Sunday, August 7, 2011

Who loves ya baby?

Again I reference an old television show: ‘Kojak’, which starred Telly Savalas. Telly played the lead role as a police detective, in the crime drama placed in New York City. His catch phrase was “Who loves ya baby?” Kojak walked around solving crimes, the ever present lollipop in his mouth. Crooks hated him, as did a few of his co-workers. He wasn’t politically correct (PC), but he got results.

Interacting with co-workers today is different from the business world of yesterday. Large companies and government agencies require employees to attend training courses either on-line or in person. The Baby-Boomers grew up without technologies that the Gen-X uses without a thought: computers, cell phones, pagers, and answering machines. The differences in generations are apparent in personalities and habits, too. This is why employers require employees to attend classes (on-line or in person) on cultural diversity, workplace violence, sexual harassment, and customer service. And no matter which company an employee works at, he or she must attend that agency’s program.

Really, think about it. How many Human Resource (HR) personnel would be out of jobs if your sexual harassment certificate of attendance was good for life at any company you worked for? Same goes for the other classes?

I can here you now. Where is she going with this? I can get lectured at work, or at home by my spouse and/or significant other. Stay with me…

We’ve all worked with people we liked and disliked. It is inevitable in human nature that when a group of people are brought together for any length of time, clicks will develop. Just as in the wild, a pecking order will be established. Who’s the Big Cheese- the Alpha- and who ends up on the bottom?

I’ve always said I didn’t have to like a person to work with them, and baby, I’ve worked with a few I really didn’t care for. For example, the first company I worked at as an EMT, I was occasionally assigned to work with a partner who didn’t like me. I can’t say why other then I was a female doing a man’s job back then. This guy walked around dressed up as if he was waiting for LA County Fire to call him any second with a job offer – maybe they did, who knows? I’d have bet he left diamonds behind after he left the water closet he was so uptight. Except for communicating when we ran calls, we never talked. The atmosphere in that ambulance was colder than the Antarctic.

Now, this company (which went out of business a long time ago) attracted a hodgepodge of personnel. I could have applied with a well-known EMS company (Goodhew, Schaefers) but I went with the rebels. Mom and Pop companies still had chances way back when, and Counties were granting contracts to them. The cliché of “If I only knew then what I know now” was so true…damn, I was naïve and didn’t have a lick of street sense. Ii was amazing I survived long enough to earn my street smarts.

Another employee from the same EMS company and I worked together for one day. He was a skinny sort, medium length un-kept hair. He was a real nervous guy who watched over his shoulder and ran a lot of errands. So we take a drive to one of the hospitals because he had to get information on a patient from his last shift. He pulls up and parks the rig in the ER lot and he runs inside. I’m waiting, listening to some music and a K9 cop parks next to us (can you see where this might be going?). Officer Dog goes inside ER to do whatever, but being the caring guy he is, he leave enough of the window down for his puppy to get some fresh air. The dog goes ballistic, barking up a storm at my ambulance.


I see my partner trying to look casual as he leaves the ER. He has some paperwork in hand, his errand complete. He jumps in the rig; his face seems a little pale. As he’s backing out, he flips on the lights, leaving off the siren. As soon as we get in the street, he hits the siren, to make it look like we have a call. A block away he shuts down everything and cruises down the street as if nothing was wrong with the world. I’m sitting there, not sure what’s up. That’s when he tells me his stash of ‘dime bags’ of pot is behind the driver’s seat.

I refused to work with him after that. I was more afraid being arrested as an accomplice than any other reason. Thinking back, I can’t recall a single ambulance company in which I’d worked for, and that includes major names, in which employees were users of illegal substances. To be honest, not one of those employees, to be best of my knowledge, ever was involved in an accident or mistreated any patient.

Work environment can make for hazardous conditions, as we all know. Today, educated employees are less likely to play ‘practical jokes or haze’ new employees as was once done on new hires. It is the same with harassment of whistleblowers, although those folks are more likely to use anonymous forms of reporting to avoid potential problems with employers or co-workers.

How many of you remember when it was considered acceptable to give interns a field ‘nickname’. All other public safety personnel, law enforcement, fire & EMS, all called that poor rookie by the moniker until the day he (or she) graduated the program. That wouldn’t fly today. You can’t ‘accidently’ leave a rookie behind at a call when you’re done – drive around the block and park where you can still see them. Sure, you go back for them - after waiting a bit. It’s just like training your dog; those newbies learn to keep an eye out on their partner. When the signal is given to leave, they’d better be fast on their feet or risk getting left behind again.

One agency I worked at had an old style dispatch console which featured individual push-buttons for each phone line (including every 9-1-1 extension) a semi-quiet night and bored dispatchers equaled ‘let’s mess with the rookie. By manipulating the buttons, we could make the 9-1-1 lines all light up. The dispatchers would answer the lines pretending to take calls about a big fire or shooting. What the event was depended on who we wanted to mess with: usually it would be a light duty cop or firefighter working with us. Those individuals would be trained to work the respective radio channel. We (dispatchers) had a laugh and eventually let them off the hook before they would send out any real units. Boy, some of those field personnel living in our world for a bit sure became pale when those three-digit lines all started ringing. One or two would start yelling for a break. Of course, we said ‘No.’

And sorry, if the “All Call” ring down tones went off at every fire house. No, there’s no fire. It’s a short in the system…REALLY, it is. Until it happened with a fire Lieutenant and a radio technician present, no one believed us. But, okay, so maybe we did hit it on accident – just maybe – not that I’m saying I ever did, mind you. But then, I didn’t deserve to get reprimanded for saying ’10-4’ over a fire channel, either.

Seriously, doesn't everyone know what 10-4 means?? It’s not like I said 10-22 10-19 and 10-63 an 242 at 2410 Ashby code 3, PD 10-97 code 4. Now, I could understand that. By the way – that code speak says cancel returning to quarters; prepare to copy a battery call at 2410 Ashby code 2, police are on scene and it is code 4.

Maybe that’s why dispatchers have a mean reputation? Ah, I’m not a bitch, I’m just misunderstood. Oh well, I’m not paid to make friends, I’m paid to do a job. I can be fun.

It’s been long enough now. I was the one who wrote out the phony memo assigning console seating to all dispatchers under the name of a fire captain. I thought my fellow coworkers would read it and have a laugh. Who knew it would cause a near riot in dispatch? And that mock crime scene of a shooting in dispatch: yours truly once again. Do you know tough it is to make phony bullet hole silhouettes? Took me almost all night – thank goodness it was a slow shift!THe outline of a dispatcher complete with headset and phone in hand was creative if I don't say so myself. Too bad the Sgt. & Lt chose that particular morning to visit dispatch!

Finally, T if you ever read this. I'd like to say I'm sorry the for whole voodoo doll incident, but I'd be lying. The entire build up to the day I brought that Ken doll with sewing pins stuck in his legs and back to briefing was great. I knew you bitten my lure and I had you reeled in with witchcraft stories. Talking about voodoo dolls, and getting a couple of the other guys to go along with my gag helped. That look on your face when I handed the doll to you and said I'd not need it anymore was priceless.

This PC world is killing me. I guess I'm just a dinosaur in a metropolitan jungle.

As always, stay safe out there.

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