Teenagers face banishment from the Village

by Jordan Green

Janine Gay turned in her chair outside Starbucks Coffee at Quaker Village. With pink sunglasses propped on her head and eyes drawn with the subtlest hints of mascara, she squinted into the sunlight and appraised the two girls strolling across the parking lot.

“Dude,” she said. “I know her. The training bra girl. She’s a bitch. She went from emo kid to prep.”

The girls under scrutiny wore their long brown hair with auburn highlights. Their dress was more understated than that of Gay, a rising seventh grader at Guilford Middle School, whose blondish hair was clasped in a short ponytail and who sported a single handcuff from her waist. Gay’s friend Heather Martin, a sophomore at Caldwell Academy this fall, wore a red blouse.

Gay’s friend Brandon Cook, a rising senior at Western Guilford High School, wrinkled his nose.

“So,” he said. “You’re emo. You went from prep to emo.”

The three of them have passed a substantial amount of time here in this shopping complex across the street from Guilford College. Gay has been coming here for about a year; Cook even longer. The temperature hovered just under 90 degrees leaving a haze in the sky that threatened rain. Each of them held the dregs of free plastic cups of water from Starbucks, rattling the last melting ice cubes.

This was what they do almost every day. Gay often stays until 10 p.m. or midnight. They sometimes hang out at the nearby Somewhere Else Tavern, but they don’t like many local bands. Their favorite band, Taking Back Sunday, has gotten too big for such a venue.

Cook likes to play the first-person shooter video game Halo 2 at Digital Lifestyle Center, a favored hangout at Quaker Village. He recently qualified for a national competition in Las Vegas, but said he couldn’t scrounge enough money together to make the trip.

And nearly every day, but particularly in the evenings and on the weekends, they complained that a private security guard employed by the shopping center harassed them.

“We’re just hanging out and doing our thing,” Gay said. “We’re sitting on the steps to one side, and he’ll be like, ‘You’ve got to move; you’re blocking the steps.'”

“You’re sitting on the bench and he’ll tell you to move,” Martin added.

“It’s a never-ending circle,” Cook concluded.

On July 18 Devon McCauley, a rising senior at Grimsley High School, said another private security officer pulled him aside and told him he had to leave the area because a complaint had been filed against him. When McCauley asked how the officer knew it was him, he said he was told, “They said the guy with the purse.”

“I think it’s because I dress outlandish,” McCauley said. “I wear makeup. I think a parent of some small children saw me and decided to raise holy hell.”

He said he left the property, but came back later because he was relying on a friend to give him a ride.

“You go to the mall it insinuates that you have money,” he said. “I have a job, but I don’t have money to blow all the time. They have Wackenhut security guards at the Friendly Center who will run you off if you’re not spending money. Quaker used to be really liberal. I want to keep coming here, but I don’t know if I can.”

None of the teenagers know the names of the handful of security guards alleged to have been harassing them.

A property management employee named Tim Tickle said on July 20 that the manager was traveling and would not be immediately available to comment.

“I just pick up the trash and change the light bulbs around here,” he said. “I can’t tell you anything.”

McCauley said he’s never given the private security guards reason to ask him to leave. He takes care to pick up cigarette butts and encourages his friends to treat authority figures with respect.

“There are kids who are problems,” Martin said. “The security guards do have a right to ask them to leave, but not us. We’re not loud and obnoxious. Outside of Quaker you can be as loud as you want to, but we’re not that way here.”

As they talked, a gray-haired woman in her middle years pointed to a battered box of Marlboro Lights, and asked Gay if it was hers.

“It’s empty,” Gay replied.

Still, the girl stooped to retrieve the box, chucking it in a nearby garbage can without further comment.

Later the two girls with the auburn highlights passed and Cook confronted one of them.

“Can’t speak to me ever, girl?”

“What, you can’t get up and give me a hug?” she replied.

He walked over to her, grasped her around the waist and hoisted her into the air. Then he took a sip of her beverage.

Later she returned and thrust the Styrofoam cup filled with bright red ice towards him.

“Since you took a big sip of this, are you going to buy me another one?” she asked. Cook hesitated, and she continued: “Fine, I’ll just throw it in the trash then.”

Then Cook got up and walked away with the two girls to settle accounts.

Gay and her friends hold two off-duty Greensboro police officers who work Quaker Village on weekends in high esteem, contrary to their view of some of the private security officers. They are especially fond of Officer TD Dell.

“He’ll let you play with his things, but not his gun or his Taser,” Martin said. “Which is understandable.”

“He’ll put you in handcuffs like you’re being arrested, and it’s really fun,” Gay added. “He touches a nerve and it makes your hand go limp.”

Later Cook returned. Out of the blue he mentioned to his friends that he was seriously considering signing up to join the Army.

“I started thinking about it after I got out of school this summer,” he said. “A recruiter guy came to my house at eight a.m. today. I wasn’t up because my alarm didn’t go off. He said, ‘Do you want me to come back next Thursday?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’

“They give you room and board and a thousand dollars a month,” he continued. “I started thinking: It looks really good on your resume when you fill out a job application.”

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