No, not Tinseltown. I’m talking about the city’s namesake. You know, those robe wearing celestial beings with feathery wings that sprout up from their shoulder blades.
There are references in the sacred texts of nearly every major religion of these supernatural creatures. For example, in the Torah –the Jewish Bible—the Hebrew words “malāk Elohim,”appear at least twelve different times. Those words translate as “Angel of God.” Likewise, the Quran is filled with references to angels. “Al Malaikah” literally means “the Angels” and the belief in them is one of the six Articles of Faith in Islam. And throughout the Christian Bible angels are depicted as spiritual beings who act as intermediates between God and man.
In the classic sense, Angels are God’s trusted messengers. But to many, they are also mankind’s guardians, charged with protecting humanity from evil. In fact, many classical artists portray angels as warriors, clad in armor and holding weapons, ready to engage in battle.
Ok, you’re probably wondering why I’m bringing this up. Right? It’s simple, I want you to think about these things as you read my personal experience below. And then I want you to ponder the following question: Do Angels really exist?
So, let me set the scene and transport you back to when this experience of mine occurred.
The year is 1998, and I’m living in Middletown, New Jersey—Exit 114 off the Garden State Parkway. For those that don’t know, Middletown is a quiet, commuter town nestled in the shadows of lower Manhattan. And to some, the nearby local beaches are the unofficial gateway to the Jersey Shore.
It’s the last weekend before the Christmas Holiday. Outside, the trees are barren, and the winds sweeping down from Canada bring a slight chill to the air. Christmas music is on just about every radio station and driving around the town you’ll find most of the homes decorated with red and green lights. You’ll even see a Nativity scene here and there—the real reason for the season.
It was my junior year at Rutgers University, and thankfully midterms were finally over. There was a lull of a couple of weeks before the next semester started, so, I decided to pick up some extra shifts at work. At this point in my life, I was working as a security guard at the newly constructed five-building AT&T Labs complex. It was early Saturday morning, and I drew a pretty decent assignment—guarding Building C—a square, five-story, brick-faced building with an open-air atrium. It’s pretty low key inside of Building C on the weekends. In fact, this weekend it’s so low key there’s no one working. It was a ghost town… err ghost building.
With my radio in one hand and Tom Clancy’s latest thriller—Rainbow Six—in the other, I strolled to my post—a guard desk situated in front of the revolving doors that lead to the parking garage. I plopped down in my high-back swivel chair, cracked open my book, and picked up where I left off the night before, re-joining John Clark and Domingo Chavez on their mission to stop the diabolic plot of a terrorist group. (It’s been a while since I read this book, but I remember it was great. I just might have to go back a re-read it). After a couple of chapters, I put my book down and headed off to begin my first tour.
I took the elevator up to the fifth floor, deciding to take a route that began at the rear of the building. I walked the empty corridors, checking offices doors and locking those left unlocked. As I made my sweep, I stopped to inspect the kitchen galley (there was one on each floor). Curious, I opened the fridge. To my surprise, the shelves were stacked with cans of soda, packed tighter than a Secret Service agent’s good-time bag in the back of the follow-up. Even though it was only 9 o’clock in the morning, my stomach grumbled, and my eyes drifted towards a can of Coke—a Christmas themed one. You know what I’m talking about; the ones with the family of smiling, polar bears.
The dryness in my throat served as a reminder that I had neglected to bring something to drink from home. “No one will ever notice one is missing,” I thought to myself. “Hell, there’s like a hundred in here.”
So, without any hesitation, my hand shot forward. Seconds later, I was walking away, the cold can in my hand. I got twenty-five feet before I stopped, overcome by a sudden and powerful feeling of guilt. I remember thinking, “I am not a thief.” Seconds later, I had returned the Coke to the refrigerator and headed down to the fourth floor.
I walked the hallways again and soon found myself standing in this floor’s kitchen holding the refrigerator door open. It too was stacked with dozens of cans. I grabbed another can of Coke goodness and slammed the door shut. This time I got ten feet before I turned around and put it back. I couldn’t steal it.
I checked the refrigerator on the third floor. And like the last two, it was bursting at the seems, filled to capacity with soda.
I think about it…think about…and keep thinking about it. I probably stood there for a good five minutes staring at another can of Coke, a moral debate raging inside of my head. Take it; don’t take it. Do good; do wrong. My mind made up, I bent forward. My hand reached out. My fingers brushed the can. I paused. The little voice in my head said, “Don’t do it.” I slammed the door shut and walked away, this time empty-handed.
On the second floor, I avoided the kitchen altogether, opting not to “torture,” myself. I still wanted the soda; perhaps more than before. The Siren call to steal it was strong, but I resisted her temptation.
Finished with my tour, I hustled back to my seat near the front door, stopping only to take a sip from a water fountain. I took a minute or two to reflect on the experience. It was “only” a can of soda. I could have taken it, and no one would have known. Hell, I could have drunk a dozen of them, and no one would have known. I could still go back…
But I didn’t. Thankfully, my moral compass was on point, helping me avoid what I thought at the time was a small and insignificant pitfall.
And just so we’re clear, over my lifetime I’ve done a lot worse than steal a can of soda. But in this instance, I just couldn’t bring myself to cross the line.
Twenty minutes later, I noticed three men meandering down the covered walkway that connected the garage to the building. I can clearly remember how they were dressed, surprisingly similar to one another—tan khakis and flannel button-down shirts—but for the life of me, I can’t recall any of their faces.
“Hey fellas,” I said as they badged their way through the locked door, “working on the weekend, huh?”
The first two men smiled and filed past. The last one stopped in front of me. “Hey, buddy,” he said. “We were out for an early lunch and happen to have an extra soda. Want it?” Without waiting for me to answer he placed a red, shiny can of Coke on the desk. The same can of Coke that had been at the center of my recent moral struggle.
I looked up at him, dumbfounded. “Ahh…sure,” I managed to mumble.
“It’s all yours,” he replied.
I then watched the three men disappear around the corner. I sat there for a minute, pondering what had just happened. What are the odds? I asked myself.
I stood, wanting to find the men and thank them once more for the soda. I searched every floor; looked in every office, but they were nowhere to be seen. I hurried back to check the access log on the computer at my desk. Maybe they had slipped out another door. But to my surprise it showed no one had exited the building…and in fact, no one had entered, at least not since I started my shift.
I was alone in the building.
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