We have a police scanner in the newsroom, and it provides endless chatter ranging from ambulance calls and accidents to snowplow driver conversations and detention deputies responding to inmates’ request for more toilet paper.
Most of the chatter is local, meaning within our area of coverage in the San Luis Valley, but not always. During the Colorado State Fair, we picked up quite a bit of chatter from security and emergency folks responding to falls and fights in the “midway.”
We also regularly hear Huerfano County calls, which included an apartment building fire and numerous midnight evacuations the other night.
I have to admit the Huerfano County chatter is my favorite, because there’s a gent over there who has been both on the dispatch and patrol side of the chatter that has an extremely intoxicating British accent. I have no idea who he is or what he looks like, but he has an awesome voice! It makes the constant jabbering of the scanner worthwhile!
Of course most of the chatter is not as delightful. There are calls about folks who are suicidal and elderly who are struggling to breathe. There are lost children and lost souls. There are children hitting parents and parents hitting children.
There are accidents with injuries and worse, what they term “Frank,” a fatality. “Frank” is simply the word they use for “f.” When they spell out a subject’s name, like when they have stopped someone for a violation, they use certain words for each alphabet letter, and “Frank” is the one they use for “f.” (Adam, Charles, Henry, Ida, Lincoln, Mary, Ocean, etc.) When we hear that an accident involves a “Frank,” however, it is somber news. It means someone did not survive.
I remember the afternoon the Spring Fire began. No matter what else I’m doing, I try to have an ear tuned to the scanner just in case there is something newsworthy we need to respond to or follow up on, especially if I hear the tone for the fire department. I remember that day hearing earlier chatter about clouds of what someone thought might be a fire only turning out to be clouds of dust from a road grader. The next time, though, it was a fire, and it ended up being the third largest fire in state history … all starting from a little trail of smoke and a guy burning meat on a fire pit when a fire ban was in place.
I’ve jotted down a few of my favorite conversations from the “chatterbox” in recent weeks. They have included:
• There’s a dog using the restroom in her yard. (That’s a delicate way to put it. Yards have restrooms?)
• He’s wearing a Sherlock Holmes type hat. (That might have been a description from my British accent guy.)
• Was there a crash or not? No, the female just had some glass in her lunch. (Who packed her lunch? I’m not ordering from that take-out place.)
• I just got flipped off. Trying to fix the roads. What kind of appreciation is that? (What kind of appreciation indeed!)
• They lost their keys out on the dunes. (That’s going to be like trying to find a needle in … the biggest pile of sand in the West.)
• Somebody in C pod is knocking on the window. Would you tell them to knock it off. (Guarding the detention center is a thankless job.)
• xxxx said they had a hair in their food as well (sucks to be an inmate too.)
• I will see you in 10 shakes of a bunny’s tail. (A more creative way of letting the hospital know you’re going to be there shortly with a patient in the ambulance)
• Female party arguing with herself. (And I didn’t think anybody saw me!)
• She was parked in a way that was obstructing just about everything. (I think that gal has parked by me before too.)
• Doing burnouts and turning stupid (met that one too.)
• I don’t know if they make them still but could you check the phone book for a number for these parties. (When there’s no Google)
• Besides when the sun goes down behind the hill do you have an official time for sundown?
• --- call back needs to know what to do with a raccoon stuck in her chimney
• Lady thinks neighbor smoking weed, making her baby cough.
• I am going up to the front area, which is in the front.
• Stay in groups of no less than two. (Would less than two even be a group?)
• The only thing they’ve heard all night is someone singing karaoke on Walnut Street. (That could amount to a criminal offense, depending on the singer.)
• Last name is Thong, like the underwear.
• It’s the Pacific Mine Fire, Pacific like the ocean to the west of us and Mine like not yours but mine.
One of the most comforting things to hear on the scanner is the “10-4 check” that occurs during every shift. The dispatcher checks in with the folks on patrol. She or he will call out someone’s number and say “10-4 check” and the officer will respond that he or she is all right. I would imagine it’s nice to know someone’s watching out for you out there in the dark and that you are not alone and will get extra help if you need it.
It’s kind of like that familiar Waltons’ phrase “good night John Boy.” It means all’s right with the world, at least for this moment … and until the next call.