Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The
If the safety of other people depended upon me, a pretty frightening thought since I can't even protect myself, I would be an insecurity guard, stationed at the front desk of a building that anybody could enter but nobody would want to because, of course, I'd be guarding the place.
That is not the case with Herbert "Doc" Koenig, a security guard in the building where I work. He don't need no stinking badge (he has an ID card with a photo of his goateed visage and the word "Doc" under it) and he doesn't carry a pistol, mainly because he is one. But he does have a rapier wit that could disarm the most suspicious intruder.
That, on most days, would be me.
"I'm not a real doctor," Doc confessed during a midday break, "but I used to be an EMT in New York City and I delivered two of my kids, so people began calling me Doc."
Then he began recalling some of his EMT adventures. The most memorable was the time he had to rescue an obese woman who got stuck in a bathtub.
"This lady was quite large," Doc said. "The tub was drained and she couldn't budge. There was this sucking sound as we pulled her out. I tried not to laugh. She was embarrassed, but she had a good sense of humor. She said, 'At least I'm clean.' "
Then there was the time a young woman took her pants off on a busy Brooklyn street.
"She got hit by a car and her tibia was shattered," Doc recalled, "so we put her on a stretcher. She was wearing designer jeans. I was going to cut them off, which was protocol. She said, 'You're not going to cut these. They're Jordache jeans.' She hopped up on one leg in the middle of Flatbush Avenue and took her pants off. She said, 'I can wash out the blood, but I can't sew my jeans back up.' "
The people who didn't have a leg to stand on were some of the knuckleheads Doc met in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, where he worked for 30 years, 23 as an arraignment sergeant.
"It's the busiest criminal court in the world," Doc said, "so you see some pretty crazy things."
Like the drug defendant who showed up in a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Wacky Weedies" and a picture of a stoner smoking a blunt, which is a cigar filled with marijuana.
"You can't fix stupid," Doc noted.
Judges didn't always show good judgment, either.
"One of them berated a defendant," Doc remembered. "The guy didn't like what the judge said, so he threw a punch. The judge said, 'Aren't you going to protect me?' I said, 'If he hits you, it's assault, right?' Another time, a pro basketball player didn't like what a judge said. A fight broke out and I ended up with a size 17 footprint on my leg."
But for Doc's money, the topper was the billionaire he was hired to protect.
"He was rich and nasty," Doc said. "And he was working on his fourth wife. I can't tell you who he is, but he's a real piece of work. If I had his money, I'd be rich but not nasty."
At 56, he'd also be retired, spending time with his wife, four children and two grandchildren.
"When the kids were growing up, I was the cool dad," Doc said. "All their friends would come over because we always had a lot of fun at our house. We still do. Now I'm the cool granddad, too."
Since Doc isn't a billionaire, he's working as a security guard, one of the friendly, dedicated people who protect the building where I work.
"You have to be nice," Doc said when I asked what it takes to do his job, "but you also have to be vigilant. And you have to watch out for suspicious characters."
"Like me?" I wondered.
"Sometimes," Doc said, "I'll let anybody in."