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Each of us has stories to tell

Here we share a few of them

The semi

Part I

by Rick Anderson

This is the story about the semi. One of the things that occurred to me today is: How do you start a story? How does a writer sit down and figure out how he is going to tell the story? How is he going to get the interest of whoever is listening and whoever is reading?


I think of Snoopy on the doghouse typing out, “It was a dark and stormy night,” crossing it out and retyping, “It was a gloomy dark stormy night,” crossing it out and rewriting it a third time. I just figure for me the best way is not to figure out how I can grab someone’s attention. I should leave that to God. I should just start talking and see what happens.


 I work at a police dispatch center. We don’t take 911 calls, but we do get emergency calls and calls for service for State Police about anything and everything. We get ridiculous calls, concerned calls, frantic calls, and that’s just on the phone. Nine years ago, we got a call like this:


CALLER: Do the state police do couples?

DISPATCHER: Pardon me? 

CALLER: Do the state police do couples?

DISPATCHER: Sir, I’m not following you.

CALLER: Well, my girlfriend doesn’t talk to me, and I figured if I called the state cops I could get her to talk to me.


What do you say to a person like that? Do you say: “I really don’t think you want to do that?”


Or do you say: “You’ve got to be kidding me?”

Or do you say: “Oh, we’ll send a state cop down there right away, and then your girlfriend really won’t  talk to you.”


Or you get a call like this:



CALLER: Hello. We just recently moved to Oregon, but we’re vacationing in Washington,  but we want to                      stay another week, so could you tell me if it rained in Coos Bay over the weekend so I don’t                              have to leave Washington to water my garden?


You’re sitting there at your console with your computers and your phone line thinking: I can’t believe she called the state police for this.


But most of our calls from the public are about driving complaints. One day I received a driving complaint about a semi-truck. It went something like this:


DISPATCHER: State Police, this is Rick.

CALLER: You’ve got to stop this semi. He almost killed me. He almost ran me into a bridge abutment.

DISPATCHER: Ok sir, where are you?

CALLER: blah, blah, blah.

DISPATCHER: What’s your name and phone number?                                          

CALLER:  blah, blah, blah.

DISPATCHER: Do you have the color of the semi?

CALLER: blah, blah, blah.

DISPATCHER Do you have a license plate?

CALLER: blah, blah, blah.

DISPATCHER: Where did this occur?

CALLER: It occurred on Highway 43 coming onto I-205. I was in the merge lane and this semi-truck was                        in the right lane and refused to move over for me! He wouldn’t get out of my way!

DISPATCHER: Well, sir, he doesn’t have to.

CALLER: What?!

DISPATCHER: It’s your responsibility to yield for him.

CALLER: No. That’s not right! That doesn’t feel right. He should get out of my way.

DISPATCHER: No, sir. Oregon law requires the people coming onto the freeway to yield  the right of way                                  to those already on the freeway.

CALLER:  Well, that’s not right! Is it ok for him to speed up then?!

DISPATCHER: Well, I know that the merge lane at that particular point is not very long. No, it’s not                                              alright for him to speed up, but he might be giving you time to get in behind him.

CALLER: Well, that’s just not right!  And there was this bridge abutment coming up on me and I had to                          get up really quick so I did the only thing I could do!

DISPATCHER: What was that?

CALLER: I sped up to get ahead of him so I could get around him and he almost ran me into the bridge                         abutment!

DISPATCHER: What did he do then?

CALLER: Well, he honked his horn, flashed his lights, and he flipped me off!

DISPATCHER:  So, he got mad at you for cutting in front of him?

CALLER: Yeah. It wasn’t right! It just doesn’t feel right.

DISPATCHER: Well, sir, just because it doesn’t feel right doesn’t make it illegal.


…and he hung up on me.


After I took care of the call and asked my trooper to give this gentleman a call back, I sat at my console and asked God what he was trying to teach me from this. What road are we on? What does his road look like?


My mind started to drift and wonder about the road…

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