Back on the Bank: Mr. Arnold, Security Officer and Circus Ringleader

Leah Cox

“I get in the middle (of the carpool lanes) and I direct them. I make sure they can see my eyes...”

When Security Operations Specialist Mr. Malsnee, or Mr. Mac, opened the door of Lovett’s Security Office in the Community Center, he seemed pleasantly surprised. It was like the reaction you get when your microwave beeps loudly to inform you that your popcorn is finally done popping. You get frightened at first, but then realize that freshly popped popcorn isn’t actually a bad thing. It smells good. It’s refreshing. 

The Campus Security Office must not get a lot of foot traffic, because when I told Mr. Arnold I was interested in interviewing him for the OnLion Newspaper, he looked perplexed. He asked me why I would want to do such a thing. Mr. Mac interjected at this point (as he did throughout the entirety of the interview). “Look at that, Neal!” he said, “A student finally wants to write an article about you!” 

But that still didn’t wipe the confusion off Mr. Arnold’s face. 

After he reluctantly said, “Sure, you can interview me,” he grabbed a chair for me and I sat down. I couldn’t help but notice the room I sat in. In front of Mr. Arnold was a desk, filled with papers---lots of papers. Above his head was a large TV screen, except it wasn’t playing an episode of Apple TV’s Ted Lasso. On the screen was live footage feeding from dozens of cameras at key security points around the school campus. He looked like the commander of a spaceship.

If you don’t know who Mr. Arnold is, chances are you’ve probably seen him. As a Security Officer at Lovett, he does a multitude of things. You may recognize him as the guy who wears reflective gear while directing carpool traffic, in the mornings and afternoons, near the parking deck. Or, you may also recognize him walking his dog across the campus after school. Either way, Mr. Arnold has been a member of the Lovett community for two years now. 

Out of everything in the office, what really caught my attention was the neon yellow reflective vest that was hanging on the back of the swivel chair that he sat in. I recognized it as the vest Mr. Arnold wears during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up by the parking deck, both of which he likes equally. 

When I asked Mr. Arnold to use an analogy to describe what it’s like to direct carpool in the morning and afternoon at Lovett, he said, “Mornings aren’t too chaotic, there’s just a lot of traffic.” He continued, “In the afternoon...well that’s like working in the circus.” 

Mr. Arnold, the ringleader. It sounded about right to me, because when he continued to describe his duties and responsibilities, it sounded like he was managing a circus of three carpool lanes. Featured in the act? Distracted drivers, pushy parents, and students in a hurry. 

Before Mr. Arnold directed the carpool lane by the MAC, he said “traffic stopped, and it was a bottleneck.” In order to fight this, Mr. Arnold “designed the layout of three lanes,” in order to accommodate the hundreds of cars that pass through everyday. “I get in the middle (of the carpool lanes) and I direct them. I make sure they can see my eyes --- to make sure they are paying attention.”

When I asked him what made him so good at his job, he said, “I’m retired from the Atlanta Police Department, so I used to direct traffic, and so it’s fun to me.” He added that he used to work with Mr. Biello, Director of Campus Safety and Security and Mr. Wood, Security Sergeant, who were also trained at the APD, so they share a bond with each other. Mr. Mac, who trained Mr. Arnold, when he first came to Lovett, was instrumental in helping to ease the transition between APD and Lovett. He told him “what to do, and what not to do,” and guided him through the process.

I followed up by asking him if his brain appreciates keeping things organized, if he likes to be in control of the cars. “Yes,” Mr. Arnold said, and in my peripheral vision, I saw Mr. Mac give a very aggressive nod of approval. 

When Mr. Arnold isn’t directing some of Lovett’s more reckless drivers at morning drop-off or afternoon pick-up, he’s still working diligently to keep Lovett running smoothly. He takes care of the parking deck and the backside of the school, making sure everyone is in the correct place - since Lovett only has a limited amount of parking spaces for students and some faculty and staff. 

He even substitutes for staff members who are sick or on vacation. In the mornings, he puts barricades up on the Lovett grounds, in order to “keep the kids safe that are on the Lion’s Walk because they are walking...and there’s a lot of them,” he explained to me. And get this: when students are at home on the weekend (hanging with friends, doing homework, and relaxing), Mr. Arnold is at school working.

When he does finally get away from Lovett, Mr. Arnold says he “works out usually,” along with riding his bicycle and completing spin classes three times a week - he finds mental therapy through these activities. He does not, however, enjoy fishing, which is an activity that Mr. Biello and Mr. Wood, both in the Security Department, enjoy. He mentioned that he likes to go to Las Vegas and Cancun. When he’s in Vegas he doesn’t gamble, and instead likes “to relax by the hotel pool and go see comedy shows.”

The number one reason why I wanted to interview Mr. Arnold was because I wanted him to feel appreciated, especially because people like Mr. Arnold keep the school functioning all year around, and they don’t often get recognized. I was utterly shocked when Mr. Mac said that Mr. Arnold has never been interviewed, and I was even more focused on Mr. Arnold’s look of confusion. So I asked him if he felt appreciated by the Lovett community. 

He said he did. “When I got here I thought it was going to be the opposite,” he said. “Every once in a while they (the parents or students) will say thank you...This one little boy comes out and says thank you...I don’t think you hear that enough.”

The Lovett School is an independent, coeducational day school where children from Kindergarten through Grade 12 find the courage to explore and the drive to discover.

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