Fluorescent-blue bar signs advertise a night out for most Auburn students, but for Clark Hale, the clatter of high-heels and leather boots under neon lights signals it’s time for work, not partying.
Hale is a security guard at Bourbon Street Bar, a bar in downtown Auburn.
Once his afternoon classes end at Southern Union, he drops his backpack off, makes a quick college-like cuisine and puts on a bright orange hoodie — his uniform for work.
Hale enters Bourbon around 6:30 p.m. along with two other security guards, also students, to clean up the entrance before a stampede of eager students and young adults charge in, ready to have a good time.
The bar quickly gets packed, and for Hale, checking hundreds of IDs feels like being a cashier in the Student Center Chick-fil-A during lunch, but he’s grateful for the work, he said, and he’s not the only one earning checks and grades simultaneously.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 43 percent of full-time college students were employed in 2015. For part-time students, the number rises to 78 percent.
Students mostly work to help pay off tuition and have extra spending money, and Hale’s nightly duties have provided both as well as valuable communication skills like how to interact with people and, on rowdy nights, patience — the latter he learned early on.
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On his second day as a security guard, Hale asked a man with drinks not sold by Bourbon to throw them away. The man gave the rookie security worker attitude and threw the bottles on the ground. The bottles remained intact as they rolled across the concrete floor of the upper level, but the gesture drew a crowd around the agitator and orange-clad bouncer.
Remaining calm, Hale told the man to pick up his bottles and leave the bar. Hale said the man again ignored his command and shuffled tipsily toward him.
The bass from the music playing blared as the drunk troublemaker shoved Hale.
Hale took a deep breath, preparing for his first commotion on the job. He grabbed the man by the waist and dragged him outside. The man tried to grab onto anything around him and finally attached himself to the guard railing outside.
“I had to wrangle his knuckles so he’d finally let go of it,” Hale said while smiling about the encounter.
Enraged drunken mishaps are a rarity, according to Hale, since he’s only had few experiences similar to that one. For the most part, Hale said Auburn’s bar-hoppers are kind people.
“We have a perfectly nice crowd that just likes to party,” Hale said.
The security guards down the block agree. Trevor Schnell, junior at Auburn in finance, frequented the bars as a freshman and is now security at his favorite — Quixotes. At 6-feet-3-inches, Schnell is an intimidating presence and fits the mold of personnel in charge of protection, but when greeting people and talking to coworkers, Schnell is easygoing and doesn’t follow the stereotypical cold-faced security attitude.
“It’s not all about standing there to look big and cool,” Schnell said. “We run food, help check IDs and help clean at
Fellow Quixotes security guard Chris Walton overheard this exchange.
“Are you running for office or something?” Walton asked Schnell, who was laughing.
“It’s like a family because we’re all really close, and we all hang out after work,” Walton said. “It’s a good time.”
For Hale, the three-level bar he’s in charge of securing has also gifted him friends that will soon be fellow classmates when he transfers to Auburn in the fall to major in forestry.
As the job is teaching Hale social skills to use in the workforce, the security guards at Quixotes said they are obtaining business-oriented skills.
Walton plans on working in the restaurant business and said the bustling security gig has helped with immersing himself into the service industry’s atmosphere. He has obtained tips on how to excel by watching closely and said the good and bad experiences will help him grow and mature as a prospective business owner in the future.
Skills have also derived from dealing with altercations, but the security workers at Quixotes said nights with clashes are seldom.
“There’s mostly youthful, energetic people that are coming to just get jiggy with it,” Schnell said as Walton swayed along to Soulja Boy’s “Crank That,” now blasting in their workplace.
As the people in Bourbon dance, drink and attempt to do both, Hale and his co-workers stand guard to ensure their good time is uninterrupted — unless it need be.
“My number one concern is everyone gets along because I’m here for their safety, and we try to do the best with our job,” Hale said.
Red and purple lights dance wildly across the bar at 2:30 a.m. as late night partiers finish their last sips and go home after a night out. The Soulja Boy song down the street stops playing, the fluorescent signs shut off and the headaches start to settle in.
By 3 a.m., Hale and his co-workers are done cleaning up the bar, and the future Auburn student returns home and places his neon-orange hoodie in the washer to use on the next night out for work.
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