Nelson Rockefeller was the long serving Governor of New York when I was young, winning election and reelection handily. Interestingly I never met anyone who actually admitted voting for him, but that is another story.
Late one evening, my ambulance crew was hanging around in the communications center, shooting the breeze with the 3-11 shift dispatcher, conveniently also named Joe. Governor Rockefeller had died months before in late January 1979. News of the, shall we say, circumstances surrounding his passing while in the townhouse of his 25 year old female assistant were in the news. While interesting, this salacious data was not when fascinated us that evening.
“I wonder how many cars that rich old bastard owned?” One or another of us asked. The debate was futile with Rocky having died months before; they were all likely dispersed, sold, or otherwise disposed of. Shows how much we knew of probate law and complex estates. For whatever reason, the argument continued until somebody got a bright idea.
“Hey Joe, why don’t you run Rockefeller and see what comes back?” As young and dumb as the rest of us, he thought about it for a minute.
“Sure, why not.” Joe rolled his chair over to the computer console and typed in the former governor’s name and hit enter. A few seconds later, the printer chattered and we had a list of vehicles as long as your arm. The specifics elude me, but these were not your everyday Chevy or Ford; there were some expensive collector cars on the sheets.
We stood and marveled at the list, amazed at what was still registered to a dead man. Then, as young men are wont to do, we moved on…
Joe was also working the next evening on the 3-11 shift. Shortly after his rear end hit the chair, the phone rang—hell that’s what happens in a dispatch center—but this call was different. The party on the other end was calling from Albany and was the supervisor of the state computer system. He was quite interested in why this small municipality had an interest in the state’s former leader.
Joe knew better than to lie, but he didn’t come right out and admit the transgression either. The gentleman from the state knew a line of BS when he heard it.
“Okay, here’s the deal. You can consider this your first and last warning. Don’t do it again. That system is for official use only.”
Joe “yessirred” appropriately and the call ended. A fascinating lesson in how curiosity can be a hazardous part of dispatching.
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