By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
January 1, 2018
This is not going to be my usual Ramblings about first responders. Actually, the term first responder didn’t come along until after I retired. Now, being big city cop for 35 years I worked many a New Year’s Eve shifts and have stories that could send shivers up your spine. One year in South Central LA (Watts) they brought all the cops into the station at midnight to avoid all the gun fire.
No, this story is before I was a cop but probably trained me for being a first responder.
My first real job other than mowing lawns was at Jack in The Box. I lived in Eagle Rock a suburb of Los Angeles. Eagle Rock was only six short miles from Pasadena and the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game.
So, here I was working at Jack in the Box on a nice quiet winter afternoon which just happens to be New Year’s Day. I was working the grill and pretty happy with my promotion from the deep fryer job—fries, onion rings and deep-fried tacos. I have mastered the technique of flipping two hamburgers patties at a time and can wrap the finished burgers with the best of them.
I’m pretty confident with my burger skills when I look up and see a charter bus stop at the curb next to our driveway. No worries, just a bus driver getting something to eat. After two minutes I see about 60 people get off the bus and line up in a single file at the walk-up window. They all have individual orders. No secret sauce on 20 burgers, no salt on 15 burgers, 12 without pickles and so on. I would have panicked but I was only 17 years old and hadn’t mastered that skill yet. About an hour later they had all filed back on the bus and left. I don’t know where they came from or where they were going. I just remembered the boss saying it was one of the biggest sales hours the store ever had.
A couple of years later I was working at another hamburger stand, Twin Castle, not White Castle, and it was about two hours after the Rose Parade was over. No buses this time but I guessed that the Goodyear Blimp over the Rose Parade had a sign on it that said go to Twin Castle for lunch. I cooked burgers for over two hours until the rush subsided.
How did this prepare me as a first responder? I have been at shooting scenes, traffic accidents and a horrific fire that was less stressful than cooking special order hamburgers for a New Year’s Day crowd of citizens. I recommend that all potential cops work as a fry cook so you can learn to deal with the public.
Thonie’s comment: I’ve long believed that the best dispatchers were waitresses in their previous lives. The ability to multi-task and remain sane are critical in both careers. Sounds like Hal had some equally good training!