Okay – this is an edit – the original “Stream of Consciousness Saturday can be found on Linda G Hill’s blog. The link to the blog that introduced me to this fun idea is below, in the first two paragraphs of my blog post for today.
Sorry in advance that this post grew a little wordy… I guess I’ve had a few issues that I’m trying to work through via writing.
I am Determined…
One of the perks of blogging more regularly is the discovery of fun blogs and ideas. When I opened the reader this morning, this one was at the top of the list:
So here goes… Stream of Consciousness Saturday… By the rules she used, a theme beginning with the letters “de-“, with bonus points for ending the theme with “-ed.”
My word will be “determined.”
A bit of raw honesty here – I love the place where I work. I like the people with whom I work. Sometimes, I really enjoy the work day, though that seems rarer and rarer. Honestly, my immediate supervisor knows, after finding a job application within the college, that I am starting to seek other opportunities elsewhere. She does understand… In this career field, the average burnout rate is about two years. Just Google searching “Dispatcher Burnout” brings up any number of articles on that subject dating back more than a decade. I pulled up one from California dated back in 2000.
Yeah, part of my stream-of-consciousness involves stopping everything else and Google searching crap. I can’t help it – I have a need to provide links and sources when I write, probably instilled in me during my law school days.
Of course, if you’ve ever filled out any type of online application, you’ve been bombarded with requests to sign up for every bogus job searching engine under the sun, in addition to the standards like Monster.com. It was the subscription to Monster that yielded an article about knowing when it is time to move on.
The truth is that there are some days that this job requires more knowledge than any human being can possibly possess. It requires a level of multi-tasking that transcends Godliness. But other days, it requires a warm body to park her fat ass in a not-quite-comfortable office chair (no matter which chair I choose, by the end of the first of twelve hours, it is no longer comfortable, even with all my built in padding…) and do next to nothing for quite possibly hours on end. Those are the days when I furtively blog, or do homework, or play Farm Heroes Saga and Candy Crush Saga and read blogs and troll Facebook and do anything I can to keep from nodding off at the desk, because first and foremost, I MUST be alert.
One never knows when the emergency line will ring with someone calling to ask if an officer can come out and see if some kid who knocked heads with another kid has a concussion. Answer? I will send an officer out, and I am calling EMS now to have someone who is medically trained come out to assess your kid, because Police Officers are not omniscient. Nor do they know how to fix the air conditioning or rewire the lights in your building.
Also, your dead car battery is not an emergency. Yes, it’s highly inconvenient, but call on the main line, not the “Holy Shit! Is there a riot in the gym?” line. Aw, you locked your keys in your car? That really sucks. Want the number for a local locksmith? No, we don’t do unlocks. Technology surpassed the wire coat hanger-like device, and liability issues killed that whole “we’ll help you break into your car if you can prove you actually own it” service.
So where am I going with this and the word “Determined” exactly?
We’re finally reaching the end of the twelve hour shifts, which weren’t fun. Not just 12 hours, 12 hours with no break. Twelve hours of “Hey, are you certified? Yes? Can you cover the front desk for two minutes so I can piss, please? Oh, you’re not certified? Well, I’m desperate… Answer this phone if it rings, bang on the bathroom door if that phone rings, and I have the radio in the bathroom with me, so feel free to ignore that. And we’re not really clear on how to handle the alarms anyway, so your guess is as good as mine… just tell any officer who happens to be in the building, and I’ll see what I can figure out when I’m done in the sh!tter.”
Determined. Determined to find something else, something that I can “win.” Because going back to 8 hour shifts is likely to yield another unhappy outcome for me – a swing shift wherein I work two overnights and three “sometime during the day” shifts. Back to not having two full days off in a row, ever, for four months. Back to sleeping when I am actually home with the kids. Because let’s face it, my employer’s loyalty is not to me, it’s to getting that chair filled as required by state law, with whatever warm body or fat ass best fills it, and right now it’s a matter of making sure the newbies are fully trained and capable before throwing them to the wolves.
Never mind that the person hired right before me, who is now has more seniority than anyone else in the department except the veteran who only wants night shift, was trained willy-nilly with no real plan or real manual… just like I was. Desperate times called for desperate measures. They were working at revising the training manual at the time… and by “they,” I mean the student work-study kid who had never been through dispatch training and the office supervisor who has also never attended the required six week training course. Welcome to Corporate America.
