Interlude: In the Event of an Emergency…

I’ll call just about anyone–I’m not one of those people who gets nervous on the phone or about calling strangers–but if it happens that I need the police, I let my wife call.  I’m pretty sure that the police would hang up on us otherwise.  She has the gift for what I call “practical disclosure,” by which I mean that she doesn’t say either too much or too little.  She’s clear, direct, and succinct, all things which I am not.  For example, after we were startled awake in the middle of the night, her police call went something like this:

Emergency Operator:  “Emergency Response.  What’s the nature of your emergency?”

My Wife: “We heard something that sounded like a person trying to break into our house.  Can the police come and check it out?”

Emergency Operator:  “Absolutely, Ma’am.  I’m directing an officer to you now.”

The whole business took about ten seconds, and everyone left satisfied.  Had I been the one to call however, the conversation would have covered remarkably different material.  My gift for disclosure tends toward “full” rather than “practical,” but with spontaneous detours into “random.”  Especially when I’m talking to an authority figure, I try to be forthcoming as a sign of respect, but stumble into bizarre areas because I’m nervous.

To illustrate what I mean, let’s imagine how the above conversation might have gone.

Emergency Operator:  “Emergency Response.  What’s the nature of your emergency?”

Me:  “Hi.  What?  Oh!  I guess that I’m afraid of the dark.”

Emergency Operator:  “What?”

Me:  “It’s dark and I’m nervous.  I think I heard something outside, but I’m not sure because I was asleep.  I haven’t heard anything since, at least aside from the normal sorts of noises.  And the noises I made, too, of course. But we live in a pretty safe neighborhood and I don’t know what I heard.  It just startled me.”

Emergency Operator:  “What?”

Me:  “Yeah, sorry.  I’m a little frazzled.  I guess it’s normal to get spooked at night, at least for me.  It was probably a cat or the wind.  We have a bunch of feral cats around here.  And we haven’t been able to trim the bushes beside our bedroom.  I think they’re creepy, but I’m a little afraid of plants too, frankly.”

Emergency Operator:  “What?”

Me:  “It could have been someone knocking on the door maybe.  It sounded a bit like that.  Our door doesn’t have one of those peep hole things.  I didn’t want to look out the window either, though.  I didn’t want them to know I was there.  I really haven’t heard anything else.  It was probably nothing.”

At that point I probably would have hung up the phone, confused and embarrassed.  I would, however, have been thinking happy thoughts about the helpful people who stay up all night to answer phone calls from ridiculous people like me.  I also would have sat in the middle of the room for a while, clutching the stick and avoiding windows.

Eventually though, my wife would have found me for a conversation like this:

My Wife:  “Are the police sending someone to help?”

Me:  “What?”

My Wife:  “Seriously?  I’m calling them back.”

And then the original conversation would happen.  Thus, I like to skip ahead and let my wife call at the beginning.  Not only is it faster, it involves less exasperated glances.


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