People used to look me up all the time to get what I had. It didn’t matter the hour of day or time of year. Christmas Eve just before midnight?

Ring, ring, ring.

“Bunch of cops just went flying by my house,” my late-night caller would say. “What are you hearing?”

So, I’d click on the police scanner, if it wasn’t on to begin with, and wait for the goods to come rolling in. Fire? Hostage situation? Another dolt stuck in the chimney after trying to drunkenly play Santa for the kids?

Whatever it was, I could decode the scanner chatter pretty quickly and then pass on this awesome knowledge to my caller. I was like an old sage living on a mountaintop, imparting my wisdom upon those who came seeking it. In fact, for a time I believe I insisted that callers address me as “Oh, Wise One” before I’d give them anything at all.

It was great fun and just terrific for my ego and now it’s over. Completely over. The mountaintop of knowledge is now crowded with ordinary yahoos like you who pluck wisdom from the sky at will without any assistance from me.

Ungrateful wisdom-pluckers.

For me, the good times began in the mid-’90s when local police and fire stations switched from analog technology to digital. The move brought a white hum of silence down upon the many people who had been listening in on simple police scanners for years. Suddenly, that old Motorola you bought at a flea market 10 years back was providing nothing but trivial chatter from faraway counties. Instead of riveting crime drama from downtown Lewiston, you were getting barking dog complaints from the northern Maine town of Peasnort and that was on a good day.

The police move to digital sent me into a very brief rage.

“It’s not fair!” I wailed, shaking my reporter’s notebook with indignation. “Now ordinary people cannot listen to what their emergency responders are up to. It’s our right to know, damn you! Our right!”

Then the Sun Journal, tired of my whimpering, went out and bought a very expensive police scanner that was capable of picking up digital chatter. What do you know? My outrage died right there on the newsroom carpet and was replaced with a haughty sense of elitism.

“Rubes!” I cried, shaking my reporter’s notebook at … I dunno … one of you people. “You get nothing. Nothing, I say! Now, only I have the power of discernment! Grovel before me and seek my wisdom!”

It was very unbecoming and my shame is great.

Fun, though, while it lasted.

Ring, ring, ring.

“Oh, Wise One, tell me why six police officers just descended on my neighbor’s house and hauled him, naked but for one slipper, out of his den. Without you I am deaf and blind.”

It all came to an end a few years ago with the introduction of services like Broadcastify and Radio Reference, online audio streams that provide emergency chatter from all over the country. Suddenly, ordinary schmoes like you could tune in on the action, whether the action was in downtown Lewiston, the back roads of Auburn or the hills of Peasnort.

What was worse, a few people took to monitoring police scanners full time and posting the good stuff on Facebook or Twitter 24 hours a day. Now you schmoes didn’t even have to decipher the esoteric police communication because some weirdo in his mom’s basement was writing it all down for you.

“Emergency Facebook update: three Lewiston police officers in pursuit of some weeping dork running down Park Street in his underpants and waving a reporter’s notebook around.”

Nobody calls anymore in the middle of the night. Nobody addresses me as “Oh, Wise One” or tries to mug me for the now-ancient police radio.

I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. Schnooks can email him at [email protected]


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