Spending the Night in…

I was working the 3pm - 2am shift. 

Each day when we arrive at work we log in as either a "call taker" or as a "dispatcher" depending on who we are relieving.  This evening I was filling the roll of "call taker". 

The shift started off as "average" as any shift working 911 lines can get...  You know, a little bit of this, a little bit of that...  It was roughly 6pm when the freezing rain advisories started regularly coming across the teletype as an ominous foreshadowing of things to come.  The shift continued down it's "average" course, until 10:24 pm. 

The first call came in as a hit and run accident on the highway.  I was told that several cars slid into each other, but that one of them had fled the scene.

Before I was finished working with that call, more calls started coming in about another accident (this one with injuries) just a mile or two further down the same highway.  Another call (about the same accident) came in, and then another, and another.  It seems that this accident was a small "pile-up" and besides getting calls from those involved, the accident was getting the attention of MANY other passerby motorists.

Honestly, I lost track of time.  Somewhere around 10:45 the calls started coming in full tilt.  At it's worst, we were assisting on the accident with injuries, dealing with two or three multi car "pile-ups" (without injuries - one was twelve cars deep), two "rollover" style accidents, cars (and their occupants) stranded at the bottoms of hills and driveways (blocking the road), and so many fender benders that if my life depended on it, I could not give you a number.   We also dealt with several other ice related calls.  Slip and fall medicals, road condition requests, requests for salt / sand – not to mention all the regular calls for service that we handle (unrelated to the ice).


As my shift-end approached, it was apparent there was no way I could transfer the call load.  I stuck around another 30 minutes handling a number of additional calls (repeatedly saying "this will be my last call").  By the time I felt uncomfortable unplugging from my console, it was 2:30am.    

While this was all going on, I had voiced my concerns about making the 25 mile drive home.  I knew for a fact that most of the city streets I would be taking were all but impassible.  If I managed to make it there, I would be on a major highway for most of my trip.  The last 1/3 of my trip home is through a much more "rural" area – with a less driven, and less maintained status (i.e. will be covered with ice, and will have little or no salt / sand laid upon it..)

I received offers from a long time co-worker who lives close to work, and a second offer from one of our local firefighters to shelter me.  My parents home is also within 3-5 miles from my workplace -  but since it was going on 3am, my vehicle was parked (safely) in the underground garage, and based on the information I was receiving from hundreds of 911 calls, my police officers on the street, and other law enforcement agencies - I decided I was staying put.  I was not even going to risk driving the 3 miles to my parents home.

For a brief moment, I considered crossing a “bucket list” item off my list, by requesting that our jailer “put me up for the night” in one of the empty cells - allowing me to “Spend a night in jail”. 

The accommodations include a (less than comfortable) bed, a (hopefully disinfected) previously used blanket and pillow, a (not that I would use it) toilet, and a sink.  What more would I need (besides deodorant, a toothbrush, and a little cologne)? 

In the end, I chickened out.  I didn’t even ask.  I am certain there are some sort of rules, or laws prohibiting the law abiding from “spending the night in jail”.  I would also worry about what our “Admin Sergeant” and my supervisor would have thought about my mental health… 

Plus, I didn’t have a camera. “Spending a night in jail” would CERTAINLY be a blog-worthy event! 

After my shift was over, I packed up my stuff, headed down to my car and I napped from 3:30am to 7:00am.  I was awoken by all the comings and goings after the daywatch shift's rollcall, so I went back up to the 911 center and spent a couple of hours catching up with, and sharing the previous evening’s horror stories with the new shift of dispatchers. 

It was still very icy out, and I did not feel safe driving until (roughly) 9:45 am.  By this time, I decided driving home so I could have two or three hours there before having to turn around and come back was counter productive - so I took my cel phone (with alarm clock), my Sansa Fuze, and found the darkest room with a couch in it to further my napping endeavors.  My alarm clock woke me in enough time to make it to the next day’s rollcall at 2:45pm.

By the time I was finally able to leave, I had spent 30 hours at the police station, working for 17 of the 30.  It was an interesting experience, and although it’s not “Spending the Night in… JAIL” – I CAN say I “Spent the Night in… the Police Station”!


  1. You should have pulled an 'Otis' from Mayberry and let yourself into a cell and then hang the keys back up on the nail.

  2. TELETYPE? I can't believe you just used that word. HA!

  3. Ahhh, the joys of Midwestern winters. I'm in Michigan and so far we haven't had anything like that. Only a few snowflakes, but I think we are getting close to that mess you described. I am not looking forward to it. Thanks for doing the type of job that you do. Us ordinary people need someone looking out for them.

  4. If it was just a camera you needed to spend the night in a cell you should have told me. I almost always have a camera with me. I think you just wussed out :)

  5. David,
    Please let the readers know the REAL reason you didn't allow yourself to be "locked up". We all know you love to frequent the men's room.
    Always a helper,

  6. How grateful I am for people like you who work so hard and sacrifice to make the world a little bit safer and help people in need. We frequently pray for all our emergency responders - it takes special people to do the work you do.

    It would be 'interesting' to spend the night in jail. Would it count as the full experience if you disinfected it first? *shudder*


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