I used to work with Tracey, another civilian employee with the city of Key West, and he was always a joker while he looked after the police department cleaning jobs. Driving around Key West on his new job he got heads spinning with his mannequin passenger... and that cracked him up. Gave me a turn too.
I prefer Thanksgiving to Christmas when it comes to stress and social conventions. The gift giving and shopping and second guessing of a modern Christmas has always set my adult teeth on edge, especially as I have no children. But I have reached a stage where I treat the holiday as I do Thanksgiving and I embrace the concept of peace on Earth and ignore the commercial aspects of the holiday. My work place goes all out to celebrate the joy of the holiday.
In any small town the police department is an integral part of the community and so it is in Key West, where among year round residents you end up working for the government or the hospitality industry.
This is the time of year when decorations celebrating Fall and Giving Thanks give way to the conventions and myths of Christmas, elves, Santa Claus and snowflakes, which have never been seen on the ground in Key West and might as well be a myth.
I actually think it's rather cool to see the relatively austere corridors of a city department not generally open to the public made familiar by personal effort and communal celebration.
Much to my surprise I found myself on the naughty list along with the other dozen dispatchers who keep the place running every hour of every day. Every other dispatcher is under 50 and most of them are in their 20s and early 30s and in a town noted for a lackadaisical attitude toward time keeping and reliability I am reminded every time I come to work how naughty we are compared to our island time neighbors. In our Topsy Turvy world where showing up in Key West is not the rule for many young workers, dispatch never misses a beat; no shift is ever abandoned by these youngsters. At work we live a life apart in many respects from people who work regular shifts in office jobs, but we are the people that hear the pain of so many of our neighbors, people who have broken bodies, broken spirits, and broken relationships twenty four hours a day.. It isn't easy not to let it affect you so a reminder of the season of the unbroken is a pretty decent thing for us.
We hang stockings in dispatch and fake snowflakes and pull Christmas lights around our computer screens but the work neither stops nor slows down. I'm working Christmas Day and New Year's Day this year including some overtime to give someone else a break and I'm glad to do it as my wife is out of town with friends on the road during her Christmas break from school.
This is as good a place to be, as any on this particular day. It's no fun getting hurt or wrecking your car or some other thing especially on Christmas Day so I should prefer the phones to stay silent all day but they won't. I'll look around and be reminded this is a good place to work, a good community in which to live and the fact the snowflakes aren't at all real makes me very happy indeed.
Merry Christmas and I hope you won't need to call 911 today of all days. We'll be here if you do.