Calls Range From Snakes to Broncos

For the California Highway Patrol's 911 operators, life is seldom dull.

Mark Dickerson, 46, was on duty the afternoon Al Cowlings called from the freeway to say that his friend, O.J. Simpson, was in the back seat "with a gun to his head."

"My wife still likes to bring it up at parties," said Dickerson, who works in Santa Ana. "There are probably millions of people who have heard my voice."

Another operator remembers the frantic call from a woman driving on the freeway near Victorville, who discovered a poisonous snake slithering on the floor of her pickup truck. She was told to pull over and that help was en route.

And Santa Ana operator Diane Williams still remembers the call from a woman upset about the male driver who managed to expose himself to her from the next lane.

"When we bought him to headquarters, he just called his wife and told her he'd run into a problem and would be a little late coming home," Williams said.

During a recent afternoon, Santa Ana operator David Aguirre responded with aplomb to a wide range of pleas for help. After the umpteenth call about a jackknifed trailer on the Costa Mesa Freeway, he fielded one from a man wondering where to find the car he left parked on the freeway shoulder when he was arrested the night before.

"I love it," Aguirre said. "There's always something to do."

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