Twenty Years

For some, that’s considered a sentence.  Today, I am not talking about twenty years as a prison sentence.  Today, twenty years is referencing an anniversary.  You see, today I celebrate the twenty-year anniversary of my having donned a 9-1-1 / Police Dispatcher headset the very first time for my home town police department.

20150117_141548I’m not going to get into the “how I got here” story.  That has already been done. (The precursory story is broken into two parts.  Part-onePart-two.)

Instead, I am going to use this opportunity to reflect.  I am going to reflect on how grateful I am.  

I look back at the past twenty years and cannot help but be reminded how grateful I am to be employed.  Not just “employed”, but employed in a fulfilling career doing something I enjoy.  I am grateful that I am able to feel that what I do makes a difference (a positive difference) in people’s lives – and not just not just once and a while.  I am able to make a positive difference in people’s lives each and every day – no, each and every hour of each and every day I  am working.

It is easy to become complacent to this idea.  It really does not seem much like “help” anymore, especially after twenty years.  What most people consider an “emergency” has become routine, almost “mundane” to me.  It’s almost “robotic”.

Phone rings -- answer phone -- gather necessary / pertinent info in a calm and professional demeanor (despite the chaos that may be happening on the other end of the phone, or around me in the 911 center) -- triage and prioritize the call -- get the appropriate assistance responding to the various needs -- lather -- rinse -- repeat.   

But when I take the time to think about it… I mean REALLY stop and think about it…  it is overwhelming (and I am quite grateful for the opportunity) to be as helpful as I am.  It’s something I need to continuously remind myself.  I forget this fact far too often, so much so that I rarely give most calls a second thought anymore. 

I am often asked “What’s the _____ call you have ever taken?”  (Fill in the blank - worst, best, funniest, scariest, most memorable, most disturbing, etc, etc, etc) I can’t remember.  It’s not that I don’t want to,  I really cannot remember most calls.  Quite possibly because I (subliminally) “don’t want to” in order to protect myself mentally from sheer volume of trauma / chaos I deal with.  Yet, twenty years later there are very few calls that I think to myself… “Now, that’s a first”.

From my window-seat to the world… 

  • I have been a witness to the beginning of life.
  • I have been a witness to the end of life.  (Some by natural occurrence, some unfairly taken by another.)
  • I have been a witness to COUNTLESS ups and downs that occur to folks between the beginning and the ending (regardless of how the end was reached).

My gratitude may paint a rosy picture, but don’t get me wrong - there are costs associated to this opportunity. 

Stress from the sheer volume, the pace, the burden of responsibly, the potential liability, the long (and oddly varied) hours, the lack of sleep, the missed time from home.  Work this job long enough and it will alter (some would argue “enlighten”) your view of the world around us.  People, places, and things will never look quite the same to you.  Innocence and trust will be lost, replaced with cynicism and skepticism.   It’s a daily battle (with some wins and some losses – as I can attest to) to overcome.

Overall, the benefits outweigh the costs – and as long as that is the case, I will continue to do so… Gratefully!

4 comments:

  1. Congratulations FOF! I don't think it's a job I'd want, but I'm thankful for you and your peers on call 24/7/365. Twenty years is a long time under the headset, and you truly have touched innumerable lives in their time of crisis. You may feel like it is mundane at times, but I know it is much more than a paycheck for you. Kudos on a job well done and an great milestone!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words Jeff. There are "some days" I need to hear them much more often then others!

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  2. Congrat's on 20! And bless you for taking on this important job. I've had to call 911 a time or two and am forever grateful to those on the other end of the line who were willing and able to remain calm and help from afar.

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  3. Great post! Congrats on 20 years! You are such a good/honest/caring dispatcher David. I am so lucky (and grateful) to have been trained by you and have shared this amazing (sometimes infuriating) career with you. Here's to many more years of headset bliss!

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