It’s 7 p.m. Saturday when I dial the borough police office, ask for someone who can answer a couple of questions regarding a press release they sent over.
Calling it a press release is generous. It’s about three sentences long, and raises as many question as it answers. It’s also about what I’ve come to expect. Regardless of why, it seems that police departments are uncomfortable talking to reporters. They’ll answer questions, but rarely volunteer anything remotely interesting, and definitely seem to be trying their best to avoid giving the full answers.
And I guess I understand. Obviously they don’t want to tip someone off that they’re coming for them; and while I default to tell those details that aren’t obviously in need of keeping quiet, they default to not telling them.
But Saturday night they needed our help to get the word out about heroin that sent two people to the hospital; and I needed questions answered.
The man who answered the phone was a 911 operator, and promised to get a message to the involved officers.
Two minutes later, I heard the call go out over the scanner.
“Uh, there’s an employee at the Gazette, Heather, she needs… something,” I hear. I’m on the phone with someone else, and can’t properly listen to both the scanner and the telephone, but knowing my name is being discussed has definitely got most of my attention.
“Yeah, she has a drug issue,” the man on the scanner says, and we all start laughing.
Surely they could have phrased that better?
And I got my return call and a few questions answered and it was the joke of the evening.
“Didn’t know you had a drug problem,” the photographer said when he came in from shooting an evening assignment. He’s got a scanner in the vehicle to listen for wrecks, fires, and coworkers with drug issues.
Saturday nights are difficult. I’m the only reporter in, and mostly its quiet. But then there are deadline-breaking house fires, and calls to make to police departments whose office staff are out, and if something important happens, chances are I won’t be able to reach anyone before Monday morning.
Mostly I sit at my desk, waiting for something to happen, until 11 p.m. rolls around and I can start putting stories online.
And those quiet nights I listen to the small drama of the scanner. A wreck, no injuries. Woman with shoulder pain, wants an ambulance. Suspicious vehicle at Sheetz.
Oh, and myself, with drug issues.