“Dude! Where’s my car!?” 7/23/12

Sometimes life imitates art.

Last night’s ‘call of the shift’ goes to the young man who graced me with another first in my dispatching career.  After 18 years, it’s getting more difficult to experience any real ‘firsts’ anymore, so I’m usually happy when one happens.

I picked up one of our 7 digit non-emergency lines (he didn’t dial in on 9-1-1, adding to my appreciation of the entire incident), and answered with my usual “Sheriff’s Office, dispatcher Reeves”.  He begins to tell me that he had been released from jail earlier that day, after a short stay in our fine establishment resulting from public intoxication, and he wanted to know if I could tell him where the deputy arrested him.  It seems that now that he’s sober, he can’t recall much of the tail end of his Saturday night, and he can’t find his car.  He was hoping I could tell him where the arrest occurred, so that he might try to back-track on the evening, and find his wheels.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to help him, since I would need to know either the location of the arrest (which he obviously didn’t know, since he was asking me!) or the name of the deputy who arrested him (something else he did not remember), to track down his particular incident in the computer records.  I referred him to the jail, since if anyone has that information, it would be them.  As with most things I deal with at work, I don’t know the outcome of this call.  It’s one of the downsides of a career as a 9-1-1 dispatcher:  you know how things begin, but not necessarily how they end.

One thing I did know about the caller, though.  He was very polite and well spoken.  Not at all the type you might expect to be hearing from after an apparently wild Saturday night on the town.  A lot of people I talk with don’t have a firm grip on telephone etiquette, and for many there isn’t a single sentence that can be formed in the English language that does not contain at least one profanity.  Usually the one beginning with the letter “F”.  Dispatchers get used to hearing things like that fairly early on in their careers, and they better learn not to be offended by it, because for some it’s their very most favorite word in the whole world.

But at any rate, Mr. Party was, to my ear, genuinely nice, seemed a bit embarrassed by the whole affair, but willing to be forthright and open about his situation.  That’s another thing you sometimes wonder about with some people.  It’s easier to just tell the truth about the reason you’ve called for help, but there is a sub-set of folks who will lie without a second thought, just because they’re talking to the Sheriff’s Office.  We usually spot them before the conversation gets too far along.  Even if lying is a habit for them, it doesn’t take too long to figure out their story doesn’t sound right.  That’s another thing dispatchers learn early in their careers, spotting liars.

Mr. Party was someone I found myself feeling sorry for, and I usually don’t have too much sympathy for people who end up in jail.  Despite all the oft repeated “but I didn’t do anything”s, and the “but I’m almost home, cut me a break!”s, most folks who end up in jail pretty much deserve to be there.  He came across as a decent guy who had a bit (or maybe more than a bit) too much, and now was trying to pick up the pieces.

I’m smiling because there are still “firsts” to be had in my job, even after all these years.  Thank you, Mr. Party, for adding one more.  I hope you found your car.

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