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Nights, weekends, holidays and birthdays

Nights, weekends, holidays and birthdays

As I settle back into my recliner after a superlative Easter Brunch at my sister’s sister-in-law’s (talk about extended family!), I reflect on the holidays that I’ve missed.  Technically, you couldn’t really say I missed them as I was present but often not at the place of the celebration.  In the years I spent on the job, missing a holiday celebration was part of the deal. I signed up knowing that I’d miss Christmas morning with the kids opening their gifts, Thanksgiving afternoon with Mom and Dad, birthdays and anniversaries. Those days were often spent driving around alone trying to keep busy but not get into trouble or sitting in a dimly lit room staring at flickering monitors.

Santa surprises a patrolman

Santa surprises a patrolman

It’s kind of funny, going to work on Christmas morning when everyone you know is still in sugar-plum fairy land isn’t as doleful as it sounds. I always (even in the depths of my comatose commute) felt a little special to be awake when everyone else was asleep. I knew that when I got to work, that I would be there. I might really be able to help someone, maybe even save a life.  But, I knew I would miss holidays with family and friends when I hired on so I didn’t spend time feeling sorry for myself. I adjusted my thinking to alternatives and never looked back. Sure, I had to explain my goofy shifts to my mother and non-law enforcement friends. But over the years, they all grew accustomed to my absence or shortened visits (“Sorry Mom, gotta go to work.”).

When I got married, it was to a man who had children. Holidays and birthdays were sometimes celebrated a day before the actual event, or maybe a day after—it depended on my husband’s schedule. Because he was a fire fighter, he worked 24 hour shifts, sometimes 72 hour shifts.  One day, I consoled my son who was upset that we wouldn’t be together for Easter: I reminded him that he’d be at his mother’s house and get goodies then come home later that night and have goodies at our house. Twice as many goodies! This was a lesson that the kids learned well. Our time together became more special because we had to schedule it—with others in the family (brother-in-law and sister) who also worked in emergency services, it was usually a challenge.

Christmas Eve swing shift and grave yard were always kind of “special”. In years past, someone from county dispatch sent out periodic “Santa sightings” over the police telecommunications system. These days, this is strictly prohibited but for those of us on duty then, it provided entertainment between family fights and drunks.  In dispatch and on the street, it was normal to be sorry to miss your family but few if any officers or dispatchers allowed themselves to give in to melancholy. I’ve been ordered in on Christmas. I wasn’t happy but I worked. Crime, fires and medical emergencies don’t wait for 9 to 5 hours, so neither can the job. One Christmas, I worked my scheduled day shift-7am to 5pm. The second dispatch position was off on vacation and as no one had signed up to work the overtime, five dispatchers were ordered in to each work a 2 hour shift. That is an extreme, to be sure. Usually, a generous soul—one with grown or no kids—would take the time. But not always. Sometimes I had to dump the kids at a sitter and work. It’s just the way it is. But don’t feel sorry for me. I am a professional and get paid accordingly. If I worked a holiday, I was compensated with varying degrees of salary or commensurate time off.

911 Call Center

911 Call Center

After all, all your co-workers were in the same situation.  The bottom line was that everyone, no matter what their situation, was prepared to get the job done—paycheck aside, even then it was sometimes a sacrifice. But we do it every day—nights, weekends, holidays and birthdays.

A salute to all those working this Easter!

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2 comments on “Nights, weekends, holidays and birthdays

  1. Wandering Voiceless
    April 2, 2013

    Great post, Thonie. So nice to hear from you directly, too!

    I hear ya on the extended family, too. Our last two Thanksgivings — holy cow, I’ve had them both off, now that I think about it! — have been spent at my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law’s… in other words, my husband’s brother’s wife’s brother’s wife’s!

    :>

    Like

    • marilynm
      April 22, 2013

      Way back when I was a telephone operator (not nearly as exciting as being a dispatcher) I missed lots of holidays too. So know the feeling.

      Like

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This entry was posted on April 1, 2013 by in Writer's Notes and tagged , , , , , .

Cop Talk

For all things about cop culture-the work, the family, the days off.

The purpose of this page is to educate writers of all genres to be accurate in their portrayal of law enforcement professionals. This includes meter maids (I was a "lovely Rita" many years ago), dispatcher, patrol officers, detectives, and administrators.

I have many resources in my 35 year career in California law enforcement. I index and explain common errors that found in all media. Guests will also post about police professionalism today and tomorrow as well as historical articles about the way things used to be, "back in the day".

Examples of police media myths: missing persons cannot be reported by anyone but the family; missing persons reports can't be taken until the subject has been missing 24 hours; all cops eat donuts.

You get my drift.

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Just the Facts, Ma'am posts Sundays and Fridays. Sundays scheduled writers Hal Collier, Ed Meckle, Mikey, and John Schick take us through the days and nights of those who protect and serve.
Friday postings feature authors sharing their thoughts about this journey we call authorship.
Extra postings will include California 'Officer Down' notices or something special. I will update progress of my current literary project as they develop.
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