9-1-1 calls keep us on our toes, but also tickle us pink

It's past breakfast time. Yet here I sit, with a sleep-fogged brain, typing away. My two pushy parrots are squawking up a storm and the cat is yowling in disgust. Feed us! Now!

In spite of my pushy pets' vocalizations, it's relatively peaceful writing from my cottage on the banks of the Rogue River. Especially compared to the incessant chatter of the Mail Tribune newsroom.

The emergency responder scanner sends out a steady stream of snippets of hair-raising incidents. Fires, crimes, traffic accidents and more. I've learned to tune out the scanner's background drama pretty well these days. But it's still distracting. And that's the point.

When I first started working at the Trib, the scanner held me spellbound. Transfixed by every 9-1-1 utterance, I listened to people's lives pour out from the series of black speakers strategically placed throughout the newsroom.

Sometimes animals' lives hang in the balance, too.

A few years ago, a truck and horse trailer fire high up the Siskiyou Pass had me pacing my cubicle, ready to bolt for the door. Feeling useless and frantic. The animals were trapped and the driver didn't have an extinguisher. Mercifully, Oregon State Police and passersby put out the flames. No injuries.

A Mail Tribune editor, after reading a draft of this column, told me about a scanner drama that unfolded a few Saturdays ago after a woman jumped into the Rogue River to save her dog. She was being swept away and the cops couldn't get to her.

"I kept thinking, 'where's the dog?' " he said.

While all this was going on, a call came over about a "jumper" who plunged from the Rock Point Bridge. Was the person really committing suicide? Or was he trying to save the dog?

Much of the static-filled information that rolls our way is heart-stopping. Once in awhile it is hilarious.

(squawk) "Affirmative. The caller says the pig is still in the car. Apparently the vehicle's doors are locked."

I desperately want to hear more about this one. But the fickle scanner rolls to another channel. The newsroom is flooded with details about the bodily functions of some poor flu-ridden patient en route to a local hospital.


One of our kind-hearted and light-stomached editors sticks her fingers in her ears and sings out, "La-la-la-la-la" as gory details go on and on. We appreciate the tuneful efforts to break the green and bilious spell engulfing us all.

Is it over yet? Phew!

The scanner moves on. A traffic accident. A bank robbery. These set everyone scrambling.

But what about the pig?

Resources are tight and bodies are few in the news biz these days. We can't spend them chasing down something as random and goofy as a possible Porky incident. But my need-to-know gene has been kicked into overdrive. My mind won't stop trying to fill in the blanks.

Was Henrietta Hamfat the spoiled pot-bellied pet of the 9-1-1 caller? "C'mon. I wanna go, too. You never take me anywhere."

Perhaps Harry Trotter was looking for adventure? "Great! The old man left the keys in the ignition! I'll just ease this sucker into gear and head out to the fair."

Or maybe this was the desperate act of a 4-H market hog. Linc Sausage was trying to making a break for it. "You'll never take me alive, Farmer John. Open these doors and I'll sneeze all over ya!"

Sadly, I'll never know. And it's time to make breakfast. Maybe I'll skip the bacon today.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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