March 17, 2005

How Secure IS Security?

I often write about various jobs I’ve held over the years; it serves me well to recall the life lessons I’ve gleaned from each one. At several different time frames, I worked as a telephone operator at answering services in New York City, Southern New Jersey and Connecticut. This job never pays well but offers remarkable insight as to which doctors I wouldn't recommend (because they get pissed off when they get emergency calls), which lawyers I’d never retain (because they never get back to their clients), and which oil companies, dentists, repair services and tow truck companies provide the best overall services (because of repeat and satisfied customer calls). Great little job for a newly transplanted resident.

Back in the mid-seventies, I worked for an answering service on Staten Island which handled over 400 clients. The switchboard was constantly aglow with incoming calls of every type imaginable. There were no slow seasons, or even slow times of day. Dealing with important clients such as physicians and surgeons (the bulk of our business), there was very little room for error in taking detailed messages and giving accurate information. You just didn’t fuck up or you were out of there.

Perhaps if Dave Taylor hadn’t come in one night and put a gun to my head, I'd have lasted longer than the two years I spent on the job. The life lesson I learned on that night was a simple one ~ never trip up a hard-core criminal.

Taylor went terribly wrong sometime during his days at technical school where he was a hugely bright and capable student. He was an arrogant young man in his late twenties by the time he had his own business in home security systems.

This near-genius created the perfect scam within a three-year time frame and was well on his way to becoming wealthy and reputable within a community of doctors, lawyers and well … rich people who had a whole lot to lose. He would entice them with exotic security systems that would produce almost immediate results if their properties were tampered with.

As Taylor’s answering service, we were the first line of alert when such an incident occurred. The system would sound a silent alarm which rang at our base office. The order in which we handled alarms was clearly defined and customized by Taylor, to best suit the needs of his clientele. Most often, it went as follows:
· Alarm sounds at the answering service indicating the type of event that is in
progress (burglary, fire, robbery)
· First call 911 and issue data to the dispatcher
· Place a call to the residence or business (except in a robbery) and retrieve
a pass code if someone answers (in the event that the alarm was tripped in
error)
· IMMEDIATELY summon Taylor on his mobile radio unit or by way of his
digital pager
· Page the home or business owner (except in a robbery) to alert them to
the alarm
· Watch for alarm to be reset from the scene (indicating all is now well)

Taylor devised an almost perfect scheme and implemented it by changing this operating procedure and instructing us to first call HIM - the moment certain alarms sounded. This gave him an edge to instruct us further – OR NOT. In other words, what he was actually doing was alerting his small band of accessories to gain entry into the very homes where he installed security systems, having us call him when the alarms tripped, and instructing us that there was no need to call 911 or the home owner. This offered them ample time to clean the place out, open safes (he had all their security codes), and generally rape the homeowner of his or her prized possessions, with little chance of getting nailed. Taylor always showed up to the house “just a minute too late” and he knew just when to call the authorities so that it would look like he was the hero; he would always come out of it smelling like roses … the bastard.

One night while several of us were on duty at the answering service, an alarm sounded and one of our new operators, thinking she was doing exactly the right thing, called 911 first. As fate would have it, it was one of the “special cases” that Taylor had drilled us about. “Never call 911 first, NEVER,” were his instructions for a number of his clients.

As it turned out, the police walked in on the burglary in progress (Taylor’s crew being the burglars), and arrested three of them on the spot. By the time Taylor was alerted to the alarm, it was too late and when he heard everything going down on the police scanner, he became livid with us - his answering service.

Roughly a half-hour passed since the alarm had sounded, when Taylor burst through the door of our office flailing his arms wildly and ranting nonsensically. We were quite accustomed to Taylor’s rants as he had always been a bit volatile and aggressive, but the newer operator was shaking in her shoes as she watched and listened to his angry display.

“David, we fucked up, we’re sorry, shouldn’t you be tending to your client?” I asked, half-ignoring his tantrum.
“You have no IDEA what you’ve done to me!” was his reply.
“We will make all due apologies to your client,” I said, “We’re insured for this type of incident and you know it.”
“NO, NO … THIS COULD BE MY CAREER YOU ASSHOLE,” he now singled me out. “WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE TONIGHT?”
“That would be me and I don’t know who you think you’re dealing with but you will NOT carry this any further in this office,” I said, quite calmly.

This enraged Taylor. He was a take-charge type of man, quite small in stature and extremely sure of himself. In a heartbeat, he whipped out his licensed .45 and held it to my head. My mind spun briefly outside of reality. “Holy Christ,” I whispered.
Everyone in the office froze solid. Nobody spoke. They stared at him, at the gun and at me, all expecting the absolute worst.

None of us had any notion that Taylor was involved in criminal activity of any sort. We simply thought we made a mistake by calling 911 before calling Dave. We couldn’t comprehend why he was enraged to such an extent. Sure, he’d be pissed off, but to the point of threatening my life? To Taylor, however, we had blown his cover and he knew his buddies wouldn’t take the fall for this without dragging him down as well.

