Friday, September 28, 2012
The APCO National Conference in Minneapolis, Minn., is one of my favorite times of year. The 2012 conference was my third time attending the conference and I’m totally in love with it. I love conference, I love the travel, and I love going to new places and seeing cities I would normally never get to see. I get to recharge my batteries and gain new knowledge and perspective on my career. But my absolute favorite thing to do is meet new people. The more 911 professionals I meet, the more family I get to know. It doesn’t matter what state you come from or the size of the agency you work in, we all have the same concerns, problems and issues. It’s so wonderful to connect with people to exchange ideas and solutions.
This year’s trip had a particularly rough start for me. Funding that I had counted on wasn’t confirmed until the last minute. I became sick with the flu on the way out so that the extra two days that I'd planned for sightseeing ended up being spent in my room, huddled over in a fever. To top it off, 30 minutes prior to me leaving from home to catch my plane, I discovered my one and only credit card was missing. My only saving grace was the small per diem check that I had just cashed gave me enough money to get me to my hotel. No problem, I think, as I’m canceling it on the way to the airport, I will just find my bank in Minneapolis and get a temporary card to get me through the week.
Attention all Bank of America customers: There are no Bank of Americas in the entire state of Minnesota and there are only two ATMs—one in the Mall of America and one in an obscure location in downtown Minneapolis—that doesn't help my situation. So there I am counting every penny, hoping I can stretch out my meager funds for six days with Tracey Lawrence’s “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are” playing in the back of my mind.
So that was the beginning of my week. But they always say there's a silver lining to every cloud. I'd like to share with you my silver lining. The first afternoon of the conference I was still a little shaky from being sick so instead of going out with a group of friends, I decided to hang back at the hotel. After the mixer, I wandered downstairs to the lobby lounge to go through my emails. I picked a large, empty high top to set up and people watch. It wasn't long before the lobby starts filling up with conference attendees, vendors, wedding parties and vacationers. Finally, a gentleman sat near me and we striked up a conversation. Anyone who knows me, knows that all you have to do is make eye contact with me and you're in for some kind of banter. He was waiting for the rest of his people to gather and have a drink and then head out for dinner. His team was coming from all over for APCO also.
Pretty soon everyone finally made it down. One of the members of his team was a beautiful blonde with the most infectious laugh and engaging personality. I liked her immediately. We chatted, and exchanged all the basics. She was new to the industry, but seemed very excited to be a part of it. I ended up going to dinner with this great group of people who just happened to be from Motorola.
It's become an inside joke with myself and a colleague of mine that I must have some sort of magnet for this organization. Every time I travel for APCO I meet MOTOs, as they tend to call themselves. The first year my group went to Houston, a great group of them supported our efforts for fundraising for our training team and we affectionately started referring to them as the Men of Motorola or MoM’s for short. I have continued a wonderful dialogue with them for three years now. So whenever I meet someone new at an APCO function, I laugh inside when they tell me they're from Motorola.
The conversation eventually turned to my line of work (public safety communication), which most find interesting. It’s funny because most of the time I tend to brush off talking about what I do. Typically it involves so much explanation that I've given up thinking that people will eventually be bored with all the jargon. But she continued to ask about my career, and the conversation turned to my passion, which, besides writing, is training. I told her my philosophies and ideals about training and probably more than she ever wanted to know about my side of the 911 profession. She listened intently to me and I thought she was so polite. She hadn’t excused herself to find more stimulating conversation.
But guess what? After all my ramblings and 911 stories she looked at me and said, “Cindy, I am so impressed!”
I blinked at her … “With what?” is all I could think.
She continued to tell me that her husband is a law enforcement officer back home and that she's never thought about what goes on behind the scenes in a communication center before. She had no idea what it was like to do what we do. She told me she hopes that all telecommunicators have my passion and drive in the communication center, particularly in her husband’s communications center as she wants to think that he is in good hands when is he’s working. I looked at her and could hardly believe that a civilian gets it. I told her all PST’s are good (some better than others!) and that we feel like they're our family while we have them on our shift. You know, that Motherly feeling we all get when we work? How you feel responsible for them until they sign off for the night? How we have that love/hate relationship with most of them!
Later on, back in my room I start to reflect on our conversation. You know how we have those days when we wonder what the heck were we thinking when we applied for this job? She reminded me how important our profession really is. I mean, I have always known deep down that what we do is awesome and significant. I write about it all the time, but to have someone on the outside thank you for what you do and express admiration for you and career is very humbling and inspiring at the same time. Having someone remind you that what you do is important is such an awesome feeling.
Thank you Dusty Calhoun from Motorola for refreshing my resolve and being my silver lining to what started off as a challenging week. I hope we cross paths again sometime soon and I want you to know that you made my week. When I think about your husband, I’m know he's in very capable hands when he starts his shift and that those folks in his communication center feel about him the way I do about my people on the road. We are, after all, family.
And to my fellow telecommunicators; remember to appreciate each other and that your field personnel have someone at home that loves them and is waiting for them to come home at the end of their shift. They depend on you just as much as their family does. You and what you do are important!
Be safe, my family.