Scratchy Glitter

Observations for the easily irritated.

Tag: Shift work

What You’ve All Been Waiting For


“What we’ve been waiting for is a damn post,” they interrupt testily. “Didn’t you say something about trying to write every day…again…”  Well, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. “Then why didn’t you write about it?”  It never stops, nevernevernever stops…

Ahem. My birthday was Saturday, and featured a surprise VISIT FROM NICK, with his mate and pair of spawn in tow, all in red shirts. I don’t think that man knows how to dress unless some type of uniform is involved. (No, Nick, I will not take fashion advice from someone whose shoes fall apart.) I also got a SURPRISE HUG from the same individual, which mildly alarmed me, and a birthday card congratulating me on turning 85, which just goes to show that a beast can’t count. Seriously, I’ve always wished there were specific cards for all ages–“To A Special 37-Year-Old…” Did you know that Rom once thought he would die at 37? See, he’s not always right. I once dreamed I died at 83, on March 16 of whatever year that would be. (Now who can’t count?) I ought to sign up for one of those services that send you an email from yourself on a specified future date. On March 16 Whatever Year, I’d read “Have you died yet?” and promptly die of fright. I would die as I’d lived, namely, ironically.

Thornton’s gave me 10 cents off a gallon of gas for my birthday, showing a lamentable lack of knowledge of my buying habits. Lands’ End gave me a 20% off code, which I will not use to buy green gingham shorts, unless I happen to be drunk at the time.


Stephen Colbert informs us there is currently a national surplus of cheese. Rom & I are doing our best to address this, thanks to a recent shipment of Wisconsin cheese from my sister. You all need to help out and eat an extra 3 pounds of cheese a year, or the extra cheese will…get moldy, I guess. Moldier.



In spite of my charming/disarming tell-all tone in this venue, it is my habit to keep my personal plans to myself, in case…well, in case someone uses the information against me, I suppose. It’s like when I’d go with colleagues to the FOP Club in the 90’s. I’d drink too much, turn sullen, then call a cab, slip out and wait for it on the corner, without telling anyone I was leaving. You know, being mysterious and stuff. Or the way I never want to tell my co-workers which shift I’m picking until the last minute, even though I always pick the same one anyway. SO, recently I caught myself thinking, “I wish I could tell my FanBase what I’ve been doing lately,” and realized, What’s stopping me? It’s my own blog, after all.

“…which nobody will be reading if you don’t get to the point,” they point out. 


What I’m getting at is, when I turn 62 at this time next year, I’m planning on retiring. (I already feel panicky, like I should qualify that–I mean, it’s always possible that the numbers won’t add up like I think they will, since I’ve already proven I can’t do math.)

I went to one of the retirement workshops sponsored by our pension fund. I ran into someone I used to work with, which was kind of embarrassing, in that “Well, what are you doing at this whorehouse?” sort of way. I also picked up a magazine called “The New Retirement,” put out by AARP, who ought to know, I suppose. It included an article about financial planning, which mentioned that a professional financial planner can help you come up with a plan for your pension and Social Security. You mean, other than letting them send me a check every month? Because that was my plan.

So this will be the last year of the Crisis In Progress department. I will now be a lame-duck dispatcher. I’ll be doing a bunch of stuff at work for the Last Time, probably getting sentimental about stuff like being yelled at on the phone. “No one will ever say they’re paying my salary again!” Perhaps I will become dangerous and yell at them on the phone. I hope to have a drunken retirement party–if you play your cards right, you may get the “House of the Rising Sun” karaoke I’ve been threatening for years. And if I take up skydiving in retirement, you’ll be the first to know.


Crisis In Progress: How To Get Rid Of Me

This is going to be mostly job-related, so those unrelated to my job may want to skip it. I personally find every aspect of my job fascinating, even its annoying aspects, but you might not be so lucky.

