All 911 operators / police dispatchers get asked the same question when introduced to new people at gatherings: What is your strangest call?
An unscientific survey of my coworkers has revealed that, while we all have taken some seriously sad, funny, tragic, bizarre, and disgusting calls, very few of us have a story to just whip out. As it turns out, I do.
But first, here’s a great story from a relatively new dispatcher.
Will received a call from an upset elderly female who was driving around and being followed by her equally elderly husband in another car. The caller wanted us to meet her someplace to seize of the husband’s computer which was full of pornographic pictures. Will was momentarily at a loss so asked a nearby coworker who told him to ask the complainant if it was child pornography. The caller, who was very upset by the pictures, said that it was not child porn but just good old American dirty pictures (not her words). Will had to explain to her that we would respond because her husband was following her (a disturbance) but that there was nothing illegal about pornographic pictures of adults so we were not interested in her computer. She was not a happy camper.
Here’s my usual story. It’s not the most bizarre but it serves as an allegory. It’s a little gruesome too, so be forewarned.
Many years ago, during an unusually frigid winter (-15 degrees Fahrenheit during the day), we received a call from a NAPA auto parts store requesting medics for a male who had cut three fingers off of one of his hands.
A young military guy had walked to the store to buy a new battery. After making the purchase he started his walk home when he slipped on the ice about 30 feet into the
His effort to save $100 cost him his fingers and changed his life forever. After taking this call, I used this as a personal allegory and train my recruits to learn its lesson: sometimes you have to ‘let the battery fall.’
If we make a mistake and sound like an idiot over the radio, we can’t go home in shame. We can’t let the embarrassment or feeling of inadequacy (especially when one is a brand new dispatcher) drag us down to the level that our performance suffers. We must “let the battery fall” and not risk further damage for the sake of trying to rehabilitate a relatively minor situation. For one’s own mental health, sometimes you have to pick your battles and let the battery fall.