I love my job. I have always loved my job. I jokingly say that it's the only job in the world where they pay you to tell cops where to go. I love knowing that, if I do my job properly, someone else's day should be just a little bit better.
Today was not one of those days.
I have, over the course of my career, handled more than one truly tragic event. I do not remember ever being so sad. I have been angry and outraged and just plain pissed off but today just made me sad.
The dispatch center is located in the jail itself and therefore is very secure. There is the door to the street which opens into a vestibule. In this vestibule is a button and speaker through which you can state your business and then the door from the vestibule into the jail lobby is buzzed open. Once you are in the lobby, there is a glass window with another button and speaker through which you can communicate with the jailer, once they are called to the communications office.
Today, an older gentleman came into the vestibule. He buzzed and I said, "Can I help you?". He said something which was unintelligible to me. This often happens, in part because the speaker system is old and in part because a large portion of our populations speaks Spanish. I do not. I buzzed him in and asked one of the jailers, who does speak Spanish, if he could find out what the gentleman wanted.
He wanted to stay.
He said that he needed help. His head hurt and his stomach hurt and he just wanted to stay. I asked if he needed an ambulance and he declined. I called upstairs and got hold of the lady in social services and she came down to see if she could help - to see if he needed lodging. He didn't need lodging. He just wanted to stay.
He had already been to the doctor. He just wanted to be somewhere where there were people who could watch him. He just didn't want to be alone . . . so he thought of the jail, where there were beds and people who would watch you while you slept and keep you safe.