July 10th, 2009

White Noise

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

The control room is a little conglomeration of micro climates. Sometimes they’re linked & others they are totally divorced from even their nearest neighbours. So one area can be really busy with non-stop radio traffic & phone calls both into & out of the control room, while the operators next door are sitting twiddling their thumbs.

I’ve been on a reasonably quiet area this week. It gives you an opportunity to people-watch. There are conversations going on all round the room. Some people are on the radio or telephone in which case you can only hear one side of the conversation, other radio operators & call-takers are talking amongst themselves.

You tune in & out of the conversations much like you would in a busy pub or restaurant.

Someone is advising on the legality of vehicle lights.

Someone is asking their caller to stop swearing, for the third time.

A couple of people are reading out registered keeper details from their PNC screens, while the operator in front of me is passing details of a fight taking place at the local leisure park.

A voice raises across the way, there’s no immediacy, she just has annoyingly loud voice. I don’t know if that’s something she can’t help or whether she just has a need for everyone to know how hard she is working, as if maybe trying to gain the awestruck wonderment of everyone else who is not as good a controller as her. I do know that after 8 or 9 hours oh hearing every bloody word she says on the radio or the phone I just want to wrap a plastic Sainsburys carrier bag tightly over her head.

I can hear somebody else assigning units to some drunken yobs in a town centre who are paddling in the ornamental pond. I have the added benefit  of being able to switch over to that area’s CCTV where I can see them frolicking gaily among the water lilies. One of them has slipped & is currently lying on his back in the water as his mates piss themselves laughing. Would be a dreadful shame if he got a mouthful of rat urine while he lay there.

I flit between conversations trying to  pick the best ones.

The inspector is discussing an incident with the sergeant, they’re not happy that someone did something before permission was given. They mention a log & I quickly look it up on the system & speed-read it as I try to earwig on who did what. It’s difficult to focus on one conversation among many without looking at the speaker to get all the usual visual clues we get when we talk to each other. I pretend to check out a screen which faces them so I can hear that an officer was told to await the arrival of armed units before approaching a female with a knife threatening to self-harm. He didn’t & by the time the  Gucci squad arrived she was in tears in the back of a police car having been prevented from self-harming.

My radio hasn’t burst into life for just over an hour & my computer is threatening to log me off. I don’t mind, the time goes more slowly but sometimes it’s good to have a break from the madness that is a really busy shift. My mates who are busy will have their shots at peaceful serenity some other time.

Voices are raised on the other side of the control room. The call-taker is trying to get someone to stop shouting, unsuccessfully. The caller is cut off & the age-old familiar descriptive term “wanker” fires its way across the control room, swiftly followed by mock gasps of “oooohhh” & laughter.

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