The robots, the robots are coming

There’s an old adage that holds true that you should always keep friends with the security staff in any organisation.  This is not so’s they might think twice about knocking you out, nor is it about the many connections that some of them might have to knocked-off goods.  It’s about their uncanny access to information.

Generally speaking the security staff will know who’s shagging who, the inside gossip from the top, and, most alarmingly, long before you are told officially, they will know when you are suddenly having your contract of employment terminated.

It has been my deliberate policy over the years to be buddies with the security staff of wherever I work, and latterly wherever my company might have contracts of work, so that I am one step ahead of my rivals with a heads-up on anything new that might be happening.  Or so that I can say, “Fuck you” before somebody says it to me first.

The slight down side to all this is that I do find myself sometimes engaged in protracted conversations. Usually they are fun. Security people are down to earth people, normal people. This is in huge contrast to ‘meeja’ people who tend to be, well, complete arseholes. There’s no baggage with the guys running security. Well, normally…

So, there I was on my way in to a very large organisation, nodding to one of the security guys, let’s call him ‘George’, who was on the desk.  He looked at me furtively, nervously looked left and right, and beckoned me to him.  “Shit!” I thought, “They’ve axed my organisation or are getting others in to quote. I’m fucked.”

However, it wasn’t about me.  ‘George’ showed me an email that had been sent on a sort of global basis to certain groups of support staff, which, whilst full of unnecessary jargon and faffing, was basically saying that under the current circumstances a gradual examination of the working structure of, well, everybody, was still being undertaken, and recommendations for efficiencies were being sought.  Now, I know, and probably you know, that this usually means the internal structures and those most at risk might be middle to lower management when they, for example, combine, say, the hierarchy that looks after the cleaning staff, with the hierarchy that looks after the security staff.  The fact is those at the very lowest point don’t face any axing, it’s middle to lower management.  With the exception being outsourcing of whole departments.

So, I realised that ‘George’, a somewhat older gentleman, was extremely agitated, “What’s it mean? What’s it mean? What’s it mean?  They’re sacking us all.  All of us, aren’t they, sacking us all.”

I tried to explain that it was very unlikely and his only issue might come from outsourcing, but then, as he was already on minimum wage and there’s an obligation to offer jobs to existing staff, nothing that much would change for him apart from who his boss was.

“No.  No, you’re wrong. They don’t need us.  They’ve got the robots.  They’re automating it all.  Replacing us all with robots.”

He elaborated by explaining that he’d been hearing about the automation that was being introduced to deal with access to the building.  I immediately assumed that he meant the automated security pass-cards were coming back online, and tried to ask if this was what he meant. He cut me dead.

“No, it’s robots.  They can move around now like humans.  They’ll be here doing all the security for the building.  And they’ll be working in the kitchen and serving in the staff restaurant.  They’ve got eyes, arms and legs and all that sort of thing and connections to big computers and things like that.  They know what they’re doing. They can work 24 hours a day. We can’t work 24 hours a day. They can.”      

At this point of course I glanced around for the tell tale signs of hidden cameras, before then adopting ‘clench’ mode.

‘Clench’ mode is when you fall in that you are in a situation you don’t want to be in, but can’t easily walk away from.  You take a deep sigh as the reality of what is happening hits home, and your buttocks clench as you try desperately to mentally work out how the fuck to take control of everything, something, anything in order to safely walk away.

“Really?  Have you seen them?  What are they like?”  I offered, trying not to alienate ‘George’ who was obviously raving bonkers, yet a huge security man who used to enjoy bare-knuckle fighting when younger.

“They’re silver and grey.  They’ll replace all of us.  All of the building support staff, you mark my words.  This email is just the bosses way of letting us know.  They haven’t said robots because of the unions, but I know it’s the robots.”

“How do you know it’s robots, though?”

“[The security guard supervisor] Pete’s been off for two weeks now. He says it’s his bad back. It’s not his bad back. Something’s going down. It’s the robots.”

“So, what’s really happened to Pete then?”

“He’s training the robots.  One of them will be in charge, and he’s training it to replace him. Then the other robots will replace us. He’s in on it all. He knows what’s going on. Bad back, my arse.”

“O-k-a-y…so, what are you going to do about it all?”

“I’m not sanding for it. It’s not right.  They can’t do this to us. It’s not right. I tell you what I’m doing about it Chris, I’m not standing for it. Not standing for it.  They won’t do this to me. I’ve been loyal to them, I have, right loyal to them. Fuck them and their robots. You talk to them, you tell them.  You tell them. Tell them they can fuck themselves and their fucking robots!”

With this, he handed me his walkie-talkie, a set of keys, and a couple of ID things from around his neck and left.

I called after him but he was gone.

It took me a while to work out what to do, but eventually I managed to explain everything to somebody higher up in the organisation and handed them the walkie-talkie, keys and ID badges.  They seemed very concerned about ‘George’s’ welfare and set somebody to try to find him and check out his home, etc.  I then carried on with the original purpose of the visit.

About a week later, ‘George’ walked in to my place of work asking if we needed any security guards.  Accidentally, I instinctively said, “Oh, I’m sorry George, we’re such a small organisation, we have remote cctv monitoring at night and during the day it’s all automated here”.