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That Dispatcher’s As Cold As The Weather

, , , , | Working | March 3, 2022

I was living alone in a student apartment on campus while getting formal education as an adult. It was winter, our half-year exams were over, and our class went into town to have a little celebration for surviving them.

We stayed very long; it was later than 1:00 am when I decided to go back to my apartment. I was the only one in our group living there, so I went alone on the tram. The stop for my school was the last one in the city, so that late at night, it was pretty lonely, and the tram was the last going there. The next one wouldn’t come until 6:00 am.

When I left the tram and walked along the tracks to the school buildings, which were dark and mostly empty since almost everyone else had already left for the holidays, I noticed something bundled in the little tram shelter. I took out my mobile and used my light to see what it was.

It was a rather big and burly man sitting on the bench. He had sagged against the side of the shelter and he looked fast asleep. His clothes were neat and clean; he didn’t look like a homeless man settled in for the night but like someone who’d fallen asleep while waiting for the tram. He reeks strongly of alcohol and his face is red and has that look drunk people get when the muscles relax. I guess he’d been out to party, too.

I have had very bad experiences with drunk people. I do drink alcohol moderately but I don’t get drunk for exactly that reason. I wouldn’t want to be the angry drunk I’ve experienced in my past.

I had no way to know how that stranger would react if I woke him and he learned that he had missed the last tram, so I decided to call 112 and ask the emergency dispatch what to do. It was winter, after all, and the temperature was below freezing. I couldn’t just let that guy sit there and freeze to death in his sleep.

The tone of the dispatcher I got was very grumpy and rough from the start, even before I told him why I was calling.

Dispatcher: “Here’s Mr. [Dispatcher] from emergency services. What is your emergency?”

Me: “I’m here at the opposite street of the tram stop [number], and there’s a man asleep in the shelter. It seems he is very drunk. Could you send someone to look after him? I don’t want him to freeze.”

Dispatcher: “Mmhmm…” *Clicking in the background* “That’s pretty far out of the city. What are you doing there?

Me: “I’m living on campus at [School]. I’m on my way home.”

Dispatcher: “Could it be that he’s from there, too?”

Me: “Not that I know of. At least, I’ve never seen him on campus.”

Dispatcher: “You’re sure you don’t know him?”

Me: “Yes, I’m pretty sure.”

Dispatcher: “Why didn’t the tram driver get out and help him?”

Me: “Probably because he didn’t see the man. The shelter isn’t lit. I only saw him when I turned on my light on my mobile phone to look inside the shelter.”

Dispatcher: “Well, then, that’s what we’ll do. Just go up there and shake him.”

Me: “Pardon me? I definitely won’t do that!”

Dispatcher: “Listen, you’re required by law to provide help if someone is in distress! Just go there and wake him!”

Me: “I’m not required by law to endanger myself! I am 165 cm tall (~5’4”) and I’m alone around here! It’s in the middle of the night and no one can help me! That man is easily twice my weight and is much taller than me, and the way he reeks, he’s drunk! I’ll definitely not go there and shake him! Send a police car!”

The dispatcher tried to argue around some more, getting more and more irate that I was not willing to meddle with a drunk stranger on my own in the middle of nowhere past midnight. He kept trying to guilt-trip me in every way possible except open legal threats. Finally, he agreed to send a police car, and I agreed to stay on the sidewalk opposite the tram stop until they came to direct them to the man.

It only took minutes for a police car to come toward me; they must have been really close.

I waved at them and they stopped next to me. I pointed them toward the man, and one of them stayed with me while the other approached the man.

Police Officer: “It’s a good thing that you called the emergency line. It’s freezing out here!”

Me: “Well, your dispatcher seemed to think otherwise.”

And I told him what had happened.

Police Officer: “No, no, no! That won’t do! If he really is drunk, he could’ve attacked you! And you’re out here all alone! Just call 112; they’ll call us and we’ll help!”

He then took my number in case there were any more questions and crossed the street to his partner who was already calling out to the man, trying to wake him. I stayed a little longer and saw the first officer gently shaking the man’s shoulder, and lo and behold, the man startled awake and almost shoved the officer!

But he soon calmed down and they spoke to him. I couldn’t hear what they were saying. The man then got on his feet but he was staggering; obviously, he was very drunk.

The officer who talked to me waved at me and I waved back before turning to walk toward the campus. Soon, the police car drove along slowly. When I turned to look at them, I saw them looking back at me. The officer who spoke to me gave me a thumb up. They slowly drove along with me until they see me entering the campus. When I put the key in the rooming house’s door, they flashed the front lights of their car and drove on. They waited until they saw me get into the building.

The next day, I got a call from an unknown number. The woman who called me told me she had reviewed the dispatch call after the police officer made a complaint. She apologized profusely and told me that I had, indeed, made the right call and that I didn’t have to risk a confrontation with a stranger in the middle of the night.

This story is part of our Halfway-Through-2022 roundup! This is the last story in the roundup, but we have plenty of others you might enjoy!

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