Book Review - Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat by Caroline Burau
This was one of those "staff picks" at the library that catches your eye as you're trying to check out the books you *did* come in for... Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat by Caroline Burau. Since it was relatively short and had a sufficiently quirky premise, I picked it up. It turned out to be one of the more entertaining reads I had this year.
What It's Like; Destiny, or Something; On-the-Job Training; Joe Wilson; Power Phones; Lily; Good Neighbors; Friends in High Places; Anniversary; Jurisdiction; My Marsha; Kristen; Coppers; Hostages; Smucked; On the Night Shift; That Loving Feeling; Just Too Silly; changes; Words; On Burnout; The Parenting Option; On Wannabes; DOA; The Job; Retirement; Wherever You Go; Full Circle; Acknowledgements
Burau has led a far different life than most of us... She was somewhat of an outsider growing up, and ended up getting hooked on crack. This addiction, fed by her boyfriend, culminated with her doing a few days in a Florida jail when she was busted for "loitering", just moments before they were supposed to be picking up some product. She took a hard look at what she had become, and ended up going back home to start over. Her nursing career ended in college when she would get queasy over blood. Her career as a reporter wasn't working out much better. One day while following a story at the police station, she was encouraged to apply for a job as a 911 operator. Surprisingly, her drug background didn't discourage the interviewers, and she started a new life on the desk of a small-town emergency response agency. She's a great writer, so you quickly get sucked into her struggles to learn the lingo, the multiple terminals and switchboards, and the processes that are necessary to make sure the right people are sent out to the right incidents. She also shares the pain of having someone die on the other end of the line, and the agony of trying to know if you were the cause of it. She also ends up knowing far more about her neighbors than she wished she knew, and soon everyone she sees has some sort of background story that she can't just pretend didn't happen.
Other than the sheer entertainment factor of the book, it also made me think about those people who are on the other end of the phone line when we dial 911. We don't have a clue as to the stress and pressure they're under, and how each day exposes them to more ugliness and insanity than most of us experience in a lifetime. You almost want to dial 911 and just say "thanks for being there", except that they have other more important calls to take. :)
Well written, funny, and interesting... Definitely worth a read.