I made an executive decision toward the end of last week that I would take my four hour day off on Monday (tomorrow) to celebrate Adam’s birthday with him, and because it’s the easiest day to take off, and I need a break.
I think I’ve shared this before, but back in September, we lost a dispatcher to another job – she followed her dream to become a police officer by taking a job as a corrections officer. I happen to think that’s awesome, but… It meant that we had to go to twelve hour shifts. The week “officially” starts on Sundays, but Sundays feel like a part of the weekend, so psychologically, our work week starts on Mondays.
My schedule has been Long Week: work Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday followed by Short Week: originally it was just work Wednesday and Thursday, but soon after moving to 12 hour shifts that follow officer’s shifts, they decided that since we are not really sworn officers (or sworn anything, for that matter) we couldn’t have a 36 hour work week, and therefore, we had to pick up an extra four hours. Initially, we were told we could make up the four hours any time during the week that we chose, which meant we could work 14 hour shifts on two of the short-week days.
That changed all too quickly, though – when we were told we had to designate a four hour day. I chose Mondays, because there is something about having three days off in a row… If I chose Fridays, I’d lose that. That left Monday or Tuesday, and I’m a “go ahead and get the damned thing over with” kind of person, so for me, it’s Mondays tagged on to the end of a three day work-end, rather than working three days, having a day off, then working a part day followed by two 12 hour days. Whew! I hope that made sense… It’s generally confusing to everyone on the planet, myself included.
The thing about this job is that it does require special licensing, and when the position opened in September, they wanted to wait until after we had our new Computer Aided Dispatch system up and running (January 1) to start training a new person. So… That position is filled, but the new hire is still in field training and has to take and pass a very difficult exam before she can “go solo”. Meanwhile…
A second dispatcher, who was here longer than anyone else in the department, had to retire for medical reasons. Not so happy… So they are in the process of hiring someone to replace his position, which could not be posted until he officially retired, because that’s just how the school works. Thank God this time around they have applicants who are already certified to dispatch, so whomever they choose will only need to go through field training, not the general dispatch training that takes six weeks. And, they have added a couple of part time dispatchers, so we’re getting there…
So, we’ve been on 12 hour alternating week schedule shifts since September now. I work the more hectic day shift, 7 am to 7 pm. Because the desk can only be covered by someone certified, breaks just don’t happen on a regular basis. So most of my 12 hour day is spent with my ass parked in a chair in front of a computer, radio at hand, alarm monitors and emergency line behind me. We don’t just dispatch, however… We also handle just about everything that comes through.
Any and all phone calls, anyone walking in, we get to be the initial screening process. Keys? Parking Decals? Lost and Found? That’s us, too, though we get some help there from work studies at times. The inspiration for the short story I am writing came when I watched one of the work studies answer a lost-and-found phone to see if we could figure out who owns it. Unlike my character Janeen, while logging lost and found can be a bit of a nuisance, I get a thrill out of being able to give people their property, especially when it is something valuable or sentimental to them, and they didn’t believe someone in the world would be honest enough to turn in their cell phone/jewelry/laptop/hundreds of dollars in a bank envelope that fell out of their book bag.
When my twelve hours at the station are over, my day is not. Often, I drop by the grocery store to pick up something to cook because no matter how well I think I’ve planned, my teenagers are locusts and will eat anything that is not nailed down. And there is never enough money or space to really stockpile groceries.
The people at the Publix on the corner all know me, and many of them know my daughter, too, who often comes along with me. Sometimes because she is still at school or at school again after walking back for drama/chorus/whatever activity, other times because I’ve gone home first, then found I have to run back out to buy something we’ve run out of. There was one day when I had carefully planned making baked ziti (one of the few things that nobody is allergic to and everyone generally eats…) only to learn, upon digging out the pasta, ricotta cheese, and baking pans that the mozzarella I bought the day before has all been used up to make quesadillas. It had been a long day, and the last thing I wanted to do was run back out, so that was the day that I discovered that Provolone slices were good enough.
Yesterday was a weird day again, with a five car pile-up in a parking lot that wasn’t your typical “game of dominoes” pile-up… This was epic. I had asked the kids to pack for the spring break visitation with their father. I had done laundry for one of the kids at 2 am, but couldn’t wash clothes that were behind the locked door of child number 2, nor did I realize that child number 1 needed laundry washed. I told him at 6:30, when I was getting ready to leave yesterday morning, to pack. He didn’t, nor did he do any laundry.
So, we’re finally to a funny part in all of this whine fest. I get home, my daughter’s clothes are nearly finished in the dryer, my youngest has allegedly packed, my oldest, who is usually the responsible one, is sitting there playing video games, and hasn’t started packing yet. He tells me he has no clean clothes. I told him to pack dirty clothes, and that he would be wearing dirty clothes to New York.
Me: Do you at least have clean underwear?
Me: What about all this underwear in your drawer?
Him: It’s dirty.
Me: You put dirty underwear in your dresser drawer?!
Turns out yes, he did. He scrambled to do what he could, I went out and made small talk with the ex, explaining what had happened, and I remain grateful that as bad as my kids have screwed up, they have not, at least, totaled four vehicles in a two minute time span while driving a rental car.
Oh, and the youngest? He didn’t realize until I put the suitcase in the car that he needed long pants for the trip to New York. Um, snow?! Totally shorts weather…
I did NOT get a good night’s sleep, and I have a headache again. I was 3 minutes past the seven minute window clocking in this morning, so I am sure to be persona non grata because the other dispatcher stayed three minutes late to cover the front desk, which pushes her into fifteen minutes of overtime.
So, in honor of all of this, I am hereby posting two song videos… one embedded at the beginning of the whine fest, and one at the end, that pretty much express my feelings today. And even though my name is Kate, don’t get confused… I’m totally an amalgamation of Brian and Preston.
Can I go back to bed and dream about random trips to France again?