My job fascinates people. Most people have the same questions when they find out what I do. Is it exciting? Is it scary? Do you hear horrible stuff every day? My personal favorite, What’s the worst call you’ve ever taken?
I usually try not to discuss specifics with people, I give the general standard issue answer to most of these, something along the lines of “Yes, its very fun and fulfilling. No, I try not to take things too personally. Yeah, I get to hear crazy stuff” etc. Some dispatchers love to re-tell war stories of the last exciting thing they heard. Every once in a while, something too funny or ex citing not to share happens, but usually I rarely do this and for several reasons. First off, we speak police. Unless someone is familiar with the language, they sometimes don’t understand the significance or the meaning doesn’t translate well. Even the Hubs doesn’t understand a lot of it. Most dispatchers prefer to talk to each other about their calls. Reason number 2, I don’t wanna be a Debbie Downer. We do hear some horrible stuff, I don’t wanna bum out your day, or even worse, my own day off by rehashing. Lastly, most people don’t wanna talk about their work when they’re not there, myself included. Forty hours a week is more than enough.
This is not to say I don’t like or appreciate my job, I am thankful and sooooooo grateful for it. Not only does it provide me and my family with the benefits, security and best of all, the paycheck I am so so fond of, but I really do take pride in helping others. There are also a few things I’ve learned along the way these past 7 years that not all jobs could teach. In the 7 years (7! Seriously?) that i have been working there, I’ve heard, said and learned a lot. Some are simple tips or ideas and others have been major life lessons and have had an impact in my ‘outside’ life. These things I am much more happy and willing to divulge.
- The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Working for a law enforcement agency has helped me realize and acknowledge the blessings in my own life. Everything from my relationships with my family, to our hardships, to what we have to deal with on a daily basis. It’s a real eye opener to know for a fact that some people have it worse. It makes me rethink my own grass a little, and see it a little brighter.
- Always know your address. And make sure your parents and children know theirs as well. I am constantly frustrated and surprised by how many people don’t know this basic information. It can seriously delay getting help when needed.
- Real life is not like “The Call”. We are not vigilantes that can take matters into our own hands. I do what I can with the resources I have, but I am not Halle Berry, although sometimes I wish I was. This job is exciting and interesting, but nowhere near as action packed as that movie. All I can do is my best effort and I have to believe that is enough. Learning to not stress about the things I cannot change is an ever growing process in my personal life, but when it does work, I am much happier and content.
- Let it go. Meaning the things out of your control. Since I can’t be Halle, I had to learn to be Elsa. When my shift is over I have to leave those calls and the problems of my city behind. I refuse to allow my job to take away joy or focus from my real life with my family. In the same way, I have to let my own problems fall to the backburner when I am working. Personal stress or worries cannot get in the way of how efficiently I can do my duties. This is one of the most important skills for us to develop, the ability to function efficiently and sometimes emotionless. It can seem like a cold way of looking at it, but it can save the life of a caller, and your own sanity, to detach.
- CHEESE ALERT – You really can hear a smile over the phone. I am guilty of slipping but I really do try to keep a positive demeanor and a kind tone when working. I have to remind myself that no matter how trivial things seem to me, most people I’m speaking to are having the worst day of their lives. Sometimes what people need more than anything is a little empathy and compassion.
- Don’t leave your purse or expensive belongings out of sight or unsecured. Ladies, leaving a purse on your shopping cart or stroller is asking for theft. Gentlemen, prostitutes often like to steal things from cars like phones or wallets, and calling 911 to report this can get awkward. Everyone, the police cannot interfere with how much cheese Taco Bell puts in your tacos. Honestly, these are actual crimes frequently reported.