I was writing about a baby calling 911 16 times (I know!!) over at The Stir, and it reminded me of this old column from 2005 that I never put on here. Here you go!
Sometimes “everybody makes mistakes” just isn’t the comfort you need to hear.
My first inclination was to hang up – quickly. But I realized I’d just be making it worse.
“911, what’s your emergency?” they said. My face a bright tomato red, I could barely answer them.
“Nothing, I mean, I’m sorry, I mean, I dialed the wrong number,” I wailed.
Yes, I pranked 911.
I was calling someone in Monticello. I hit the “talk” button, then quickly pounded out the number 7-9-1-1-1 . . . Before I could finish, the phone was ringing, and I curiously put it to my ear.
Then it hit me.
I hadn’t hit that “7” quite as hard as I’d pushed in the other numbers.
So, while I was expecting to be carrying out an interview, I was on the phone with a dispatcher at the county’s emergency control center.
“No,” I assured them, “there’s no emergency.”
“Can we confirm your address?”
Oh dear. So much for anonymous screwups. “Yes,” I said. “I live in Callicoon Center.” And I gave out my street address.
Phew, easy enough. That could be anyone. “And your name, ma’am.” Oh no! “Jeanne Sager,” I said sheepishly.
“Thank you,” they answered.
And that was that. But it wasn’t over for me.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve never called 911 in real life.
Once, as a third or fourth grader, I sat through the annual fire safety week lecture by local emergency workers in the Delaware Valley gymnasium.
“Never, ever, ever use the emergency phone number as a play toy,” they warned.
Then they let us loose, sending us out to the activities lined up for the day. That included a mock emergency phone drill, but someone forgot to tell us it was all make-believe.
Each student was instructed to sit at a telephone and make a call as though our house was on fire or our mother keeled over on the floor.
Using the old-fashioned phone, I carefully dialed the numbers – 5-8-3-7-1-0-0.
“What’s your emergency?” a familiar voice asked.
Stumbling, I made up some story about smoke pouring out of the kitchen stove.
“And what’s your address?” the voice queried. I looked around – no adult in sight. What did I do?
There was no smoke, no fire.
“Um,” I said, “I live in Callicoon.”
The “dispatcher” dragged it out of me – my name was Jeanne Eschenberg. I lived on River Road. She said
the Callicoon Fire Department was on its way, then the line went dead.
I was 8 or 9 at the time, and I was scared to death. “Oh no,” I was thinking. “I’m in so much trouble! The firemen are going to be so mad when they get to my house and there’s no fire!”
I went home that night, wracked with guilt. But there was no note on the door, no policeman waiting to lock me up.
Years later, a senior in high school, I was walking into the Delaware Valley school building after my morning internship at the Democrat office one October day.
Posted outside the gymnasium was a woman sitting next to a phone. As the ring sounded, she picked up the receiver and spoke.
“What’s your emergency?”
Oh . . .
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