Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Some People Just Need Stabbin'

My dear friend Rachael is usually a calm and competent person. She has to be, for the work that she does (911 dispatcher -- she's got ova of steel; I could never do that).

Today she got pissed off (after, apparently, having been pissed on)

Someone had written to her, saying that they were outraged at her using her time at work to knit and steek and so forth, as she was "wasting the taxpayers' money".

I almost hijacked her comments with a rant but I figured I'd do it over here in my own space (and also too I haven't blogged for a week so likely half of you think I'm dead after my last dramatic outpouring).

You see, I have worked for almost eight years in a related field, although nothing as intense as she does. I work for a centralized call centre for six healthcare facilities. I call the codes for all six (ie, someone goes into cardiac arrest, I call the team to get there -- something goes on fire, I liaise with emergency services, etc.), plus answering regular calls, paging, doing patient info, helping out the oftimes bemused and chemically-enhanced public and helping avert disasters as best I can. It's a big job, but it's still nothing like Rachael does. (The other job is the same but for only two facilities, thank the FSM.)

And there's a lot of downtime on the off-peak hours.

When I work the night shift I work anywhere from 8-16 hours alone (usually only 8 but there have been times when there's been no relief for the morning shift). Nothing but the sound of my own breathing (I find music a distraction). No breaks. I have to pee with the door open in case the alarm goes off. (Fortunately there's a double-locked steel door set in concrete between me and the rest of the world. I don't love anyone enough to pee in public.)

When the phone rings, my response is often less than one second. If I'm across the room hastily heating something up or grabbing a glass of water, it could be five. If the code alarm goes, it's NEVER five. It's two, even if I have to drop my salad on the floor (no, I don't heat salad, shut up). I slipped on water on the floor one night and fell and thought I'd broken my kneecap and I still got the phone on the second ring (and am disappointed I didn't blog the bruise).

And when I don't get a call for an hour, or three? (yes, in my position it happens) I knit. I read. I do Sudoku. Sure, the taxpayers might think they're paying for me to knit (please also note that most of the knitting I do on that shift goes to charity). What they're paying me for is to make sure that the people who can save their lives or the lives of their loved ones get there in time. As she said, they're paying us to know what to do and to do it right quick.

And while I'm busy helping save their loved ones, I'm also paying their child's college tuition with my taxes even though my husband can't afford to finish his degree (and he works and is also paying for their tuition). I'm paying for their public transit with my taxes even though transit doesn't run at a time that would take me or my husband to work so he has to walk a couple of miles a day, while I have to drive a car I can't really afford.

I'm paying for them to send their three kids to public school while I'm scrabbling to find the funds to pay for the non-standard education that the one child I managed to carry to term urgently needs. And when I find it (and I will) I'll still be paying for their kids' schooling and not begrudging a penny of it. Kids deserve education.

But some people? I think they just need to lick me. Or maybe to get all stabbitied with dpns. I know it would make me feel much better.

SRSLY. Add to that, how much does Rachel get paid (this is rhetorical)? I'm willing to bet it's a ridiculously lo amount compared to all the politicians, and I think there could be a much better case made for them wasting taxpayer money in much more obvious ways. Oh noes, she's relaxing during the dead times of an incredibly stressful job! We can't have that! God forbid the knitting keep her sane. . .and keep her reflexes sharp. . .and and and! No Moral outrage! Fuckers.
I was going to say what a waste of a good dpn, but if you used one that was already broken or bent, then go ahead ...
Oh, for the love of crusty christ on a cracker! They're not paying her to waste her time knitting! They're paying her to stay awake and alert until they need her - and if knitting helps her do that, by all means I'm glad she does; it's not harmful in any way. What a load of ferret poop.
Jeebus. You're both being paid to answer the phone. Which requires that you be there waiting for the phone to ring. Which requires a lot of waiting. Which is boring.

