Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Nature of Emergency

An article in The Japan Times the other day had me laughing again over nutty 911 emergency calls. Funny 911 stories are about as common as lawyer jokes but it’s a good guess that most of us haven’t heard the ones coming out of Japan. Until reading the article in Japan’s English language daily, I naively imagined that most of those oddball “Help” calls came from people in the US. Apparently the same thing goes on in Japan where police have complained that “unsuitable” emergency calls increased between January and November of 2014, raising the number to over two million. According to the National Police Agency non-emergency calls to 110 accounted for 24.3 percent of the total number of calls. Here are a few examples…

One woman called police about there being no toilet paper in a public bathroom. Another caller wanted assistance with a forgotten smartphone password. With Japan being the world capital of roadside vending machines it isn’t too unexpected that at some point a person would call complaining that a vending machine did not return the correct change; in fact, many have. Then there was the caller who must have been on the edge of insanity when he called begging police to PLEASE come and remove an insect from his ear. Never having heard of plumbers, a housewife tried getting police help in unclogging her home toilet, while another caller asked for a police cruiser to be dispatched to clear congested roads allowing her to drive a sick child to the local hospital faster.

Best though that we not point fingers too laughingly at Japan’s weird calls and perceived emergencies. Conceding that I live in a land where alligators and armadillos roam the nights and vehicles with the largest tires have the right of way, luckily, I’ve never had to call 911. But out here you never know what tomorrow holds. Some months back the county Sheriff’s Office contacted me with news that my address had been changed for the sake of 911 calls. Pinpointing my location was the problem. Maybe they’ll be able to find me now should I call asking for help subduing a wild pig.

 Judging from a list I collected, Florida residents seem to dial up 911 for a variety of quirky reasons…    

One man called 911 because he had been splashed by a car driving through a puddle. Another complained of too many onions in his takeout. An outraged woman called because her new rabbit did not have the floppy ears promised in a newspaper advertisement.

In Jacksonville, a man was so peeved when a sandwich shop left the special sauce off his hero that he called 911 twice. The first time to ask if officers could make sure his sandwich was made properly, the second to complain that the police weren’t responding fast enough to his first call. 

Hysterical voice: “My car will not start! I’m locked inside my car and nothing works and it’s getting very hot in here! Plus, I’m not feeling well." The dispatcher suggested pulling up the lock. The woman tried, undoubtedly surprised when the door opened.

Angered that her local McDonald’s was out of Chicken McNuggets, a Florida woman called 911 three times to report the fast food emergency. She called police to complain that a cashier would not give her a refund. When they arrived at the restaurant, the woman told them, “This is an emergency. If I had known they didn’t have McNuggets, I wouldn’t have given them my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don’t want one.” She was arrested for misusing 911.

A Sarasota man being followed by police tried to sidetrack the officers by making a fake 911 call. The police car suddenly got a call from dispatch alerting them to an armed robbery happening several blocks away. The plan seemed to work at first when the police car sped off to answer the armed robbery call. Unfortunately for the man, another police car followed him into a parking lot and spotted the gun in his car. After his arrest, officers discovered the bogus 911 call had come from his cell phone.

A couple of funny 911 call transcripts:

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What is your emergency?
Caller: I heard what sounded like gunshots coming from the brown house on the corner.
Dispatcher: Do you have an address?
Caller: No, I’m wearing a blouse and slacks, why?

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What is the nature of your emergency?
Caller: I’m trying to reach nine eleven but my phone doesn’t have an eleven on it.
Dispatcher: This is nine eleven.
Caller: I thought you just said it was nine-one-one
Dispatcher: Yes, ma’am, nine-one-one and nine-eleven are the same thing.

Caller: Honey, I may be old, but I’m not stupid.


  1. I would say those 911 calls are unbelievable, but unfortunately, they are all too believable, knowing human nature.
    Our town was redistricted a couple of years ago for 911, new street names, etc. Some streets never got new signs, though, and signs with particularly colorful names were stolen. The ambulance and UPS just stop at our house when they're looking for anyone. It's a mess.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America