I’ve been a dispatcher for 22 years. You’d think by now I could understand any deputy or officer say any name, no matter what.  Well, you might think so, but you’d be wrong.

Last week I needed a translator to help me with a deputy trying to run driver license and warrant checks on a group of subjects.  Between not having a clue what the deputy was saying, and the radio breaking up, I think I almost went through my quota of “10-9″s for the year in just a few minutes. (10-9 means ‘repeat your last transmission’)

(I’m kidding. There is no 10-9 quota. I can use as many of them as I like.  Don’t piss off a dispatcher, or the static will get very bad all of a sudden, and then the 10-9’s start. Not that **I’d** ever do that. I’m just saying.)

Years ago, I had to ask a deputy to phonetic a name, because I had no clue as to what they just said. There was a moment of silence, then “paul edward robert edward zebra”. I’m typing as the deputy is speaking, and can’t believe that what they just spelled out, Perez, was what they actually said.  It sure as hell didn’t sound like ‘Perez’!

Last week it happened again.  A new-ish deputy is out with a small group, and wants to check them for warrants.  This is normal procedure, so I tell her to “go ahead” (even though she’s on my primary channel, and this should be conducted on our channel reserved for such things.  Apparently she couldn’t get out on that one… so, yeah, go ahead. Let’s hope no other deputy needs the radio for a bit.)

She begins. And immediately begins breaking up.  (It’s the 21st century, we can control an unmanned SUV sized rover on Mars, but we can’t talk from Terra Bella to Visalia. {frown emoticon here})  I ask her to repeat. A little better, but….

What the hell did she just say?  10-9?

She tries again. I’m hearing her a bit better, but still have no clue as to what she’s saying.

So… here’s the deal.  I’m about as white as it gets, with an Okie/Texan heritage.  I grew up in Visalia.  Apparently that lifetime of exposure to Hispanic culture is still not enough to allow me to understand a Latina deputy saying Hispanic names with their proper pronunciation.  10-9?

Now the translator steps in. Her sergeant calls in on the cell phone (which works just jim-dandy… to coin a phrase) and proceeds to give me the names to run the checks.  I tell her my ears must be too white for this, and we both have a laugh.  Of course, being a dispatcher, I’m running those checks while I’m talking to sarge. By the time I finish with the “I’m too white” thing, I’m done, and no warrants found.

I really don’t know what the deal is.  I seem to be able to handle Hmong and other Asian names with aplomb, but give me a Hispanic officer  using correct pronunciations and an ethnically correct accent, and I only hear gibberish.

Maybe in another 20 years.