I didn’t know the phone actually worked. That’s a lie. I didn’t really know how phones worked at all – is that better? I was four.
“Mommy, what does a nine look like?” In my parents bedroom, I cuffed the telephone with my palm. It felt a lot bigger in my hand than it had looked on the projector at preschool.
HOW TO DIAL 9-1-1 had been the topic of discussion that day. There was even a short video on Smokey the Bear, whom I adored.
My mom (sweet, kind, and unsuspecting) was brushing her teeth in the master bathroom before bedtime. “It kinda looks like a tall ‘o’ with a stick on side.”
I set the phone down to make the number with my fingers. The plastic knocked the wood on the side table, and my mother turned around. However, the victim was too late; I’d already placed the weapon down and was holding my fingers according to our conversation. “Like this, Mommy?”
“Yes, baby.” She turned her back to spit, and I grabbed the phone.
In hindsight, I’m not sure what I expected to happen. I certainly didn’t expect the emergency operators to actually answer the phone and do their job. The nerve!
“911, what’s your emergency?”
I gasped. You know when you play hot potato and try to get rid of the object as quickly as possible? I threw the phone at the wall. It dangled from its cord, but the woman still asked, “911, hello? Hello?”. I hurried to end the call and sighed. It was a dramatic affair.
I was vaguely impressed with myself. I learned to dial 911, and I had handled the unforeseen trouble with grace and without getting in trouble. In the back of my mind, however, my conscience began to nag.
My mom (forgiving, wonderful, and innocent) was taking out her contacts. My escapade had gone unnoticed in her blindness. “Yes, baby?”
I walked up to her bathroom door and leaned up against the frame. The goal was to be as casual as possible. “What would happen if someone called 911 on accident and then hung up on them?”
“Well they would send someone to go check on them.”
“But they won’t know where we live if you don’t say anything.”
At this point, my mom was brushing her hair. The brush faltered, but she didn’t look away from the mirror yet. “They do if someone calls from a home phone.”
I glanced at the phone on the bedside table and put two-and-two together. I started to lose my cool, but I couldn’t let her know the unfortunate situation I’d just gotten us into. “So like…would the person get in trouble for hanging up on them? Even if they didn’t…know any better?”
Smooth, I know. My mother’s head whipped around so fast I thought her neck would snap. It was The Ring 2.0. Hair was flying, I was sobbing, she was grabbing onto my shoulders. I got whiplash. I saw God.
“I didn’t know!”
“MOMMY! You’re stressing me out!”
She picked me up, and I cried for my soul. I was going to get arrested. It was my own fault.
The doorbell rang.
The advantages of living in a small town is living literally five miles from the police station.
The disadvantages of accidentally calling the police station is living literally five miles from it.
Mom carried me into the den to answer the door. I was hysterical. I bit her shoulder I was crying so hard. From my view past her shoulder, I could see the uniform and flashlight peeking into our little house.
It was funny afterwards – to the adults. The police officer had tried to make me feel better after he had quit laughing. He’d even tried patting my shoulder reassuringly, but I was hateful and afraid. My mother called the fire department where my dad volunteered, and said, “your daughter called the police.” And apparently that was funny, too. It was also funny the next day when Dad dropped me off at preschool and asked if I would demonstrate to the class how to call the cops.
It’s now funny to me as well, but I promise you I still get heart palpitations even looking at my iPhone and seeing the emergency assist option.