Why has America turned into such a panicked state that a strong majority of the population starts calling 911 to ask for help for the most banal situations? Whether it’s part of a growing anxiety problem from stress and mounting uncertainties, or some kind of devolution in intelligence, we have yet to get a major analysis on why people use 911 to call about things that don’t matter. Those with common sense are getting tired of reading about someone calling 911 because McDonald’s runs out of Chicken McNuggets or because a person just broke up with their girlfriend.
Perhaps some of the American populace are so used to routine that when something goes awry, they go into a flying panic and don’t know who else to turn to. It must help explain why far too many 911 centers are being invaded by calls from these ignorant people when someone’s life may be on the line. Many 911 dispatch centers have to face the pain of these people calling every day, and it was about time they started doing something to counteract the insanity.
My home state of Oregon seems to be one of the first states to finally take action on combating this issue. ABC News reported on the story recently and mentioned how one Oregon county 911 dispatch center decided to start publishing the most idiotic calls they received every week. Imagine yourself waking up in the morning and reading your own ridiculous 911 call transcript printed in your local newspaper.
These are all obviously published without names, yet public enough where those who made the calls may recognize their own words and realize their mistake. While this might be a harsher method in teaching people what not to do, is it going to make any difference, or are we living in a world where ignorance is so blind, nobody ever learns any real lessons?
Should the “You Called 911 for That?!” Campaign Go National?
The above title is what the Oregon 911 campaign was so aptly titled to show exactly how 911 dispatchers feel when they get absurd calls. Regardless, you have to hope that the campaign also goes the other way and teaches 911 dispatchers how to handle these types of calls. We’ve heard far too many audio transcripts of 911 operators talking much too long to those clearly calling with the most ridiculous requests. Most 911 dispatchers should be able to scope out which calls are real emergencies and which ones aren’t within the first sentence.
Critics might contend that dispatchers should hang up immediately if it’s clear someone is calling about something unimportant. There isn’t any use tying up the lines when someone may need to get through due to a life-threatening situation. In some cases, the “You Called 911 for That?!” campaign may end up being such an entertaining part of local newspapers that dispatchers will hang on the line just to be able to have material they can publish.
Yes, we’ve seen our share of these in audio transcripts on the news and even when Jay Leno was running “The Tonight Show.” But should it be a regular campaign in every local newspaper to give an education to those who apparently still don’t comprehend 911’s use? The horrific scenario is those who make the calls not even realizing their transcripts are in the media and continually doing the same thing again and again.
One thing we sometimes discover about people is they get stuck in a strange, absurdist existence that thinks living as dumb as possible is some kind of a virtue. In that regard, it may be equivalent to trying to educate a future generation that has little hope for reform a la the Eloi in “The Time Machine.”
All those absurd 911 calls seem like they almost have to exist in order to give us a sense of right and wrong, plus giving us our daily comedy fix. Just pray that a number of them aren’t clogging the lines at the moment when you or a loved one needs to get through to 911 to save a life.