Have you ever had a caller that is one of those “locals”. You know…the guy or gal that calls almost every day if not multiple times a day? One of ours was Mr. Washington (name changed). Mr. Washington was a little out of touch with reality but was nonetheless a lovely soul. He’d call frequently, as he didn’t have many friends or family nearby, to complain about how his neighbor was shooting laser beams through his AC vent and would explain how she was wanted for murder from another jurisdiction (unsure how factual this was). Sometimes he’d be upset but if you sat and listened to him for a while he’d eventually say, “I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to me and I’ll let you get back to it”. At the base of his ramblings was a lonely older man who just needed someone to talk to him and listen. He needed to feel heard. Sometimes we’d laugh with him and share a good joke. Everyone on our shift (usually) enjoyed hearing from Mr. Washington and it became a constant in our daily tour. Some dispatchers even took him a birthday card recently and it absolutely made his day. I’m willing to bet it’s one of the only gifts he received for his birthday, which is rather heart wrenching when you think about it. We heard from him so frequently that we began to fondly refer to him as “Uncle Art”. At the end of the day people just need someone they can talk to, someone who will listen to them…a friend. We were that friend to him.
Unfortunately Mr. Washington passed away this past week. No more multiple phone calls, no more stories to listen to that we’d already heard multiple times, no more constant for us. In a job full of predictability one of the only pieces of predictability was lost to us. Mr. Washington, I know most people didn’t understand you or have the patience or time to listen to what you were saying, but I hope you know that you were a positive part of the day and we truly looked forward to hearing from you if nothing else to make sure you were okay. You will be sorely missed.
Mr. Washington can teach us all something. If we have the patience to sit and listen without forming opinions or being rushed to get on to the next task, it can absolutely make someone’s day. And isn’t that why we all got in to this profession in the first place…to make a difference?