nobody calls when they’re having a good day

In my short time as a telecommunicator, I have had a couple calls that come to mind for when someone asks me what the worst call I’ve taken is, I can’t tell them.  People think it’s neat or whatever, but they don’t realize that by listening to someone screaming in horror is like being there.  You’re physically there as they describe their worst day ever and I don’t want to share that burden with you.

Here is one of them:

He had just cut his sister from the noose and I was not getting help there fast enough.  She was gone before the call was ever made, but listening to him and his other sister do CPR was rough.  I think the hardest calls to take are the ones with a distraught family member.  You want to console them, but you also want to stay out of it, just do your job and get off the phone.  You can’t say it will be alright because, honestly, it probably won’t.

Here’s a test for you; sit there quietly for 4 minutes.  Don’t do anything, just sit there.  I’ll wait… It’s a long time, right?  Now, sit for 4 minutes listening to a brother trying to revive his baby sister.  He had set the phone down to do compressions so all I could do was listen and hope units got there.  4 minutes is forever.

If you really want me to be honest about it, yeah, I’m crushed.  I’m absolutely crushed.

After doing this job, you start to develop a callous when you’re taking a call.  You answer the phone, not knowing what is on the other line, and you go through the script.  You ask the questions and you relay the answers, you hang up and move on to the next call.  Here’s an example: I play guitar.  I’ve played guitar for many years.  Once upon a time, I had these amazing, deep callouses from playing so much.  I could play for hours and my fingers wouldn’t hurt.  (The carpal tunnel did, though.)  We hear some messed up stuff in some calls, but we can’t let it get to us.  Nobody calls because they need you to cry with them about some tragic event.  They call you because they need help.  That’s it.  Nothing more.  If you want to cry about it, cry about it at home. Yes, we are still human beings with emotions and feelings, but we have a job to do. We can’t get caught up in your baby mama drama, we can’t turn in to mush when you find your husband of 45 years unresponsive in his recliner.  That won’t help anyone.  What will help is if I can tell you how to do CPR on him until help arrives.  This is why we do it.  So that maybe, one day, your call goes well, that you get your good day.  This is the callous.  It is necessary to succeed in this field.

Nobody calls when they’re having a good day.

So, if we’re being honest, I haven’t had my worst call ever.  Every call, on some level, is a worst call.  Maybe not for me, but it is for you and I can’t take that personally.  I can’t carry it around.  Do I have bad moments?  Yes.  I absolutely do.  Have I ever had to text my mom-e and tell her all about it?  Yep.  I’ll probably do it again.

But then I’m going to put my uniform on, come to work and strap in at my console because I am 911.  I am the voice on the other end of the line.  I was created for this and I can’t wait to see what’s next.


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