Good morning! Last night I had the pleasure of doing a RandomCast episode with my mom and her sisters. It was hilarious and the reason I wanted to have them on the show is because as far as I can remember they are always laughing and having a good time. I remember them telling stories of their childhood and it has always fascinated me. I could sit and listen to them talk about their past for hours. What makes it fun and interesting, as you will hear in this episode, is the detail and humor they put into it.
It was an honor to sit and go back in time with them and I think they had a good time too. They share stories of their parents, what it was like walking miles to school before buses started picking kids up, dances and much more. If you are ready to laugh then this episode is for you! As always you can email the show at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Episode topics –
- Pushy the Cat
- Falling asleep under an apple tree
- Dancing with hunchbacks
- Remembering Abuelo Esteban and Abuela Manuela
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By Ricardo — 7 years ago
How many of you golf? How many of you are excellent golfers? Well, let me tell you something; I’m neither. I have golfed once and not only was it fun but I completely sucked at it. I didn’t think it was going to be that hard but I still had fun. I mean, I really had fun. What started out as a friendly round of golf, turned into one hilarious event. It was a couple years ago and I had been invited to a bachelor party for a friend of mine from Holland. There was a large group of us and it had been decided that we play 18 holes of golf. Now I had never played a round in my life. I had always wanted to but never had the chance so when this came up I was pretty nervous. We started around noon and I was paired with a good friend of mine who I will call Geddy. All groups contained four players and we were second to the last to begin our game.
As I stated before I was pretty nervous and when it was my turn I had to ask how to swing. I had no clue and felt like a fool. After a couple practice swings I went for it. Boy was I happy! I swung and heard the sound of impact as I connected. I looked for my ball in the air but what I quickly realized was that the sound of impact was from somewhere else. I looked down and there it was, all by its lonesome and laughing at my misfortune. I had completely wiffed it and I am sure that if there had been a fire close by, the air from my swing would have put it out. My swings remained awkward but I didn’t care. We were allowed to bring our own alcohol so it made it even more fun and there was no room to care about my golf swing. Throughout our game the last group of guys who were with our party kept catching up to us. At one point there were eight of us attempting to make a shot at once and when you combine that with alcohol it makes for a good time but it pisses the other players off. One of the guys hopped on top of a golf cart and was holding on for dear life while the driver went over a hill “Jackass” style.
We were between the 15th and 16th hole when the guys in back of us pulled up and nailed the back of our cart. The guy who had previously been riding on top of the golf cart was now reaching forward to untie our golf bags to make them fall. We were laughing at his attempts and his driver slammed on the brakes and we continued with the other guy holding on to the back and his legs were dragging on the path. He yelled for us to stop and when we did he fell over, gasping for air, slightly wet from peeing himself and saying he was fine. The only thing Geddy and I could say was,
“Glad you enjoyed yourself at my expense.”, our friend replied.
It was an all around good time and we had been there all day. My first experience golfing was outstanding but some people were getting fed up and annoyed with us. When we got to the 16th hole the last group decided to jump ahead of us. As they made their way to the 17th hole, two older gentlemen pulled up behind us. Out of no where another guy pulled up and started yelling.
“You need to get moving you here me?”
“And who the hell are you,” asked Geddy.
“I’m the golf course ranger (GCR) now move it!”
Our group began to laugh. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a GCR and it was hard to take him seriously since he was about to stock the vending machine with pop and snacks. He was dressed like a hall monitor and tan as can be. Picture a hot dog in the microwave after one minute. It’s stiff, split open, and looks burnt and wrinkled. You can’t get more tan or wrinkled than that. So we played ball and told him that we would hurry and GCR moved ahead to the 17th hole. I had just taken my shot when I heard the two fools in back of us talking smack. Geddy and I turned and stared them down a bit and I turned back in time to hear the beginning of an argument.
“Don’t you ever talk to me like that!”, yelled one of the members of our group.
GCR had said something to the group ahead of us and it was getting ugly. The guys in back of us hopped in their golf cart and split to help GCR. I looked at Geddy and I told him that we should go and help our group. We were laughing and it was stupid. A brawl was about to break out on the golf course and for me this was great! I thought golf was going to be boring but it was turning out to be superb! We were getting ready to head over when we saw them break up and the older fellas came back behind us. We made our shots and moved toward the 17th hole. We had decided to move fast and made our crappy shots and moved to the final hole.
