“Knight Rider” by H. Kuhn

July can be hot in downtown Toronto. The pavement and concrete seem to radiate heat and, at times, magnify it. The forest of tall buildings along Bay Street, not far from the Eaton Centre, blocks the breezes and, in places, the air is stifling and still. Occasionally it reminded me of my first ‘real’ job out of high school. I had taken work at a factory where machine and motor parts were made out of powdered metal. Powerful presses compacted the grey, grainy, metal bits into the desired, and carefully measured, pieces. These in turn were fed on a conveyor belt through a long furnace to be baked into hardened product. Newly hired, my assignment was to stand at the open end of the furnace, wearing padded asbestos gloves, and remove the scorching hot metal shapes from the conveyor and place them, undamaged, into a large metal bin which was taken away by a forklift for further processing. Sometimes downtown Toronto in July could feel like the heat of that furnace to me.

The cool air as I entered the air-conditioned lobby of the twenty-five floor apartment and office complex, where I worked as security, refreshed and energized me. It was mid-week and I was about to begin the afternoon shift. My work partner was already at the security booth on one side of the large, marble lobby and there was a slow but steady flow of people coming and going from the office side elevators.

As I entered the booth we exchanged greetings and I sat down at the desk. He left to begin the first walk through of the building and the five below-ground parking garage levels as I turned on the bank of twenty or so closed circuit TV monitors on the far wall of the booth. These monitors were relatively small and displayed black and white pictures of various areas in the complex. To see an area better, the picture on one particular monitor of your choosing could be transferred to a larger monitor sitting on the desktop where I was at that moment. Opening the log book, I scanned through the most recent entries of the other shifts then wrote the date, time, both our names and the time the first patrol was started. It was the end of the work day for the business offices and the flow of people through the lobby had increased. On the monitors I could see the cars pulling out of their parking spaces in the garage and working their way up, level by level, to the attendant’s booth near the exit ramp to the street.

The monitor showing the attendant’s booth caught my attention. None of the line of cars leading to his area were moving and no cars were passing his cubicle to exit the garage. The attendant stepped out of his stall and walked off-camera, apparently to see what the hold up was. I touched the button on the desktop microphone and asked my partner to return to the security booth. The attendant rushed back into view and ran a few steps toward the camera and stopped, waving his hands over his head in distress. The middle-aged, Asian man with thinning hair seemed quite upset.

Leaving my partner to observe on the monitors and man the security desk, I grabbed a walkie-talkie and entered the side elevator to the garage levels. When I arrived at his level the parking attendant was so excited that I could not fully understand him but the problem was immediately clear. A tall man in blue jeans, tee shirt and with shoulder length, straggly hair had stopped the lead car and was speaking to the female driver. Her expression showed her anxiety. I approached the man from behind and, clearing my throat first, asked if I could help him. He turned to face me and seemed confused. His eyes showed fear and were a bit wild looking. He attempted to explain what he had been speaking to the woman about but it was difficult to follow. As he talked I waved to the woman to drive on without him noticing. I asked him if he would come up to the security station with me and he agreed to. As we turned to walk toward the elevator he told me his name was Michael Knight. At almost the same moment the woman he had stopped, and who had driven round the loop to pass the attendant’s stall, drove by in front of us and started up the ramp to the street. Michael looked at the black Trans Am she drove as it went by and asked me quite earnestly if I thought her car talked to her. Choking down a sudden urge to laugh I decided it was best not to upset the man. With a deliberately calm voice I looked at him and replied that I personally had not heard the car speak, no. By the time we reached the security booth I had a plan to try to get Michael some help rather than just put him off the property. He became excited when he saw the bank of CCTV monitors and I quietly asked my partner to talk to him and keep him busy while I used the phone.

I called the police and explained what had happened and who the man claimed to be. The dispatcher began to laugh which required an even greater effort of me than in the garage not to laugh as well. Finally, she rhetorically asked that naturally I had called them. I asked her who you do call in that situation. Still chuckling, she agreed to send someone over. As I hung up the phone Michael turned and stared at me. He had heard enough of my conversation to realize I had been speaking to the police about him. Abruptly he pushed his way out of the booth and rushed out through the side door of the lobby.

From the desk we watched him through the glass on that side of the building as he started to run toward Yonge Street. My partner returned to his interrupted patrol while I phoned the police back to say that Michael had left and they would not be needed. The more difficult task was deciding how much information about the incident to enter into the log book.

On a July day that felt hot enough, to me, to forge grainy bits of metal into one solid piece, in downtown Toronto, I met the Knight Rider.

 

H.KUHN

 

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