Friday, October 13, 2006

“The very first step towards success in any occupation is to become interested in it.” ~ William Osler

Back in the old days my family participated in what was known as "dinner-time". This was when families gathered around the dining room table at night and would actually partake of a meal in the company of each other. It was a great opportunity to catch up on what was going on in each other's lives, lavish compliments upon my mother for her prowess in the kitchen, and invariably get insulted by one of my three brothers for one reason or another!

During the course of this ritual, it was also quite common for my father to put his fork down, look me in the eye, and declare "you're going in the Navy when you get out of high school." I, of course, would answer "oh no I'm not" every single time. Now that's not to say that there's anything wrong with the Navy, I'm sure it's a fine branch of the military service, and I was even a Navy wife for awhile during the course of my second marriage. However - when I was 16 - 17 years old, I was just as stubborn as my father and if he said I was going to do something, invariably I would want to do the opposite. I later found out that this was my father's intention all along and that he had practiced a great deal of reverse psychology on me in my youth. I can still remember when I called him on that one evening and he said, "well, it's about time you figured it out." This was, of course, when I was home on leave after I had joined the Air Force and not the Navy as my father had decreed!

For some reason, the memories of this were going through my head yesterday while I was at the doctor's office getting my weekly infusion of iron and looking out the window at the nurses leaving for the day. I wondered how people decided what they wanted to do for their lives, how they picked the occupations that eventually defined who they were in life, how many people were really doing the things that they wanted to do, and how on earth did I get to be a dispatcher of all things???

I always knew that I was going into the military after high school. When others were taking the PSATs and SATs I was taking the ASVABs (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). While my friends were all taking college prep courses, I was taking business courses because I knew I wasn't going on to college directly after high school. I was raised in a military family; my Dad was career Air Force and it was what I knew best in life.

At the age of 17, my Dad found himself on a troop ship heading over to Korea before he even had his high school diploma in hand. He later went on to earn not only his GED but took many college courses and always scored high in his classes. He got out of the service a few times but always went back in and in 1974 he retired after twenty years of service with a long, distinguished career record complete with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star medal awarded during his time in Vietnam.

At the age of 17, three days after I had my diploma in hand, I found myself on a plane to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for six weeks of basic training to be followed by eight months at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi for training as a ground-to-air radio communications equipment technician. It was never my intention to become an electronics technician when I first decided to go into the Air Force. I wanted to be a Law Enforcement Officer but I had scored high on the electronics part of the ASVAB (how - I just don't know!), there were no openings in Law Enforcement at the time of my enlistment, and my recruiter talked me into giving radio repair a try. In retrospect, perhaps I should have been as stubborn with him as I was with my father but it turned out okay and I met some great people throughout my career - even though I spent most of it stationed in New Jersey!

As for how I ended up in dispatching ... well, I needed a job after my first husband exited stage-right from mine and Michael's lives and I eventually saw an ad in The Stockton Record for telecommunicators. Even though I had no idea what the job entailed, the pay looked good so I applied, took the test (which I thought I had failed miserably!), and soon found myself emerged in the sometimes exciting but most times frustrating life of a 911 operator and police dispatcher. I've left dispatching a time or two in the past vowing to never put a headset on again but it must be my calling because I've invariably gone back to it over and over again. If you had asked me when I was a kid if I wanted to be a 911 dispatcher when I grew up I would have probably looked at you like you were crazy! Most people don't even know what a 911 dispatcher is - never mind want to be one! And usually once they found out what one is, they still don't want to be one! We are a unique breed unto ourselves!

If I had it to do over again, I would still have gone into the Air Force and I think I probably still would have been a radio repair technician for awhile but I also think I would have gone onto college and become a history teacher. For those of you who are sitting there and reading this and thinking "but you could still do that now!" let me just say - no, I can't. I know that a lot of people start their careers over even when they're older than I am but I'm not one of those people. Maybe I don't particularly relish the thought of myself dispatching for another 15 years or more but it's what I do best in life; I have a gift and a talent for it even if it does drive me crazy from time to time! I like the people I work with and they seem to like me and sometimes in careers, that's half the battle - finding something you like to do, something you can do well, and liking the people that you're doing it with.