Geddy had taken his shot and the two old guys, who I will name Munch and Chip, were at the 17th.
“Way to go A-hole”, yelled Munch.
Both Geddy and I turned around to see the angry smug look of Munch and Chip.
“Yeah we’re talking to you, the both of you”, said Chip.
“WTF is your problem man?”, asked Geddy.
Munch and Chip stood there for a moment and then turned around. Geddy and I got into our cart and started to take off when Munch and Chip pulled up and nailed the back of our cart. It was on and as we got out of the cart I pulled out one of my clubs.
“WTF is your problem?”, Geddy asked again.
“You know what you did!”, yelled Munch.
I stood there waiting for a swing. Just one swing is all it would take.
“You screwed up our game by doing what you did you jerks! We have been behind you guys this whole time and all you have done is goof off.”
Apparently Chip thought we had purposely put the wiffel ball that is attached to the flag pole down in order to block their ball from going in. This was not so, I still have no idea how it fell but it had not been us. At one point during the argument, Munch asked if we wanted to fight. Now these guys were in their mid to late 50’s. Their skin was also that of GCR and hanging to places unknown. We were in our late 20’s and we would have destroyed them but in the end they decided to walk away and they apologized. We were finally at the 18th hole and I was nervous about my last shot. I took a few practice swings and when I was comfortable I let it rip. I nailed it good but it went off to the right. I yelled, “Fore!” and watched in slow motion as it made its way to a couple who were making their shots. A girl, who I will call Lucky, had not heard me yell. My eyes popped wide open as Lucky was clocked on the side of her face. The sound of the ball hitting her chin was massive and she grabbed her face and belted out,
“You have got to be F’n kidding me!”
I gasped and yelled out that I was sorry. The guys in my group laughed and Lucky was yelling at her boyfriend to say something to us. He glanced over at us, looked at Lucky and shook his head no. What a day it had been. My first time golfing was an event I will never forget. From the golf cart riding to GCR and Munch and Chip wanting to fight to Lucky getting clocked in the face, it had been a good run. In the end though, we were banned from the golf course. Apparently Lucky had the clubhouse phone number programmed in her phone and she called up to complain. It didn’t matter though, we had fun and no one got hurt…well except for Lucky. If you are ever out on the golf course and you hear “Fore” you need to pay attention because it might be me out there driving one into your face. Anyone want to golf?Post Views: 25
By Ricardo — 6 years ago
For the past few weeks it has snowed consistently in West Michigan. Well…that’s not entirely true. It snowed to the point that I thought Old Man Winter had finally awaken. Then, the other night, there was a thunderstorm! Yeah, you read that right. In the middle of January there was a thunderstorm complete with lightening. Only in Michigan would weather like this take place. I have been holding off on writing this post until we were right smack in the middle of winter but now the snow is gone. But since the snow will probably be back within the next couple days I am going to spread the word on how to survive a West Michigan winter.
It’s actually pretty easy. Now, I have always heard that it’s better to learn from the mistakes of others so that you don’t make the same ones. Well, in this post you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes and the mishaps of others. First off, if you’re from Michigan or you have been here for a few winters then you should know better right? Yeah…this is far from true. As a 911 dispatcher I can tell you that people forget how to drive when winter comes around. I understand that the road is slick and sometimes the snow just pulls you in a different direction but most of the time this happens to those who are driving fast. I mean, come on! You’re driving on ice and snow you should be driving slowly! All right, all right, I’ll stop my parental rant.
1. Hey I have four-wheel drive!
So there’s a possibility that you may drive a truck, jeep, or anything with four-wheel drive. This is great during the winter but things are not always as they seem. I have a small 4-door sedan and there have been many times where I’ve gone home from work, driving slow and someone in an SUV or truck has passed me up. As I continue my tortoise drive home I eventually catch up to the vehicle that passed me. Can you guess where they were when I caught up to them? Yep, you guessed it; they ended up in a ditch. It sucks but it’s true. As a 911 dispatcher I take a lot of calls like this and the majority of the vehicles that go off into a ditch are vehicles that have four-wheel drive. So the tip here is; make sure to drive slowly during the winter even if you have a vehicle that has four-wheel drive. It’ll save your life, your vehicle, the other people on the road, and your wallet from wrecker costs.
