We’ve replaced the Mighty Daily Journal’s police scanner.
The old one spewed the most annoying fuzz for several days. I was hesitant to turn it off or even turn the volume too low for fear of missing word of something newsworthy.
Religion writer Riley Manning had no such concern. I watched him in slack-jawed wonder as he simply switched the thing off.
A co-worker thanked him, but I wasn’t sure. On the one hand, I was glad to be rid of the irritating fuzz, but “what ifs?” filled the other hand.
Turns out the first hand was right. Our scanner had been rendered obsolete by Lee County’s new digital radio communication system.
It had lost the ability to do its job, so I commend Riley for easing everyone’s suffering, because, really, the fuzz was burrowing its way into my spinal column.
In my early days as a paid newspaper man, I was tethered to a scanner. At its urging, I’ve witnessed all manner of troubling events.
I can’t say I’ve enjoyed seeing other people’s hard times, but it also would be wrong to say I hated it.
The experiences went beyond love and hate, and into other emotional territory that I suspect helped shape me into a better person.
I’m guessing that sounds odd to you because it certainly sounds odd to me, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.
Before I got into this business more than two decades ago, I didn’t realize how lucky I’ve had it, nor did I realize how suddenly that luck could run out.
I’ve done things that could’ve resulted in tragic accidents, but didn’t. Who hasn’t eased into the other lane only to find no oncoming traffic?
It’s an unfair but undeniable fact that some of us pay heavy prices for simple lapses in judgment, while others avoid the consequences.
I’ve come to believe that anybody could find themselves the subject of a police scanner’s report.
Or – what’s worse – our loved ones could be at the center of the chaos.
Of course, I couldn’t think like this all the time, or I’d go crazy with worry.
Our new scanner isn’t far from me. Its antenna is framed by my two American flags in a “Thank You, Thank You Very Much” cup from the Elvis Presley Birthplace.
It’s right there with its reports, most of them routine, some sad, a few terrifying.
At random moments, I’ll hear about a woman who’s on the floor of her home and not breathing.
Sometimes, I’ll keep my distance. I’ll think that it’s a natural part of life for people to eventually stop breathing, then I’ll go back to work.
Other times, there’s no distance. I’ll think about the woman and her family, and I’ll hope for them and wish them well.
Then I’ll go back to work, and I might feel a touch more human than I did before.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.