The Second Secret

by pjmcbride

This is what we call posting semi-regularly. (I am trying to ignore Cat Esmerelda yelling for attention behind me.) (In case you thought cats were low-maintenance.)

TWO DAYS LATER…

What else were you expecting?

In analyzing How My Job Affected Me & Why I Blog About It–most dispatchers want to be perceived as Caring Professionals. We do care, of course–we want the bad guy to be caught and the baby to start breathing again. But our management likes to tell us, “Imagine that it’s your friend or family member calling when you answer 911.” It doesn’t work that way. It cannot work that way. Emergency-services people among themselves have a dark sense of humor. Those who can’t develop one don’t last past training. (I do remember one trainee who used to lecture her trainers about their attitude. Just think of how that went over.)

That being said, I’ve heard colleagues say that this job has made everyone cry at one time or another. (I guess that’s why the restroom floor has a drain, to dispose of dispatcher tears.)  But I have never cried because of work. (Cursed, yes.) However, it’s also said that everyone who’s been doing the job for any length of time has a Call That Haunts Them. I actually have one of those, and that’s the second secret. No one has heard this story before but Rom.

It was while we were still downtown. I was the calltaker. (We had only one back then–quaint, isn’t it?) I took a suicide call.

Now suicide calls–the ones made by the actual suicidal person, not by family members or friends–have always been my most-hated part of the job. I never felt like I knew what to say, and the consequences of saying the wrong thing might be terrible. This guy had stabbed himself in the abdomen with a screwdriver, then regretted it and called 911. And he was fading fast, and could not remember his address.

This was in the 80’s, when we did not have even the rudimentary GPS capabilities we have now. The guy could give me the numerics of his address–and did so repeatedly–but he could not remember the name of the street. I kept asking, but every time I asked, he just repeated the numbers and trailed off. Time was running out, and I was frantic to get the information. I felt so helpless, and kept thinking, If he can remember the numbers, why can’t he remember the street?, and I kind of snapped at him.

Eventually, his brother called in and gave us the address, and we got everybody out there, but by then it was too late. Ever since then, I’ve wondered, if I hadn’t spoken to him irritably, would he have been able to remember? I suppose it’s equally possible that my sharp tone might have jolted him out of his daze. But anyway, I wish I’d managed to remain professional throughout, which surely would have improved the chances.Oh well.

I also had some of the usual silly stuff to write, but it doesn’t really fit well after this, so I will just leave it for now.

Oh, in case anyone was wondering what was my most-favorite part of the job–that would be monitoring the tactical channel on SWAT callouts.

 

 

 

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