Home By Marquel Damn, It’s Hard

Damn, It’s Hard

Albuquerque 911 Dispatcher Who Hung Up on Caller Quits, by Marquel, TPVs NYTimes I Can’t Even Section correspondent.  In June, a young woman dialled 911 when her friend was shot in a drive by shooting. The 911 operator was told the details and that the victim was barely breathing. When the operator asked again if he were breathing, the young obviously shaken woman apparently answered that she’d already said he was “barely breathing, how many times do I have to fucking tell you?” At that, the operator said, “look, deal with this yourself”, and hung up. They’re tough out west and this may be how 911 works out there. The supervisor said they give operators “hundreds of hours” of training in how to deal with difficult callers. So this may in fact be SOP in the Wild West. But Marquel had to know for sure.

That presented a problem. Marquel’s first idea was to dial 911 in Albuquerque, through what they call a jumper number which Mufi supplied, but what he had in mind might have legal consequences. He had planned to make several emergency calls, lace them with profanities, and see how the 911 operators handled it. But he didn’t want emergency vehicles distracted from their serious work (even in our present case, the operator  no matter how much an asshole, did get the first responders to the address in record time, about 4 minutes). But Marquel decided to go slow.

So he called the supervisor.

“How can I help you?” He asked.

“How come this operator hung up when the woman got a bit excited? Isn’t that to be expected?” Asked Marquel.

“Yes it is. We are all trained to deal with that.” He said.

“So then why did she hang up the fucking phone?” Asked Marquel.

“Hey. Watch it. I think I’ll let you answer your own questions.” He said, and hung up.

Marquel called back. “Hey,” he said, “we got disconnected. Are you people trained to tell callers to deal with things themselves?”

“Sometimes. If the circumstances indicate that it isn’t really an emergency….” He said.

“But this guy was dying.” Said Marquel.

“But the caller wasn’t. And by her language she indicated strength, and gumption, surely enough to save a dying man. So in that sense it wasn’t an emergency.”

“But of course it was a fucking emergency,” I said.

“Once again, I think you can deal with this yourself.” He said and hung up.

I had to ponder this. Obviously something about obscenities or profanity triggered a hang up. That couldn’t be right. I called back.

 “Listen all I want to know is why 911 seems to hang up at the first profanity. Is that so?” I asked.

“We don’t have any iron clad rules. But all our operators are told they do not need to listen to profanities.” He said.

“But in an emergency, it’s natural for people to use them because of the stress.” I said.

“But just think. How could it be productive if both the victim and the operator are stressed? We can’t have that. To avoid it, the operator can hang up to make sure 911 calls are stress-free.”

“But that’s absurd. What is your job, to help people or avoid stress?” I asked him.

“Very good question. Excellent question. The answer is both. To help people without stress. That’s the only way to handle an emergency.”

There’s something wrong with that shit,” I said.

He answered, “I think you can deal with this yourself,” and promptly hung up.

I thought I understood, but then again I didn’t. 911 didn’t seem the best context in which to practice stress relief. I decided to use Mufi’s jump number. I dialled it and promptly had an Albuquerque dial tone. I dialled 911.

“911. What is the problem?” I was asked.

“I can’t tie my shoes. I seem to have forgotten. Is it right over left or left over right?” I asked.

“Hmm. Let me see. I’ll undo mine and look. Yes. Put the right over the left. Got that?” She asked.

“Yeah, now what.” I said.

“Now wind the right around the left once and pull both tight.” She said.

“Okay it’s tight. Now what?” I asked.

“Make a bow with the right end.” She said.

“Okay.” I answered.

“Now wind the left around the right bow and slip it in around that space. Pull it through in a bow. Got that? How’re you doing?” She asked.

“It’s okay. Oops. Damn!” I exclaimed.

“Well, I’m sure you can deal with this yourself.” She said and promptly hung up.

I have to admit no one was dying, but after all that expert instruction, to hang up at the first “damn”….


I guess people west of the Hudson are different from you and me.


BY MARQUEL: Damn, It’s Hard


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