First, I went to a gathering celebrating the departure of my former colleague L.K., who decided she’d rather dig holes for a living. (She should consult with Nick, who likes to dig holes and then curl up in the cool mud.) We had an appetizer plate of deep-fried geometric shapes (cubes and rods of different kinds of cheese, and blobs where you had to guess if the contents were cauliflower or mushrooms–perilous for me, since I like the former and dislike the latter). Anyway, I drank 2 frozen strawberry daiquiris in rapid succession (rapid enough to cause throat pain). This is turning out to be quite a social month!

“But how do we get rid of you?” they ask, hypothetically.

Well, everywhere I go, someone asks me when I’m going to retire. And it’s been pointed out to me that now I’m not only #1 in seniority, but THE OLDEST PERSON HERE! (If anyone else is over 60, feel free to correct me. Then I will curl up in a spiny ball.) So, the short answer is I DON’T KNOW!! But there’s always a longer answer, so here are hypothetical situations which would hasten my departure.


(All have some connection to reality, however tenuous.)

–They relocate Dispatch to the jail. Unacceptable for 3 reasons:

1. Too far away for someone who doesn’t drive.

2. Doesn’t it sound like a wee bit of a security risk? Just a little?

3. Could you possibly make the job a little more depressing?

–We go to 12-hour days, or 16-hour days. Why is there this idea that people working a stressful job should have longer work days than the rest of the world? “But then you’d get three days off!” I DON’T CARE! We tried 10-hour days once, and I spent the first day off catching up on sleep, so it was meaningless.

–They take away the union.

–They take away pensions.

–They decide to have one statewide dispatch center. I have dealt before with Just Because We Can Doesn’t Mean We Should, so I won’t go into it now. And why stop at statewide? Why not one national 911 center? Many callers already think that’s the case.

OK, one non-job-related fact: Chocolate is not, in fact, better than sex. I carried out a comparison study last night.

Your Tax Dollars At Play

English: United States Internal Revenue Servic...

English: United States Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division Badge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No, this is not about dancing IRS employees.

What it is about (if I may publicize somebody else’s Good Idea) is my esteemed colleague T.R.O.’s adaptation of an old 3rd shift game, Word of the Night. As you may recall if you remember my old posts with any accuracy, 3rd shift dispatchers would sometimes select an unusual word or phrase, and then try to work it into a phone or on-air conversation. For Word of the Afternoon (Word of the Evening? what the hell is 2nd shift anyway, besides where I’ve spent most of my life?), T.R.O., knowing that officers will work for food (I believe they train them with treats), assigned the Magic Word to the officers instead, and promised a stromboli to the winner. The Magic Word was “gravitationally-challenged.” (Also, KatClaire came up with the Magic Phrase to use next time, “pharmaceutically-gifted.)

What I found fascinating (I wasn’t actually there, being on vacation, but monitored it via Facebook) is the apparently-universal tendency to weasel one’s way around the rules, and then argue about whether this constitutes cheating. What about a rookie officer, who has to say whatever his training officer tells him to? What if I were to lie down on the sidewalk and pretend to be gravitationally-challenged, to give a certain officer the opportunity? And so on. By the time we went to press, a winner had not yet been declared, although I have trouble believing there was a shortage of drunks on a Friday night, I mean evening. Not that I personally require alcohol to fall down and injure myself, but most people seem to.

The other night, Nick said, “Perhaps you need a ride-along to correct your misconceptions about police work.” I don’t know, Nick–that sounds like an unpleasant process, so I think I’ll pass, if it’s all the same to you. After all, you did say “perhaps.” (…backing away as he flexes his claws…)




Famous Last Words/Mildly Amusing Crises in Progress


Basement (Photo credit: howzey)

2! 2! 2 posts in one! What I meant to post last night, plus what I came up with for today. So no, you’re not really getting anything extra; it’s just my inefficient delivery system.


What should have got wrote yesterday, and wasn’t, because, well, because I wanted to listen to Bruce Springsteen played just a little too loud instead. I gotta develop better work habits.

