911, Do You Have An Emergency? April 1, 2005
Two quick things:
Also: Have you heard the tape yet? The 911 call from the woman having a problem with her cheeseburger? I've been sent it from several sources, and while it's very funny, it's also kinda bittersweet. People make calls like this all the time. The dispatcher let her talk way too long, I thought. But she probably had her mute-button clicked on in the beginning, and she was probably telling her stunned coworkers what the caller was saying while she figured out what she would say back. (We do that all the time. We say, "uh-huh," click to mute and laugh our heads off (uh-huh) or swear or give our coffee order to the officer making the run for us (okay), while still listening to the caller in our headset (uh-huh). Multitask it, baby.)
And working in a small, mostly white, affluent city brings this call home to me. I've taken calls from people on 911 who want me to call them a cab. Or they want me to tell their neighbor to move their car from in front of their house because the car's ugly. Or they want a cop to tell their husband to stop sleeping around. It's always funny when people call us to have us make their kids behave, change clothes, go to school.
"Can't you just send an officer to scare him?"
"No, we try very hard not to scare children, ma'am."
Or I get this one at least once a week,
"There's a man walking around outside who doesn't belong in my neighborhood. You need to move him along."
"How do you know he doesn't belong, sir?"
Yep, just like that, in the freaking Bay Area. My jaw drops every single time, and it's all I can do to not blow my stack (but I get that insta-burn of rage in the top of my head, which I rarely feel any other time).
People just call for dumb things. All the time. I once got a complaint about a man coughing too loudly (turns out he had bronchitis. How dare he?). Once a woman called five or six times in a row, absolutely FURIOUS that we would do nothing about the frogs who were croaking too loudly in her neighbor's back yard. I could not make this shit up.
Anywho. A brief lesson: 911 is not a room in the sky filled with people who answer your phone call. We don't all work together. If you dial 911, you'll talk to a person sitting in a room in your own city (or if unincorporated, your county).
When to dial 911: Call 911 for life or death emergencies, for medical problems, or when property is being threatened or attacked at that very moment. For example, if your house has been burglarized during the day while you were away, that's not an emergency (look up the seven digit number for your local police department), but if you see someone actively breaking into a home, dial 911.
Check with your state, as things are changing rapidly, but try not to dial 911 on your cell phone (unless you see an emergency on the freeway): You'll most likely get a highway patrol dispatcher, who will have to figure out where you are and then transfer you to the right city's dispatch center. In Northern California, you can easily be on hold with highway patrol for more than five minutes, and then they still have to send you to the right agency, where you might be put on hold again. Program into your cellphone the seven digit phone numbers for every single city you're routinely in, both police and fire dispatch, if they're not combined (most are separate where I live). Best thing to do in any emergency: use a landline if it's safe to do so -- it's answered immediately, and you don't have to know where you are -- the address will show up automatically on the dispatcher's screen, which is good, because you'll be too freaked out to remember the address of the house you've lived in since you were five.
Shoot. I meant to just quickly share that link, and then I got all preachy, huh? Comes down to this: Be safe, know where you are, have a great time, and knit a lot. (And for my sake, if you get a nice dispatcher, write her chief a note -- in five years, I've only seen this happen once here. For the cops it happens all the time, but people forget the helpful voice who figured out what to do with your problem pretty durn quickly. It would be a really big deal for her/him, this I know.)
And this: Happy weekend, all!