So there was that guy that you killed.
You wanted to say that there were a bunch of people alive today who wouldn’t have been, but for you, but then you realized you put down that headset twenty-odd years ago.
Long enough ago that you not only don’t remember the day, but you’re not even sure of the year.
And some of them might be, probably are, dead by now.
So there were a bunch of people whose lives lasted longer than they might have because of you, and the one guy that you kind of killed.
You know it went down in your record, and, if you remember correctly, you were even punished for it.
You hate Picasso, and Joan Miro’s stuff belongs in the trash next to the fridge, to save the space for better artists whose medium includes macaroni and spray paint, but one of those fuckers did impressionism, or expressionism, or stuff that records the feelings imparted by a scene while completely rejecting the accuracy of the scene itself.
Probably Picasso, with those fucked up doodles of cows meant to evoke a Fascist napalm attack.
Whatever, the point is, if you want to understand what it is to work 9-1-1, you need to watch two horribly inaccurate movies, and one of them isn’t even about “public safety dispatch”, although it is.
There are two accurate points in Martin Scorcese’s “Bringing Out the Dead”. One is that there is, indeed, a city called Yew Nork in Damnerica.
The other is that there are ambulances.
You know this from experience; you passed through LaGuardia once, on your way to Chicago.
Which is, if you recall correctly, the setting for “Pushing Tin”.
Also, you worked for a 9-1-1 agency for more than long enough to get certified, and just short of long enough to get fired.
That is all, all other “(n)ames, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”
But watching these two movies with your factual eyes off and your third eye open, gives very clear and accurate view of what life behind the phone, on the other end of the radio is when everyone you talk to is having the worst day of their lives and for you, it’s only Monday and you’re juggling a 12×12 panel of phone lines, and you’ve got three monitors, a foot pedal, a pushbutton, and a headset.
And one day a little girl calls in. A few hours ago, her sister got into an argument with their mom, took her schoolbag, and ran out the door crying. A nice man just came by the apartment with her bag; he found it where the tollway meets the state route and thought it might be lost. So you put in the ticket and your coworker dispatches the appropriate officer to take the report and the phone rings and it’s another call, a traffic accident, a barking dog, a man beating his wife to a pulp with the phone as she’s crying for help, and one of your units is on a traffic stop and another is stopping by the school and a third is rattling door handles downtown.
But about that guy you killed. It was a fight in a parking lot in the middle of the night, and you didn’t get enough information, didn’t ask about weapons and the stab wounds from the broken beer bottle killed him. You weren’t the only one to take a call on it, but you got less than the minimum and put in the ticket, moved on to the next call, took a suspension day or so later on, but they ruled it a justifiable homicide, which is the legal system’s way of saying everyone is better off with him dead, so you spent your suspension day having a beer with a coworker whose regular days off you didn’t share.
That other call though, the one with the little girl. You did everything right that time, got all the data, put in the ticket, but she and her sister are still gone, gone, gone except for when you wake up twenty-four years later, give or take, and wonder.