It was 5 minutes before the end of the shift, and I received a call from a woman who thought there might be an intruder in her basement. The person relieving me had already arrived, and was standing beside me waiting for me to finish this call. The caller told me about how her basement has a separate door to the outside, and it sounded like someone was trying the doors to their storage units–it sounded like a pretty creepy basement to me. While I was thus engaged in visualizing their creepy basement, and the potential intruder therein, and also noting that it was now 3 minutes before the end of the shift, an officer called me on the radio–“2E34, need you to run a driver’s status.” (3rd shift always starts off  eager and needy.) “Stand by,” I told him on the air, took my foot off the pedal, and muttered, “And I’m about to go home, so screw it.” FORGETTING THAT, you guessed it, I WAS STILL ON THE PHONE. “Pardon me?” said the caller–not hostile, just genuinely perplexed, no doubt thinking, I couldn’t have just heard what I thought I heard. And I let her go on thinking that, too–I blithely continued asking questions as if nothing untoward had happened. Maybe I should have apologized, but I don’t know that “I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to the officer calling me on the radio,” would have sounded much better, even if I’d explained, “He couldn’t hear me–it’s just between the two of us.” So rattled was I, that after finishing the call, I hurriedly signed out of the two million computer programs you need to sign out of before you can leave, and left, having never run that driver’s status, so sorry, Lori. So yes, I am tattling on myself, and I’m just glad there are no supervisors reading this–oh, there are? Oh, screw it.

But, as proof that this door swings both ways, the night before, I was city dispatch, and gave out updated location information on a run, and Officer Sarcastic responded with, “That would have been good information to have.” (You know, as in “…five minutes ago.”) I’m sure no one realized how devastating my ensuing silence was. Nick would have realized it–it would make his blood run cold to think of speaking to me that way on the air–but he is currently on leave, to bond with his new cub (and I advise being very cautious when approaching their den–avoid loud noises or sudden movements).


Sooo–I was off work today (and good thing, too, don’t you think?) and standing at the bus stop, and heard two women screaming curses at each other. “F*ck you! You’re a f*ckin’ bitch!” “Yeah? Well, f*ck you!” and several other such sentiments, mostly composed of variations on the word f*ck. Then a young woman hove into view, stomping along in the manner of the righteously indignant, with a baby in her arms wearing only a diaper, and a little girl holding her hand, dressed in a T-shirt and a diaper. The girl looked a little too old for diapers, but who am I to judge. Once they were out of sight, a slightly older woman came along, carrying a garbage bag of personal belongings, and asked me, “Did you see where that girl with two kids went?” “That way, ” I said, and then worried that I’d told the f*cking bitch where to go to start the f*cking fight back up again. Then a squad car pulled up to a house down the street, so I called 911 (“Calling Emergency Number,” my cell phone said, in case I hadn’t noticed) and told them where the whole cavalcade had gone, in case the officer was looking for trouble. So yes, in my own small way, I was Part of the Problem.

Then my bus arrived, and I had another adventure (2 in one day–I’m not cut out for this). It was a short bus (no snickering, please), and every seat was full. So I ended up situating myself behind the seats, where the wheelchairs tie up, so now I can say I spent a bus ride on my knees. When I got to my stop, I was able to jump up from my knees easily, which I’m sure has some deeper symbolic meaning that doesn’t bear further inspection. And on the way, saw another police car Doing Business with some driver, so Nick, the Wild West has gone out of control in your absence.

Crisis in Progress: Why I Miss 3rd Shift

A packet of ketchup, opened with the contents ...

A packet of ketchup, opened with the contents squeezed out (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…which we’ll get to in a moment. But 1st, from today’s local newspaper, a headline: “Official Forces Extra Golf.” No, not that! Anything but that! I assume they’ll draw lots to determine who’ll be forced to play extra golf, and then the rest of us will be forced to watch it.

And 2nd, Rom has said more than once that I remind him of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, a show I’ve never seen,  so Nikki the Tragically Hip kindly sent me a link of excerpts of same. I promptly watched all 12 minutes and 57 seconds of it, even though I was supposed to be getting ready to leave the house, and knew it would make me have to rush through my leaving-the-house readiness rituals, none of which may be omitted unless the house is actively on fire. It was–instructive, for lack of a better word. OK, I have a better word–BAZINGA!

