I showed up to work recently, as one does, and sauntered into the communications center, little suspecting the problem that was going to confront me as I found my way to the refrigerator in the kitchen. The police communications center is staffed 24 hours every single day of course, as people expect someone to answer their frantic 911 calls. To that end we have a kitchen and a bathroom a few feet from our computer screens to make breaks as short as they need to be if there is a lot of emergency activity. Sometimes you just have to sit on it and hope your bladder will cooperate. In any event my first move when I arrive at work is to put my lunch bag in the fridge before settling down for my twelve hour shift.
Except this time when I put my red cooler bag in the fridge I stopped, paused by the sight of something odd on the shelf. Let me say here our work fridge frequently looks like a plastic bag storage locker. I have no clue why but my young colleagues seem to like to stuff the refrigerator with whimsical purchases of foods that would not seem to be entirely suitable as desk top lunches. There are bags with crumbled cheese containers, salad boxes without condiments, elderly packages of mouldy fruit and yoghurt with long since dead use by dates Its as though the youngsters come to work filled with righteous diet intent and promptly ignore the food they bring and order in cooked sugar fat and salt in the American way.
On this occasion I saw an odd looking granola bar. I don't know why the slim brown tube attracted my attention but it did. Hmm I said to myself what odd food is this? Curiosity killed the cat they tell us, but dispatchers have to be endowed with a minimal amount of the stuff to get through the night. So I picked it up, as one does and wasn't I surprised to find out what it was. The little tube is a single cheese stick holder. It holds one cheese stick. Which is already vacuum sealed into its own plastic bag. You take one securely wrapped cheese stick and slide it, while wrapped into this outlandish outer wrapper.
It happens to me quite often that when I stumble across some obscure cultural practice, which at work tends to be among the younger generation, what seems to me to be bizarre to everyone else on my shift is perfectly obvious. Oh that, I expected them to say with the practiced boredom of 28 year olds, why that's a cheese stick holder of course! Duh! Frankly I was astonished I could find anything in the fridge. Its as though none of my colleagues have a fridge at home. My lunch comes with me in the insulated red bag which barely finds room in this overstuffed science experiment nightmare of a fridge. Who brings food to work and lets it rot there? And why!? People are weird and people at work are the weirdest!.
So I walked into the communications room hiding my find behind my back. Any guesses what this is? I say holding my finger across the embossed "Sargento" on the vinyl tube. To my great satisfaction my night shift colleagues waiting to take over the communications center from day shift look at the thing in astonishment. Then my Trainee says with a big grin on face That's mine! She had stumbled across a free offer and sent in for it and was now the proud owner of the only chilled cheese stick outside our work refrigerator. She thought my bemusement was hilarious. I wondered about the world I live in where some people never eat cheese and others among us will only eat it chilled.We lucky few!
In two days I mark my ninth anniversary in this room, a job that is always described as stressfull yet that I really enjoy after all these years.I like that when I hand over the controls to the incoming shift I am completely done, there is no homework, no loose ends, no report writing such as plagues the officers. When I come in at six in the evneing its all a fresh start. I like the night shift when the police station is empty and I get to spend my days at home alone. Some people thi nk we know everything before anyone else in the city but we don't know much up in dispatch. Its the place where callers call for help and he people we send end up on the scene with first hand knowledge. We never see the ned of the stories. Its an odd disembodied job and I love it.
And then there is the ride home, into the face of a rising sun, and at home there is a dog and she is expecting a walk, breakfast and a nap with her Dad in that order. And then I com e back itno town for another twelve hours of sifting though the human misery of the eraly morning hours. I hope I have at least another nine years of this in me...