Apparently someone would prefer that you doze off and/or lose your mind from sheer boredom. And since that person isn't smart enough to know not to insult people with sharp sticks, their opinion doesn't matter.
I remember being encouraged to read or knit during slack times at a call center job. It was considered preferrable to be doing something quiet and easy to interrupt than talking with co-workers or listening to music which might be too loud and could interfer with hearing the next incoming call. Had I not had something to do I would have had to been paid way more to sit in boredom between calls.
As the wife of a public servant (police officer that works two jobs!), I say to outraged taxpayer, "Sod off!" There is a smallish community not too far from here that feels it's not getting it's money's worth out of the fire department, because when they are not off on a call, they "sit idle" at the fire house. Never mind that there is equipment to be maintained. So the idiot mayor wants the firemen to do city maintainance when not on calls - fill in potholes, cut the grass around the city buildings, etc. Some people are just bloody idiots and I could fill a book with their stupidity. Don't get me started...
Tax dollars pay for her to physically be there to answer the phones when they ring. If she knits between phone calls, can knit during some phone calls is no reason to be jealous. Get a job where you can knit between phone calls. :)

Couldn't. Agree. More.

'Nuff said.
Really, you could have left it at the title, and I would have agreed wholeheartedly with you without having this level of people-hating so early in the morning. Holy shit.
Right on, sister.
JFC. Not much else to say.
Outrageous. I would say more, but I think Emily covered it pretty well.
Idiots will be idiots. Rachael is doing an essential job, if she can knit or write during her down time more power to her - she's alert and ready to go, as opposed to asleep! I'm sure it takes her no time at all to respond - drop the needles and go. She's paying taxes, too, right??
well said, and well done.
I adore you. when the docs are getting me down, I think of you and go all stabbity. xoxo
You and Rachael are being paid to be there in case something happens and to act appropriately if something happens. The nay-sayers remind me of supervisors I had when in the Air Force....had us outside washing windows in the rain to keep us busy.

Kudos to you and Rachael for all you do! This Bud's for you!
Right on, sistah!
Okay, I just read emily's comment and she said every thing I was going to say. So, "Ditto to Emily's comment."

SRSLY is right.
I guess what people don't get it that you and Rachel are there for whenever they need them, which means that you are there when you are not needed as well. As if we could schedule the emergency between 9 and 5. You have to be there, just in case. Which means that there are plenty of times that there is nothing (or little) for you to do. So, fine by me that you entertain yourself how you seem fit.

Thanks for being there.
Yeah, you run into these asshats all the time when working in government.

My favourite retort--one you covered--when someone would start ranting to me about how "they pay taxes and they pay my salary" was to respond loudly "So do I." It usually made them stop in their track and say "What?" To which I'd respond that even though I am a silly servant, I also pay taxes like everyone else. In effect, I'm paying part of my OWN salary. They often quieted down after that. Sometimes not.

I got one that ranted when I mentioned that the person she wanted had gone to get a cup of coffee and would be back in a few minutes.

I know that these irrational souls are not the majority of citizens but they seem to be disproportionately represented in the people that call in to government offices.
I'll stab them, if you like.

Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick, some peoples' heads are so far up their arses it's a wonder they can't see out their own mouths.
< snark >Honestly, I say just don't answer the phone when the idiots call. < /snark >

My Dad has been on the police force for 35 years and my Mom was an ICU nurse. I am well aware of the fact that emergencies aren't scheduled. If knitting keeps a person sane while waiting for the next lunatic to call in, great.

I don't have the even temper needed to work in that sort of environment and am eternally greatful to those who do. While the EMT may do the life saving procedure, the teams wouldn't be there without the call centers.
Dude! Just let me know where to show up for the stabbin'. I have friends and family in emergency services and I have total respect. I applied for a dispatch job with the WSP and didn't take the job. When asked how I would deal with sending an officer into a situation where they got hurt or killed... I decided I was too wimpy for the job.

People get all kinds of weird about money. It has been my experience that public services in general are tragically underfunded. I think we should make sure our emergency service professionals are well paid and happy so they continue to do what they do.