Enough wandering in the desert of random observations. On to our chief matter subject. I become nostalgic for 3rd shift at the risk of alienating the shift I’m actually on, and have been on for many years. But you wouldn’t hold it against me, wouldja, guys? Guys? All together now, to the tune of the Sara Lee theme song: “Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Paula Jeanne!” Which gets to the heart of the matter: 2nd shift doesn’t sing. 2nd shift doesn’t have time to sing. And I’m unafraid to alienate 1st shift, on which I’ve never worked regularly. Day shift is an abomination, which requires one not to get up at 0700 (loathsome enough), but to be at work at 0700, which is a horror inexpressible. Besides, the calls are numerous but meaningless, and the experience resembles being buried alive in rabbit pellets. (I do too know what I’m talking about. I have worked day shift on occasion, and never voluntarily.)

OK, now that I’ve been by turns apologetic and defiant (All Extremes, All the Time), here are great things that happened on 3rd shift. I mean by this 3rd Shift Proper, which is after 0300. Before that, it’s an extension of 2nd shift. It only finds its true character after the bars have closed and the drunks have all passed out.

–Sending the helpless and innocent Nick (who was a dispatcher at the time, the more fool him) 1000 text messages while he was out of the room. Or he thought there were 1000. That was only as high as as the counter would register. Turns out there were actually 2000. He dutifully hit “delete” 2000 times, only then to be told that he could have just clicked “List” and deleted them all at once. History does not record if he burst into tears at that point, but he did abandon us to become a police officer, where he only has to worry about getting spit on.

–Our old computer system allowed us to change both background color and text. While A Certain Person was out of the room, I changed her background to white and her text to red, which both resembles and causes bloodshot eyes. The beauty part was that she came back and pretended nothing had happened, suffering with it for the rest of the shift, rather than give me the satisfaction of watching her change it back. Leaving the room was dangerous on 3rd shift.

–There was once a train derailment at dawn, which involved some kind of white powder being scattered on the tracks, which the dispatch center was downwind of at the time. “Maybe it’s cyanide,” I speculated. “This Hardee’s food {one of the few eating spots open on 3rd shift} may be our last meal!” Suddenly, as if by prearranged signal, the air was full of flying condiment packets. Apparently we wanted to go out with a food fight. Somebody accidentally rolled their chair over a ketchup packet, which burst. The stain remained for years, until They replaced the rug. Although you can see how replacing the rug in this place might be wasted effort.

–But it wasn’t all fun and games. One night we got food from what must have been the other place open on 3rd shift (I don’t remember where), and every one of us got sick (except the Certain Person, who hadn’t wanted whatever food that was, and was very smug about her lack of sickness, too). Nothing like 6 people taking turns rushing to the restroom, because somebody had to be in the Emergency Operations Center handling calls and air traffic, even though we were having our own emergency at the time. That’s just how dedicated we are, in case you were worried by finding out what 911 dispatchers do to stay awake when they’re not busy.

–We found a suspicious spider (well, we were suspicious of it, though it would have been right to be suspicious of us), and put it in a pill bottle for later analysis by a pest expert. I should say, we put her in a pill bottle, because the trauma caused her to give birth to a great many adorable spiderlings. Our supervisor, who happened to be afraid of spiders, kept this little family on his console where he could keep an eye on it. When he left the room (see, even a position of power couldn’t keep you safe), we took and hid it, so he’d think they all escaped. This supervisor is no longer with us–turns out we were the subject of his PhD dissertation in psychology. I think we should hire him as our staff therapist.

–He was out of the room on a different occasion, and we all hid under our consoles so he would think we’d all left.

Remembering these good times makes me consider going back to 3rd shift every 6 months, when the option comes around. (“Don’t go!” Nick pleads. Right? Look at me when I’m speaking to you!) But nostalgia is outweighed by the fact that I couldn’t sleep, and was always crabby when it came time to go to work. I felt 5 years younger when I went back to 2nd shift. My nails even started growing faster, I kid you not. (In case you thought I was in the habit of kidding you.) Plus, there’s something to be said for being in the thick of things.

My, I have gone on, and after several days of not posting, no less. All Extremes, All the Time. BAZINGA!