2. “Don’t worry I got this. I’m going to make a sharp turn and we’ll slide right in.”
When making a turn on an icy road it’s always good to 1, come to a complete stop, 2, ease off the gas while turning and 3, have complete control of the car. With that said I can safely say that I now abide by these rules. Did you catch that? I NOW abide by these rules. Several winters ago I was coming home from work with my friend Vinnie. His driveway was halfway down a hill and on this particular morning it was pretty icy. I slightly tapped the brake and we began to slide down the hill.
“What are you doing Rich?”
“I’m going to make a sharp turn.”
“Don’t worry I got this. I’m going to make a sharp turn and we’ll slide right in.”
Vinnie braced himself and I spun the wheel. We fishtailed and we slammed right into his neighbor’s mailbox. I had no damage and luckily a snow bank covered most of the mailbox. We quickly reversed and when I put it in drive and slammed the gas the tires began to spin. A car was coming towards us and we freaked.
“Holy sh*t bro! Hurry!”
“I’m trying man, I’m trying!”
My tires finally caught traction and we made it into his driveway before getting hit by the other car. I’m sure I sharted during that moment of panic but in the end I learned my lesson.
3. Go back to Florida jerk!
During the winter I mentioned above my wife and I were driving around with our Florida plates. One night I was driving home from work on the highway. It had been snowing all day and when night came it began to sleet. I was driving home around midnight and I figured I would be gold because really, how many people were going to be on the road with me? Well, there happened to be a truck driving fast and passing by me. I was white-knuckling the steering wheel and I turned my head with enough time to hear,
“Hey! Go back to Florida jerk!”
All I could think was,
“What? I’m from Michigan man…I’m from Michigan…”
Yeah…I cried a little on the inside but slow and steady wins the race. As I got closer to my exit I passed a truck that had spun out into the median. Now, I don’t know if it was the same truck but it wouldn’t surprise me.
4. You’ve been…Thunderstruck!
When driving, one should always pay close attention on the road and the driving of others. This is especially true when at a four way stop. Many years ago I was on my way home from dropping my fiancé off at work. We lived in a trailer park in West Olive and as I pulled up to a four way stop within the park I noticed a minivan coming down the hill. I was enjoying the sounds of AC/DC and as I made my turn I noticed the minivan was coming fast. I sped up a little and right as Brian Johnson belted out,
The minivan slammed right into the side of my Neon. I was immediately pissed and as I sat there biting my lip, the other driver ran out and screamed at me.
“Mijo, Mijo, are you ok!?”
“Mijo”, I thought. “I’m not your Mijo.”
Mijo is Spanish for son or my little boy or something to that effect. I didn’t actually tell her that I wasn’t her Mijo but I wanted to. The whole side of my car was destroyed. We exchanged information and we went on our way.
5. DO NOT TAKE 58th STREET!
If you happen to be visiting the Fennville area of West Michigan during the winter you want to stay clear of 58th street. This road is horrible and notorious for icy conditions, high snowdrifts, and accidents. It’s mainly because of the open area on either side of the road. The high winds blow the snow over and at times you can’t even see the road. Many vehicles have fallen victim of this relentless road but still people try their luck driving on it. If you’ve never driven on it then stay away.