And don't even get me started on teachers wages and the state of public education...
"crusty christ on a cracker" sounds like a tasty snack. Well, maybe.

Anyway, yes to all the above. And 'Wow, get a grip' to Outraged. Maybe s/he thinks Raechel and you let the phone ring and ring while you're getting your important knitting done.???

Nuts to him or her. Jaysus.
What they said.
Aaahhh...for the love of little green turtles...

Before I saw all the supportive comments above mine I was going to say that unless you've worked one of those jobs, you just don't get it. (But obviously some people do!) I worked as an alarm dispatcher for one very brief period of my life. And I clearly remember the endless quiet hours that would suddenly be broken by a signal and just how long five seconds can last when you know some poor guy has pushed the holdup button with a gun in his face, or waking someone up in the middle of the night to tell them that their business is burning down, or whatever hell has just broken loose.

Whatever someone has to do to maintain their sanity, and be prepared and ready, is all right with me and should be with any uppity righteous taxpaying citizens.
Let me kick 'em, can I, can I? As a former nurse, I know the necessity of being awake and able to focus. Even my strict nurse manager preferred that we read, knit, anything quiet to remain alert. If we talked at the nurse's station it might wake up a sleeping patient in a nearby room. By the way, can I kick 'em?
That silly person's rationale for criticizing seems to be based on this. How can [my firm] charge $xxxx for me to prepare their tax return -- it couldn't have taken more than a couple hours. What they are paying for is the depth of knowledge I have and the technology available to me, all of which ALLOWS me to do the task in that amount of time and, more importantly, to do it correctly. The same task, if they were to attempt it, would take them at least ten or fifteen hours and there would be absolutely no guarantee it was right when they finished.

Sometimes we have to pay for the part of the job that we don't see but which are essential for the visible parts to happen.
Yeah, only someone who has never been chained to a desk or a station so that they could instantly act would begrudge a little knitting.

Better to knit and stay focused for the instant emergency than go into a catatonic state and need a moment to come back to life.

Now that I think about it. All the dispatchers should be knitting while they wait. ;-)
The world needs more people like you around. Thanks for doing what you do, I feel safer knowing there are such attentive people waiting to help me if I ever am in trouble. Thanks.
I think the obvious solution is for members of the public to timetable themselves better, so that they present Rachel with a steady stream of emergencies instead of leaving her with slack time. They could have a rota of people prepared to drop something heavy on their foot, or crash a car into a wall, or accidentally stab themselves - or deliberately stab someone else - so that she isn't sitting there idling. And the idiot who wrote to her should be at the top of this list of volunteers.
I have a set of cheap ass bamboo needles you can use that I bought in a bargain bin somewhere (and obviously I got what I paid for). They'd be great for stabbing the Rachael-hater since they'd probably break off and splinter and cause more damage. Good luck with the schooling. Been there, done the ranting, worth the effort!
Oh ye gods and little godlings. Some people. Rather than ranting, I will snort loudly in disgust. SNORT.
Ok, so...I worked a job like this, too. And someone complained, and the management told us we could no longer do ANYTHING in between calls that was unrelated to the job. (ie even if you wanted to read, it had to be the company training manual or something).

We all quit. Now NOBODY answers the phone.

I'll donate dpns for the cause. ;o)
Honestly!! These assclowns need to find a better way to spend their own down time rather than critique yours!! When it is them or a loved one of theirs that needs your help they will thank their lucky stars that you (and Rachael) are awake and alert and ready to take their emergency call. Like my kids say...they need to MYOB!!!
cheers for rabbitch and rachel and all the other unheralded, underpaid people who send people to our rescue when needed!

about a month ago, one of rachel's indy counterparts had four emt/firefighters in my foyer with a bp cuff, gurney and everything else needed to deal with my suddenly galloping heart -- in less than 4 minutes from the time i dialed 911. don't ANYBODY try to tell me people in that kind of job don't deserve to reduce their stress in healthful ways!

research has proved that knitting puts the brain into a state of calm that i imagine would be almost a necessity for coping with such a job.

knit on, rachel, rabbitch and all other people who take calls from those in distress. and as for the people who complain, may they get a friggin' clue!

ellen in indy
I've been ranting in my head all day about that one.