It’s My Workplace and I’ll Cry If I Want To

logo …and then they say, “Not anymore.”

The alarm service was yet another of my assorted jobs in my 20’s, after writing work  started drying up. My first job, at 16, was writing, and so was my second. The second job was mostly rewriting press releases, which my boss soon decided he could just as easily do himself, so I was on the loose again, in between my various tries at college. So I started looking for, well, whatever classified ads wanted someone with no skills other than a mediocre bit of typing. Hence the alarm service.

I suspect that, in spite of everything being computerized now (sometimes at the expense of common sense), alarm services today are a lot like they were in the 70’s:

–We alarm monitors, all women, worked in a windowless room, and were given the impression that this was to protect us from the lecherous repairmen, who were strictly forbidden to enter our quarters under any circumstances. It was like being in a harem, except that you didn’t get to have sex with a king.

–Minimum wage. Enough said.

–Rotating shifts–every 6 weeks you’d be on a different one. There is nothing harder on your body than this. Of course, I never found that out personally, because they didn’t keep me that long.

Basically, work consisted of keeping track of businesses opening and closing, with a flurry of phone calls from employees about their alarm going off and they didn’t know why. If a business didn’t open/close at their regular hours, we had to call someone and ask why that was. If an alarm went off and no one called to explain it, we called the police. Our service’s ad said we had “a direct line to the police department.” We did–the same one everyone else called to contact the police in the pre-911 days.

This was not the job I got beaten up at, but I didn’t get along with anyone here, either. I didn’t understand how someone like me who talked so little could annoy so many, but there it is. It must be a gift. I think part of the secret was that they told me they didn’t have a dress code, and I took them at their word and came to work the way I dressed on my days off–in halter tops that were basically a triangle of fabric tied on with four strings. Rom still has pictures of me wearing one shortly after we met, when I was 23. Now I look at it and think, I wore that in an air-conditioned office? I also think, I sure was skinny back then. Anyway, I got reprimanded and my supervisor said, “Just because there’s no dress code doesn’t mean you can wear anything you want.” I’d thought that was exactly what it meant. Of course, leaving something up to my fashion judgement is never a wise idea.

Anyway…my employment came to an end the night of my first storm. A storm at a local alarm service is like one at Dispatch–all the alarms going off, phones ringing constantly. It would not stop, I could not keep up, and I burst into tears.

The next day, they told me they were “letting me go”–interestingly, the same words my high school sweetheart had used when he broke up with me. The reason for my firing was not technically my crying, but that I’d neglected to call back a business when they’d failed to set their alarm. They weren’t broken into, but they could have been!

…I resisted starting a blog for a long time, partly because I thought, Doesn’t every failed writer have a blog these days?, but mostly because I thought, Why would anyone care about someone else’s long boring stories? But no one’s making you read them (until I rule the world, that is), so you could just say you’re letting me go.

Crisis in Progress and Unrelated Objects

facebook engancha

facebook engancha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know you’re not supposed to tell people your dreams, but I’m in charge here, so you’ll read this and like it, got that? I dreamed I had a cat embedded in my head. That’s right, an actual cat in my actual head.

Speaking of readers: To anyone reading these things who doesn’t know me personally (hey, it’s theoretically possible), who notices that many of these posts have no comments–they mostly comment on Facebook, which you may have heard of. I’m not just talking to myself here, it only looks like it.

On to our ongoing crisis:

Officer of the Day yesterday (Officer of the Previous Day?) Award goes to poor pitiful Nick, who volunteered to work 3rd shift after already working 2nd shift. I slept better knowing there was a sleep-deprived man with a gun driving around out there.

I’m going to stop everybody I see on the street (and since I walk the streets a lot–stop snickering–I see a lot of people) and say STOP GIVING YOUR OLD CELL PHONE TO YOUR SMALL CHILD TO PLAY WITH! THEY CALL 911 ALL THE TIME! I was treated to one such call tonight where Mom was congratulating said child on having pooped. “You pooped!” I’m honored that I could be part of this special moment with your family.

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