Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Answering 911 Life in the Hot Seat by Caroline Burau
Caroline Burau acknowledges the general public's fascination with her job. As a 911 dispatcher she fields calls from people in danger as well dangerous people. We follow her from her first day on the job, to on-the-job training, through her rotation at multiple stations within the call center.
I empathized with her back story. She had been through drug addiction and come out on the other side. I also thought that being a 911 operator might be the worst job for a recovering addict in regards to being exposed to triggers on a daily basis. But I was optimistic, I was cheering her on.
The 911 calls themselves are the most fascinating. I suppose it is my voyeuristic nature. However, I quickly became annoyed at Burau's attitude towards her newly adopted stepdaughter. Burau doesn't express many motherly concerns but then makes comments like an exasperated mother. She brushes her stepdaughter off because she doesn't make trouble and gets good grades, but she is annoyed that she talks too much. This insight into Burau's nature was the first to rub me the wrong way.
As she settles into her job responsibilities, she becomes hard. One can expect this from any high stress job, but Burau's evolution from naive to judgmental was the final straw.
I laughed when I read one of her first call responses:
"I've just been robbed!"
"With a gun?"
I had no more empathy or sympathy when her responses became more like "This person doesn't want justice, he wants validation. Sometimes I have that to give. Sometimes it feels like too much to ask. Maybe that's what burnout is. When you've run out, entirely."