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Emergency responders are there to help in a crisis, but it turns out that people have different definitions of crises and emergencies. Dispatchers have fielded calls about everything from poor restaurant service to hook-ups. Some people don’t know the difference between 911 and 411; one intoxicated man called the former to get help with his iPhone and when he was denied, he asked to be connected to AT&T. Sadly, the trend in stupidity is continuing, as evidenced by these recent calls.
On June 10, a 28-year-old New Jersey man called 911 and requested to speak to NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Why he thought the emergency services personnel would have Tebow’s contact information is unknown, but he told the dispatcher that he was President Barack Obama. Unsatisfied with the response from the dispatchers, he called police headquarters. Police tracked his phone number and went to his home to ensure there was no emergency, but initially could not locate the man. With permission from the man’s mother to search her bedroom, police found the man in her closet hiding under some pillows. He was charged with causing false public alarms, and still hasn’t gotten in touch with Tim Tebow.
It was a busy week for unnecessary 911 calls. On June 13, a man called a deli in East Hartford, Connecticut, to order 14 sandwiches with just a little turkey and ham, but lots of mayonnaise and cheese. When he arrived to pick them up, he was so displeased with the amount of each topping that he refused to pay for the sandwiches and asked to use the deli’s phone. He called 911 to report the incorrectly made sandwiches and requested police be sent to the deli to rectify the situation. He feared that he wouldn’t be able to get sandwiches made to his specifications in the future if police didn’t arrive to settle the conflict. The dispatcher offered some sage advice when she said, “In the future, just don’t buy the sandwich.” The man has since apologized to the deli and informed the owners that he will still buy his sandwiches there in the future.
Incorrect food orders are a big deal to some people. Back in February 2009, a Florida man called 911 from a Burger King drive-thru because the restaurant was out of lemonade. One month later in another area of Florida, a woman called 911 three times to complain that McDonalds had run out of McNuggets and wouldn’t give her a refund, only substitutions. Police arrived, like she requested, but they were there to arrest her for the misuse of the emergency 911 service.
Most corn mazes pride themselves on offering a challenge, but last October, a corn maze in Danvers, Massachusetts, was too hard for a family of four. The parents used a cell phone to call 911 to be rescued from the maze, not realizing that they were only 25 feet from a road. There is no fence around the corn, so escape would have been as easy as following the sound of traffic through the corn. It took emergency responders and the farm manager nine minutes to find the family, who were already nearly at the exit. It’s worth noting that the farm employs a nighttime security guard who does not leave the premises until all cars are out of the parking lot, so no one will ever be left in the maze overnight.
Being lost in a corn maze sounds like a legitimate emergency when compared to a couple picking apples at another Massachusetts farm just a few weeks later. The pair wandered too far from their car, couldn’t figure out where they were in the orchard, and called 911 to be rescued.
Tim Tebow isn’t the only person with whom 911 callers want to speak. An Ohio woman called 911 four or five times asking for a date with a police officer in 2010. She explained that she gets lonely and sometimes drinks too much, but is committed to her boyfriend.
If you have ever been put on hold while making a legitimate 911 call, as I have, you may have people like these geniuses to thank. There’s a big difference between 911 and 411 and it could be the difference between life and death for someone in a real emergency who can’t get through because of dumb calls clogging the lines.