There you have it folks. With this information you too can survive a West Michigan winter. Learn from my mistakes and the mishaps of others. If you drive something with four-wheel drive it doesn’t mean you can haul ass in the snow. If you’re making a turn, make sure you do it right by not making a sharp turn. If you happen to be out of state and driving in the snow just drive slowly and don’t listen to the hecklers. We Michiganders are happy people but some make us look bad. Make sure to watch everything that is going on when you’re driving in the snow. If you’re at a four way stop and another car is coming down a hill, watch it for a moment. It may just slide through and hit you if you’re not paying attention. If you’re listening to AC/DC it will most likely happen during Thunderstruck. Finally, if you’re visiting the Fennville area during wintertime, please stay off 58th street. You’ve been warned and if you’re from Fennville, you know better! Have a good one and drive safe!Post Views: 37
By Ricardo — 10 months ago
A guest blog by: Lloyd R. Brownell and Kristen Olaes of Dispatch Monkey
The last few months of 2016, presented itself as a watershed moment in the world of Emergency Dispatch, within the United States. Americans and in fact, the world, had begun to realize that Emergency Dispatchers truly are, “The most important person that you will never see.” This was due in no small part, to APCO International and NENA pushing for the reclassification of emergency dispatchers from the “clerical” class to “protective”, before the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the #IAM911 Movement.
My name is Lloyd. I came into Emergency Dispatching at 31 years old, after being a long haul truck driver for over 8 years. In 2005, I made the decision that I needed a career change that had me at home daily with my family. Since my father had been a police officer for 27 years and I still had the desire to follow in his footsteps, I decided to start my own policing career in dispatch. I did this with the intention of applying as an officer in the future. However, through a combination of circumstances, I chose to stay in dispatch and I’ve been here for the last eleven and a half years. I still enjoy my chosen career, but it hasn’t been without its share of disillusionment and stress. Over the course of my career, the organizational & operational stressors have affected me mentally & physically.
Organizational stress was more of an issue for me on a personal level very early in my career. Without sharing too many details, I found myself in the crosshairs of a supervisor (who has since retired). I feel to this day, that this supervisor wanted me out and for reasons that I will likely never know. Thankfully, my direct watch supervisor took me under her wing. She encouraged me and built me up, helping me to gain confidence and mold me into the operator that I am today. I will forever be grateful to her for believing in me. Sadly, she passed away approximately two years ago, after retiring approximately two years earlier.
During the middle years of my career, the organizational stressors were less on the personal level, but affecting the unit as a whole. Our center went through an extreme short staffing issue for about two years. During this time we were working so understaffed, that we were “voluntold” into working overtime. As well, our summer vacation leave was severely limited, with only one person per watch allowed leave for each shift set. Further to that, only a maximum of two blocks off between May and September were allowed. This led to senior operators grabbing dates first, with the junior operators left taking the bottom of the barrel leave choices, which caused hard feelings for many. Fortunately, in the last few years we have gained more staff, resulting in no more “voluntold” overtime and a better leave situation; however we do remain understaffed.
The operational stressors of this job have taken a toll on me as well. In 2013, I experienced a very traumatic call, after which I was medically off duty for a few months. I went to see a psychologist at a clinic specializing in operational stress injuries. When the treatment was concluded after three months, I returned back to work. I had felt that the trauma had been dealt with and that I had the adequate “tools in my toolbox”, to deal with future traumatic events and critical incidents. I continued cruising along, thinking that I was doing well and initially I was; however with continued exposure to traumatic events, I began to wear down again. My sleep was affected and I was constantly tired. I was feeling physically, mentally and emotionally drained. I had given up on trying to eat well and stopped exercising completely. I became irritable, grouchy, disconnected, distant and hypervigilant, which affected my work and home life.
Then late in 2015, there was another critical incident. It was an Amber Alert situation that my watch had been dealing with for three shifts. Unfortunately, it did not end the way that we had hoped for. My watch was on when the news came that the child was found deceased. That shift, I was tasked with working our officer support desk and as such, I was dealing directly with the officers there on the ground investigating and performing various support duties. I believe that I performed well during the shift, as I was intently focused, but once the shift was over, the gravity of it all hit me hard. I went home, broke down and cried. The following days were tough for me, so I held on tightly to my little ones and prayed.
A few days later, the police psychologist came in to specifically debrief our watch and the watch on the opposite shift as us. It so happened that I was the only one who attended, which allowed for me to have one-on-one time with the doctor. During the session, she recommended that I go back to the see the psychologist at the operational stress injury clinic. I went there in December 2015 and I was diagnosed with moderate PTSD, with comorbidities of depression and anxiety. I have been in therapy since then and so far I have been having success. In the late spring of 2016, my sleep issues had not yet resolved, so I was placed off duty for a four week period to deal with them; however I have remained on duty for the majority of the time since my diagnosis.
