Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Overtime Zone or Do I Have to Stay Now?

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of words and sound but of frustration; a journey into a wondrous land whose monetarary compensations are that of time. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Overtime Zone!

Ah, those words all dispatchers dread to hear: mandatory overtime. We all know it can happen. We knew the job was dangerous when we signed our Jane Doe on the dotted line. We went down the list: work weekends, initial there; Work holidays, initial there; work evenings or nights, initial there; and, finally work mandatory overtime, initial there.

Sure, the Powers That Be (also known as Supervisors or Management), will try all sorts of tricks to get shifts covered. If you're at work when someone calls off for the next shift, you might as well be resigned to the fact that one of you is hanging over - unless there is a willing volunteer.

Let's stop a moment and talk about those OT hounds (OTH). I LOVE the OTH's. Always willing to work, and save me mandatory OT. Thank you thank you!!! There is a downside, work sixteen hours and something has to give. Don't let them handle a busy radio channel. On the other hand, the CAD typos have us ROTFL.

I've had a LOT of experience working in Communications Centers short-staffed. Work two channels at the same time? WTF - I've a barricaded subject on the main police channel and a demonstration on my secondary and no other police radio-qualified person on duty. Any of you Robin WIliams comedy fans? He did a bit some time ago when he talked about a need for the perfect drug, He called it "Fuckitol". There's been plenty of days when I could use some of those pills (and I found a box of them, no kidding, in a goofy gift shop in Virginia city, NV).

So, the Supervisor has to fill a hole in the schedule. How does one cover a shift from both ends with overtime? Union says you can't order a dispatcher to work more than 12 hours, which means four hours over shift and four hours in early. The over part is easy. Point a finger, pick a number, every throws a dart at the board - lowest or highest stays, or supervisor keeps a rotating list. Getting someone in early is harder. Can't order personnel in via answering machine or pager (someone tried that once, didn't fly). You just call everyone you can hoping, like the optimist fisherman, that some poor sucker (sorry, dispatcher), will answer their phone. If not, well, isn't that why Supervisors get paid the medium bucks?

Boy, am I glad I am just a peon now and not supervising. That bottle of liquid Maalox that used to be a standard part of my equipment, along with my headset and portable radio is since been retired. Instead of people screaming at me on 9-1-1, I'm handling poaching calls, bear incidents, and dispatching wardens on patrol. Sure, they call in stops, contacts and chase suspects - even do the occasional pursuit, but its nothing like the high stress of a city PD or county Sheriff.

Back to tonight...there's no 'hey, why don't you stay tonight'. It's the honor system when you're by yourself. I have a couple of units out there in some place that would make a great location for Young Guns III. Who know's when I'll get out of here? Enough time to grab a couple of hours sleep before I'm due back for day shift.

Crank up the tunes and thank goodness for caffeine.

Stay safe out there.

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