Friday, November 14, 2014

WHAT'S THE NUMBER FOR 911?

Review of WHAT’S THE NUMBER FOR 911?: AMERICA’S WACKIEST 911 CALLS by LELAND GREGORY

Along the same lines as the Darwin awards, this book is perfect for comedy fans who enjoy laughing at the stupidity of others. Like, for example, the fleeing criminal who repeatedly called 911 during his high-speed chase so he could demand the operator have the police stop chasing him.

There’s a lot of overlap when it comes to categorizing these anecdotes. Some quick labels immediately pop to mind: crazy, high, unreasonable, and stupid. Now I don’t find stories about someone who obviously isn’t in their right mind doing something ridiculous particularly funny - too sad if you really think about it. And instances where someone is high are boring in my opinion, because, well, that’s what happens when you’re high - so no surprise. Then there are the unreasonable and or plain stupid 911 calls and, yeah, I find both of those types pretty amusing. Unreasonable like the woman who calls to say a snake bit her and asks the operator if the snake is poisonous; she doesn’t provide any actual description about the snake but grows increasingly frustrated that the operator can’t just tell her if it’s poisonous or not already. And stupid like the woman who calls in a biohazard team when she sets her mail down on her kitchen table and a letter promptly turns from yellow to brown. Turns out that’s what happens when you put a letter in coffee.

There’s also a fair number of people who need to hear the definition of “emergency”. Such as the person who called 911 when someone took a bite out of her sandwich. Or another man whose false teeth don’t quite fit, so he calls 911 for some assistance. Some people clearly think 911 is equivalent to 411, just another information service. Like the woman who calls 911 to ask when the fourth of July parade will start or the man who calls for some advice on navigating around dead stop traffic. More amusing, though, are those who think 911 is some kind of general public service for anyone and anything. One man called when he saw a snow plow in town to ask 911 to send the snow plow over to his house. Another couple called 911 to request fresh towels for their hotel room.

While reading is usually a solitary hobby, these kinds of books are fun to flip through with someone else. In all seriousness, though, I now have the utmost respect for 911 operators.


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