Shiny Happy People:
A few days ago a shiny, happy new crop of trainees came onto the floor of our center, for their introductory tour. I couldn’t help noticing how their faces showed a combination of awe & wonder, along with the familiar, “deer in the headlights” and “What the heck am I doing?” looks. They were all trying to keep on a smile, but underneath I am sure that they were worried and scared to death. I know that they were feeling this, because nearly 12 years ago that was me.
New dispatch trainees remind me of the song by R.E.M, “Shiny Happy People”. This is an overly upbeat, bubble-gum type of pop song (incidentally, R.E.M. regrets recording it), which on the surface appears to be about the happy people holding onto what makes them happy. However, this song is actually about people putting on a happy face, a façade if you will, even though they may not be.
“Meet me in the crowd, people, people
Throw your love around, love me, love me
Take it into town, happy, happy
Put it in the ground where the flowers grow
Gold and silver shine
Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people laughing” (Bill Berry, 1991)
Now, I’m not saying that the trainees aren’t happy, but they do have a myriad of other feelings and they’re trying their best to keep a positive appearance and outlook.
Somewhere along the course of our careers, with the combination of operational and organizational stressors, many dispatchers lose the desire to appear happy. In fact, some are so unhappy, that it no longer matters to them that they aren’t putting on the façade. This happens, because dispatching is a job in which we pour so much of ourselves, with very little coming back in return. This wears Emergency Dispatchers down little by little, until they resemble the subject in another song by R.E.M., “Losing My Religion”.
Of every waking hour
I’m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up” (Bill Berry, 1991)
Operational & Organizational Stress:
My name is Kristen. Sometimes, the hardest part about doing the job we do is remembering that we actually have great lives and are grateful for all we have; friends, family, a roof over our heads, food on our table and the incredible opportunity to make the life of one person a little bit better each day. Why do we forget this?? Because we’re tired. We get tired of dealing with staff shortages, office politics. We get exhausted from working longs shifts that also prevent us from spending time with loved ones. Then, we become too tired to take care of ourselves and we get burned out. A common term bandied about is “compassion fatigue”. All this means is that we have been feeling stressed for too long and we haven’t been able to do the self-care needed to ensure that we are healthy. In trying to write this article, I was looking for studies (related to our industry) that studied the effects of stress, both operational and organizational, and was saddened to discover very few articles. I did, however, find a couple of survey-based studies that give a fair and comprehensive look at what kinds of stress we experience, and how we are affected by that stress. So in that light, I want to say that this is a bit of a read, but well worth it as it may put into clear terms what some of you may already be feeling but unable to express. So here goes….
In a survey study done by Bradley J Flanagan in 2013, published by APCO International, Flanagan compiled the rankings of 20 (twenty) organizational stressors and 20 (twenty) operational stressors as determined by participants of the survey. Based on the responses of the participants, the top five stressors for both categories, listed from most to least, are:
- Organizational: staff shortages, inconsistent leadership styles, dealing with co-workers, the feeling that different rules apply to different people, bureaucratic red tape
- Operational: fatigue, finding time to stay in good physical shape, shift work, not enough time to stay in good shape, traumatic events.
I find it interesting that it isn’t traumatic events that stress us out the most, but leadership, staffing, interpersonal conflict and the fact that we are too tired, or don’t have enough time, to do the things that help us feel better!!! It’s the classic ‘catch 22’ situation. We are burning out because of perceived stress from the job and leadership, but we feel like leadership is part of the problem. We are too busy working due to staffing issues to try to take the breaks we need…but we have no control over staffing! No wonder we are tired! We don’t feel like we have support and we feel like we can’t support ourselves because we have to “do more with less”.
In another more recent, and more comprehensive, study done by Kimberly D. Turner for the San Jose State University in 2015, a survey was completed that examined the contributing factors to, and effects of, stress. One limitation she did identify was that this survey involved only one police force so the results are not representative of a cross-cut of the industry.