People should not criticize workers doing jobs they do not understand.
Someone called me a "public servant" the other day and did so with the idea that those of us who are paid with tax dollars are subject to their rules on how the job should be done.

God, I wish I'd read this first. You put it all into words so much better than I did. I basically just spluttered. And, while I'm a heck of a splutterer, it didn't really make my thoughts as clear as I would have liked.
Well said! Why is that people think that because one is paid by tax dollars the rest of population owns you? The same can be said of employers paying $8 an hour as well.
Well said Rabbitch and knit on Rachel. I am comforted to know that if an emergency should arise, there is someone sitting by patiently knitting while awaiting my call!
You said it! I worked PDX and knit, crocheted, read, and otherwise kept myself busy when it'd be an hour between phone calls or codes. That money goes to making sure there is someone there, ready at a moment's notice, to call a code if needed. It's a pretty darn important job, and there isn't a thing wrong with filling time that otherwise would be spent motionless, hovering over a phone that isn't ringing currently.
Ditto all of the above.

Idiots. Tell you what, how about if YOU just sit there and STARE AT THE PHONE for ten, twelve hours at a stretch. Don't take your eyes off it! Don't blink! Don't do aaaaaaanything else...just stare...at the phone...hour after hour...IN CASE IT RINGS...

This particular nightshift 911 operator (in Florida) thanks you all for your support and understanding. And between you all, you've not only said everything I would on the topic, but you've also given me some great epithets to whip out in the future. "Crusty christ on a cracker" may be my favorite, followed closely by "Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick". Thank you all for the support and the smiles.
Since Rachael has closed comments on the post in question, I am taking the liberty of jacking your comment field. Thank you in advance for not going all stabbity on me.

Rachael, if you're reading this, I don't want to make you teary, but I must say that I wish that I could be half as eloquent in the face of anger and crisis as you are. Were I in the correct municipality, I'd pay *more* than my tax burden, just to make the point that we need you, and others like you, in a crisis.

To our hostess with the mostest: I love you, Rabbitch. I love you so freakin' much.
Any call center job is a thankless one but the ones that affect peoples' lives are the most thankless. I'd rather have the person on the other end be mentally aware and if it takes knitting to do so, go to it.
I am quite uncertain as to what they think she SHOULD be doing?!?! If the job does not provide other activities to do during the downtime, there has to be some way to keep yourself alert and your mind ready to deal with the calls. I could understand if there was paperwork, or some "secondary" job that was going undone because she was knitting. People are nuts!
I know I sure would rather my 911 dispatchers be content and alert and ready to help when needed. Having been in jobs where you might just be sitting around waiting until needed, knitting is definitely a good way to stay alert and focused.
Literally makes me weep. My husband has just the right term: Those People (and you can hear the capitals) are what we call "The Perpetually Outraged." They piss and moan and whine about things about which they know NOTHING...oblivious to the fact that THEY might be the next one in need of Rachael's (or your) attention. Wouldn't their tune change then? Ignore them; the PO speak only to hear themselves, and the vacuums inside their heads - and hearts - are not worth even trying to put anything into. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone who commented before me. And any who post afterward, I 'spect.
When I was a 911 dispatcher, we ALL did something. Many of us did cross stitch, but there were hand quilters and knitters and crocheters.
It's better than reading, b/c a good book can suck you in hard enough to miss the first ring.
And the 3a-7a stretch? We were calling our cops to be sure the radios still worked....
until we had a real call... for which we dropped whatever in our laps and leapt to the phone.... awake, alert, and ready to do our jobs.
Well said! You folks who are the emergency workers are awesome! Stab away--even addi turbos dpns are worth the ruin!
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