Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat

Caroline Burau

There was an old commercial for a pain reliever that showed a 911 dispatcher rubbing her head and saying, “I have a direct line into people’s worst nightmares.” As Caroline Burau’s memoir makes clear, dispatchers also have a direct line into people’s stupidest moments. In clear, compelling prose, Burau runs the gamut from the distressing to the hilarious and also explains what in the world would ever make a person want to do a job that amounts to sitting for hours in an isolated room with a bunch of misanthropes trying to help people through the worst days of their lives. I know how hard it is; I did it for almost nine years before the stress got to me. I’m just glad that Burau is able to keep doing it—and to write about the job and the people in such a compassionate way.