The variables looked at in the study are: if there is a healthy work-life balance, whether there is a good support system in place, whether one feels fairly treated and whether an employee feels like they have a say in their work environment. These variables contribute to the level of perceived stress as well as physiological and psychological effects. The results of each of the independent variables are discussed in the paper, but I am more focussed on the overall impression of our well-being when looking at the effects of our career, so I will speak to the how we feel stress, and how it affects us physically and psychologically.
With regard to perceived stress levels, what the survey showed was that the majority of people asked said that they experienced some sort of stress “sometimes”. The top three concerns identified, with the frequency ranging from ‘sometimes’ to ‘fairly often’ to ‘very often’, were:
- Felt nervous and stressed – 96.6% of the participants
- Been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly – 83.2% of the participants
- Been angered because of things that were outside of your control – 76.1% of the participants
Second, they looked at how perceived stress affected the participants physiologically (e.g. pain). The top three complaints identified, with a frequency ranging from ‘sometimes’ to ‘fairly often’ to ‘very often’, were:
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping – 80.2% of the participants
- Difficulty remembering common names/place – 65.2% of the participants
- Lower back pain – 45.9% of the participants
Thirdly, they looked at how perceived stress affected the participants psychologically (e.g. nervous). The top four emotions identified, with a frequency ranging from ‘moderately’ to ‘quite a bit’ to ‘extremely’, were:
- Attentive & Alert – almost a tie with 83.8% and 83.7% (respectively) of participants reported feeling this
- Determined – 75.6% of participants reported feeling this
- Active – 70.1% of participants reported feeling this
Conversely, the three emotions least felt by participants, with a frequency ranging from ‘moderately’ to ‘quite a bit’ to ‘extremely’, were:
- Ashamed – 14.8% of the participants reported feeling this
- Hostile – 24.4% of the participants reported feeling this
- Inspired – 37.9% of the participants reported feeling this
What these three snapshots tell me, is that almost 100% of us feel stress at some point, that 8 out of 10 of us have had trouble sleeping, and about half of us deal with foggy brain and/or pain. But, and this is the good part, we still remain attentive and alert at work (if not determined), very few of us are ashamed of ourselves, and sometimes we even feel inspired. I’d say that we are a pretty resilient group of people!
In the study’s conclusion, and I am paraphrasing here, they suggest that when there is work-life balance staff displays fewer effects of stress. They also say that staff is happier when they feel satisfied with equitable treatment in the workplace and when they feel they have some control over their environment.
So what does all this mean? As an industry, we need to do better; we need to figure out a way to remove some of the perceived stress. As employees, we need to take responsibility for ensuring we have good support systems in place, and we do our best to keep work at work and have a relaxing and fulfilling home life. For managers, this means that you need to ensure that your staff feels like they are treated fairly, that they feel they have the support of their chain of command, and to mitigate any issues with work-related demands (i.e. overtime, staff shortages). What we all need to remember is that when we, as employees, feel appreciated, satisfied, fulfilled and are able to enjoy our time off we are more likely to be loyal to the organization and be retained as employees.
The big picture
Through our personal stories and stats researched, you can see that Emergency Dispatchers do not fit into the “Office and Administrative Support Occupations” clerical classification. Police, Fire and Ambulance dispatchers should be a part of the “Protective Service Occupations” classification. We deal with real life & death emergencies, influencing investigations and calls for service 24/7/365 and we do it with the utmost professionalism and respect. Please continue to support the initiative by APCO and NENA. Most of all, please continue to share your #IAM911 stories. Contact your local representatives in the Senate and Congress. Tell them that Emergency Dispatchers are an important lifeline to the public, police, fire & medics and that they deserve to have the recognition that is long overdue. Make sure to thank an Emergency Dispatcher and join the movement.
A special “Thank you” goes out to Ricardo Martinez host of the “Within the Trenches Podcast”, who jumped on board to assist with the reclassification push and started the #IAM911 movement, along with the “Day 1” supporters who helped spread the word. These folks include Ryan Dedmon (Operation 10-8, 911 Training Institute), Adam Timm (The Healthy Dispatcher), Manny Apostol (Public Safety Dispatchers and Friends), Tom Margetta (Cool Kids of 9-1-1, 911 CEU) and myself (Dispatch Monkey).Post Views: 74