I could feel the nose of the gun rubbing against my scalp and though I was frightened to death, I remember trying to imagine how it would actually feel to die. I wasn’t hearing his rants anymore, wasn’t fully seeing the strained expressions on my colleagues faces, and surely wasn’t thinking there was any way out of this.

Suddenly the doors to the elevator (just beyond the glass wall to our office) opened and the gun was immediately lowered from my head. In walked two police officers, casually chatting together. This was the norm after an actual burglary or robbery took place. They would always show up at our office to document the exact time of the initial alarm. Taylor’s entire demeanor changed as they spoke to him in the far corner of the room near the alarm panels.

Not realizing that he would be arrested shortly thereafter, none of us spoke up at the time because we feared repercussion down the road. I don’t know that I ever fully believed Dave would pull the trigger. I did think about how it would feel to be shot, but wasn’t convinced it was actually going to happen then and there. Taylor and I had known one another for nearly two years by then and had shared quick jokes and laughs together at the office on several occasions. I just don’t think, in retrospect, that he would have killed me.

Taylor’s career did go down the tubes that night, but not because we called the authorities first. Apparently they already had their suspicions about him and had been watching him for some time, just hoping to capture the entire crew of them in the act. It was going to come down to him one way or another.

When the story came out in the newspapers two days later, none of us could believe as we read of all the prior incidents Taylor had a hand in. He had become quite the con man, allowing people to trust him implicitly with their personal secrets. The answering service job didn’t last a whole lot longer for me, even knowing that Taylor was safely incarcerated. I decided to move on and make some real money in Manhattan again instead.

Sometimes even now, I wonder what became of Dave Taylor. I don’t CARE what has become of him, I simply wonder.

15 Comments:

Blogger psuche said...

Wow, that sounds like a pretty scary incident. It's good that you 'kept your head' (no pun intended) when he pulled out the gun. There was no way you could know he was capable of that but based on the situation it sounds like you did the right thing.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Wally said...

Carol,

What a spellbinder! Your story and the experience that you were put through, just goes to show that one is never completely safe in any invironment. A great story, and what makes it so much better, is that you're still around to tell it.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Swifty said...

Good grief woman! How do you keep doing this so consistently? Tell me the worst, it's effortless isn't it? You had a bit of time to spare so you thought you'd tell us the story of Mr Taylor? It's not fair. Why God? Why?

Ooops! Sorry about the histrionics.

A great post.

11:27 AM  
Blogger John said...

Well now that Blogger has knocked off the crappy ten minute pageloads, I can say that:

I'm glad no one got hurt Carol! I personally would have filed charges on this person though, attempted murder? Thats sick.

The old saying is still true, if you live by the sword, you will die by the sword as well.

Or in more modern terms, what goes around comes around.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

That's an amazing story. Gunplay at work.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

It took me 12 minutes to penetrate this comments board, so I figure I'll leave a couple.

F'n Blogger!

2:38 PM  
Blogger brooksba said...

Carol,

Wow! What an amazing, and scary, story. I'm glad that he didn't pull the trigger, I'm sure you are too. I'm just stunned by the different experiences you've had in your life.

Great writing, again and again.

Beth

3:13 PM  
Blogger NYCbeauty said...

Carol,
While I was in graduate school, I worked at an aswering service as well...how funny is that? Of course I don't have any heart-pounding stories like yours... just one's about consummate assholes who are pissed off because they can't speak directly to the doctor.
Great writing
-Jennifer

1:31 AM  
Blogger blue2go said...

Wow, that job was a bit too exciting! Good thing it came out OK, the nut could have shot you! Hope he's still in jail.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Sask 1 said...

What a story Carol.Glad everything turned out okay.Last weekend i walked into a gas station as it was being robbed.The kids only waved a knife at me tellingme to get out of the way and that was scarey enough.
June

9:48 AM  
Blogger happyandblue2 said...

Glad you didn't get hurt. How scary.
After reading this I will never take another message for anyone again. Not even family..

4:01 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Wow.

This is completely amazing, Carol. You have a great way with words...even though I knew he didn't murder you, I was freaked out, until I got to the end.

I would have pressed charges against him as well. What a jerk.

1:28 PM  
Blogger The Rambler said...

Wow, I can't wait for "Carol the Movie!"

Keep wowing us with these great posts.

Brad.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Santanu said...

Hope he got properly punished!
Should I thank him for helping you out with material for such a gripping story? :-)
Wonder why most take-charge types are small in stature!:-\

4:06 AM  
Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

This sent shivers through the core of me as time froze in slow motion. Thank goodness he was not too looney toons to pull that trigger. You write so well that I can imagine what it felt like to be there, but in no way can I approach feeling what you endured. I just want to hug you right now! (Blogger mush, but it's true!)

I've been a switchboard operator in my teens. The experiences make for blogging but were not as terrifying as this.

3:39 AM  

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