1 comment:

  1. Ok Linda, her goes....
    Funny when I was 17 I was just graduating high school. Did I know what I wanted to do with my life? Hell no! For awhile I was talking to the Marine recruiter, we were living in Maine at the time and I didn't want to spend my life in Maine, married with children! I wanted to study Language in the military, I took French and Spanish in High School. But I was invariably talked out of the military life, in fact I was talking to one of the females in my high school classes yesterday, as her boyfriend also a student had already signed up to do 8 years in the Marines after High School graduation this June. She mentioned his recruiter was trying to get her to sign on the dotted line. I told her I thought about going into the Marines when I was in high school and had talked to a recruiter, but what had stopped me was the fact that I was kinda "prissy" and I told her just like that, that the thought of getting up at 4 am and running 5 miles just didn't appeal to me. Plus my family didn't want me to do it. In retrospect, maybe that's why I always have dated a marine or two over the course of my life, I had always wanted to do it but got talked out of it. That's ok. Right now I am a high school Art teacher, I am what most people call a midcareer changer, I did something else for awhile, and had enough and jumped off the cliff and did something different. Some days I am the bug and other's the windshield. I make mistakes everyday, but overall I love what I am doing, even though I hit the snooze button several times in the am. It's not that I hate my job, I just hate crawling out of bed in the morning when it is cold and dark and before 5 am! Lord why can't high school start later in the day! I never wanted to be a high school art teacher, I wanted to teach the little kid's because frankly they are lots of fun and smearing paint on a piece of paper or cutting up colored construction paper and gluing them is a blast to them! But I stumbled on to this job because it would use the time I was a dispatcher with the state police and have it count towards my retirement. Being a midcareer changer this is a plus for me. But even though my intentions were not a 100% I want to teach high school art, I couldn't be happier! I, like Linda, spent many years as a 911 dispatcher, that is in fact how I met her, over at ole NPD. And she does have a gift, and I also have that gift, but now I use mine in a different venue. I do think she would make an awesome history teacher, but respect her decision to not take on the burden of student loans, and knowing her for many years, she is happier where she is right not. I believe that people are right where they are suppose to be. She maybe just a 911 dispatcher to some, but those of us that have been there done that, know that the title of the job does not even describe what the job is all about. The scary fact is, where I live in the boonies, I don't get warm and fuzzies when I think about calling 911 for assistance, I know who I'll get, and frankly it is not any dispatcher of Linda's caliber. Maybe if anything happens I'll just ask to be transferred to American Amb where she can help me, as I know the jokers I get aren't even half as good as she is. So to end this rather long post, as I seem to be coffee fueled and chatty this morning. Linda you do a wonderful job, and even though you never get a thank you from your Boss, let me thank you for all the citizens of the Norwich and surrounding area that you serve. Please continue to train the new people, help coworkers out, and be the kind of dispatcher who I feel proud to say, hey she was my shift partner for many years and I wouldn't want anyone but her helping me in my time of need. Take solace in knowing that the call you think is so rountine that you could do it half asleep, that person on the other end might not thank you, or even realize what a relief it is to talk to you. I know what a great job you've done and will continue to do. Oh yeah, how did I get into dispatching, just kinda feel into it and me being sort of a spaz and having a short attention span, I can do a bazillion things at once and still maintain control. I don't miss dispatching anymore, but I do miss coworkers and the bonds made during hellatious times(did I spell that right?). One of the things that was my goal when I was dispatching, that no matter what happened, all my people went home to their families every night, sometimes battered and bruised, but they went home. I know that is one of her goals too. I respect and admire the job she does. I only more people would stop and say what they feel about her as a dispatcher to her. I know her "people" appreciate her. But sometimes you just need to hear it said out loud. So I'll say it, Thanks Linda, you do a hell of a job!

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