I’m speaking too frankly here, I’m sure. Some may think I’m disloyal. Perhaps I am? The thing is, I want the people I work with to succeed. I want things to go well. I do see that everyone is trying to fix things, and they are doing what needs to be done to staunch a wound that exists within the profession.
The most telling moment…
Last year, two other dispatchers and I attended a conference in Orlando, and while we each signed up for different classes, all three of us were in the “Active Assailant” segment. The one where they talked about the unthinkable… active shooters, and what the response should be.
Here’s the thing, most college campuses are not prepared to deal with a situation that seems to be on the rise. Our own police department is above the curve. We’ve held drills. But up until that conference, it didn’t seem to occur to anyone to ask what we dispatchers needed to do in the situation.
I came back and asked. We had no protocol in place. We had no plan. One of the older dispatchers said they had drills years ago, but couldn’t tell me where the protocol could be found.
So I did address it. I wound up being recruited to invent the protocol and plan the drill, and help conduct it. It was probably one of the most intense, interesting, and scary things I’ve done on this job, short of the actual emergencies that have occurred from time to time.
But sitting in the office with upper management, I addressed the question on my mind – “What do we do at our desk if the action approaches our building? Do we move to a more secure location within the building, forwarding the emergency phone line to the cell, bringing the portable radio with us, and handle things from a back room where we aren’t surrounded by glass that isn’t even bullet proof?”
The answer I received was nothing short of terrifying. We couldn’t leave the front desk. Nope. Sit there, be a duck. You’re part of the first line of defense.
Um, excuse me… I’m not armed. I’m not wearing a kevlar vest. The half inch thick particle board cubicle wall that separates me from the piece of glass that shattered when a leaf blower threw a piece of gravel into it does not instill confidence. At the end of the day, am I really, truly willing to sacrifice my life for my $25,000/year job? Who gets to break the news to my three children that their lives will be upturned, that they will have to permanently move back to New York when they bitch and moan about visiting for a week, because their mother was shot and killed?
Maybe this makes me a coward? I don’t know. Point of fact? I don’t care, either. I have a strong survival instinct, and if being an officer was a dream of mine, I would have gotten off my fat ass long ago and applied to the Police Academy. I would have done what it took to train my weak little Tyrannosaurus arms to do push ups and pull ups, I would have continued running, I would have learned to shoot… I would have done all of those things, and I may or may not have succeeded, but I would have tried with an extraordinary level of determination. Because that’s how I am.
When I took this job, I didn’t realize I was signing up to be an officer who isn’t really an officer. I knew the pay was so-so, I understood that I could be given a crappy shift for up to four months out of the year (we’re supposed to rotate that often, but that hasn’t panned out…) and that I would have to undergo intensive training and pass a test that includes a lot of trivia about the history of Telecommunications.
Back to the whole “How to respond to an Active Shooter” thing… The solution was that an officer will come up to the desk to protect us. Well, I suppose that sort of works. And yes, we’re allowed to lock the front door.
I love so many things about this place, but I realize that it’s not my “forever job.” It’s a stepping stone that has provided me with an opportunity to learn some skills, but at this point, it’s time to move forward, take the next step, and seek something that will allow more career development.
I have a law degree. It has been gathering dust. I have a passion for writing, for analyzing, for thinking, for problem solving… While I may not have felt ready to jump in there last year, I am on the other side of the divorce now. It’s time to dig a little deeper, and find that stubborn determination that my family loves to tease me about. Am I going to try to practice law? No. Not yet, anyway. But I’m seeking other employment, and I am going to focus on law offices in the job search. From the “safe” distance of administrative work, I can better determine if I am ready, willing and able to invest the time, energy, and money into retaking the Florida Bar Exam. If I’m going to do it, I need to do it right. I need to shake the dust off of that degree, rewire and re-fire the synapses of my brain, and see if the passion and fascination that I had in my twenties is still alive in there somewhere.
All of this is not to say that I have given up on my fascination with web design and writing. Nope. I’m rather hoping that I can combine all of my talents in the long run. Only time will tell. I am determined to take that time.