During the thirteen years I have been taking 911 calls I find many of our callers don’t always tell us the exact truth when they are explaining their situation. Often I think people alter facts to gain sympathy as though we won’t send them help except in the most dire of circumstances. Other times I think people lie because in fact they have issues they want to hide from the police , drug use, court violations and so forth. In any event we get used to hearing all sorts of stories that don’t add up. It’s important to note we dispatchers don’t judge the calls or the callers. Our job is to send help and that’s what we do. We rely on our responders on the road to use common sense and if we have any hint of a dangerous situation we will pass along anything we heard in the call that alerted us to a potential lie. In the end though we dispatch help to everyone that asks.
A week or so ago one of my colleagues took a call from a man who was incensed by the noise made by a garbage truck outside his home at 4:30 am. At first Nick was slightly incredulous that a citizen would think to call us about a garbage truck making noise on its rounds. Why is this a police matter was the first thought in his mind?
It was a quiet moment in our three-person dispatch center and Chelsea and I listened in to the call for a moment as we shared Nick’s evident disbelief that we would get a call on what is clearly not a criminal matter. Yet as I listened to Nick handling the call I heard a master dispatcher at work as he calmed the caller and displayed masterful empathy as he explained there was nothing we could do about the garbage truck schedule.
As we talked about the call after it was over Nick explained to me how he heard the absolute desperation in the caller’s voice, made frantic it turned out because the truck had awoken his brand new baby from a deep sleep. After getting the child to drop off the new father was rendered angry beyond belief that his child was once again awake and fretting. He called the only people he could think of at that hour of the morning. Nick took the call, listened empathized and managed somehow to cheer the father up.
All in a night’s work for a small town 911 dispatcher not always working desperate crimes and ghastly accidents. Sometimes we just have to remember to be sympathetic listeners.