle-of the night potty training duty, which means I’m out in our backyard sometime between 1-4 am. This gives me ample opportunity to check on our night guards.
When you’re working overseas for a U.S. funded project they usually require you to have a guard be it in a safe place like Zambia or a dangerous place like Johannesburg. So, we have 24-hour guard service. We have one guard who does the 6 am to 6 pm shift and then another guard who does the 6 pm to 6am shift. They work 6 days a week and then we have the same substitute guard for the day guard’s day off on Monday and the night guard’s night off on Wednesday.
I’m glad we live in a safe country in a safe area because our night guards tend to fall asleep on the job. I’m not talking a catnap here; I’m talking a deep, unconscious, hearty sleep. The other day the banging on our gate at 6 am was so loud it woke us up. Thom said, “there goes Bernard (our day guard) waking up Gabriel (our night guard).” (Photo of Bernard, the day guard, below.)
Joking aside, it became a real problem the other night when Thom couldn’t figure out how to get the night lights and electric fence on so he called for Gabriel. After yelling his name about a dozen times I finally walked out to the cabana where the guards are stationed (about 200 yards from the house) and Gabriel was sprawled back in his chair, with his head at an odd angle against the wall (like he’d been shot or something). I kept saying his name and it didn’t look like he was breathing.
Now, I have a phobia about touching dead people. I’m afraid it’s contagious or something, so I just shook the table in front of him. Still no movement. I bounced it against him gently. Still no movement. Good Lord, I thought, he’s already in rigor mortis. Finally, I shoved the table hard right into his stomach to see if he’d fall over (at which time I would turn and run and get Thom) and he jumped up like Lazarus from the dead and jerked out his headphones (yes, his headphones).
At the same time this was going on there was banging on our front gate. Before I had a chance to say anything to Gabriel I went over there and opened it and there was a posse of guards from his headquarters. They apparently had been trying to raise Gabriel for his hourly check-in for a good 30-40 minutes to no avail so they had rushed out to the property. (This is a good sign I thought! We’d only be terrorized for half an hour or so if thugs came for a midnight visit.)
At this point the very stout mother of our landlady, who’s staying at the other house on the 5-acre property, came out in her mini white cotton nightgown and old rubber flip-flops and started chewing out the guard service for their lax performance in the local language, Nyanja. Gabriel looked totally embarrassed and the supervisor kept staring at him with utter contempt.
They brought in someone new to replace Gabriel but I missed him because he was so good with the dogs. The new guy was afraid of the dogs. If we wanted to travel it would be a good thing to have someone like Gabriel there. So, we asked the guard service to bring him back on probation, one last chance. Gabriel was so grateful to be back that he walks around and around and around and around the house all night to make sure he stays awake. Plus, he plays with the dogs and helps take care of them! (Gabriel below trying to protect Buddy from the puppy Coco.)
You’d think that Gabriel’s performance was an aberration but no, not two days after Gabriel’s raising from the dead I took the puppy out about 2 am to go potty and I couldn’t find the relief night guard anywhere (it was the regular guard’s night off). I walked all around the house and peered in all of the dark corners and he was no where to be found. I went and woke up Thom and told him that our guard was AWOL. Thom went out back and opened the outside bathroom door. That is, he tried to open it. Something was on the ground and Thom had to push aside it aside to get in. It was Chanda, the relief guard, sleeping on the bathroom floor! (ewwwww!!! this is a men’s only bathroom and you know how drippy and germy they can be).
Chanda leapt up and said, “I’m sorry sir, I was just getting an hour’s rest, I’m sorry, it was so cold out I came in here, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I was completely disgusted by this time and went back into bed. Thom told him to stay out of the bathroom and to stay awake or else he was gone.
The next day Chanda came back he gave us a long story about how he got stuck on the other side of town and had to walk home five hours that day so he didn’t have time to sleep and that he really never fell asleep on the job and he was really embarrassed. I told him I was disappointed in him because I previously had told a supervisor that they should use Chanda for training and then when this happened, I just couldn’t believe it, that he had really let us down. (Chanda below, in 65 degree weather.)
Thom and I decided not to mention anything to the guard service and give Chanda another chance as well. After getting other substitute guards we realized that we had some good guys and that it was worth giving them a second chance. Plus, they both were so mortified by their performance that they really have upped their game and seem to be extra alert.
So far so good — time will tell!