I have called 911 twice in my life.
The first time I was six or seven and I was dared to by a friend. My family was visiting hers for the weekend and our parents had gone shopping that afternoon, leaving the kids at home. My older siblings were watching TV and my friend and I were upstairs, bored out of our minds. I honestly don’t remember how it came up, but at some point, she dared me to call 911. Or she mentioned it and I dared her to dare me to call. Regardless, I did the damn thing. I picked up the powder blue corded phone and dialed those three numbers. My hands were shaking, and when the operator answered I quickly whispered, “Help me” and hung up. I hadn’t planned to say anything, but got caught up in the moment and couldn’t help but throw a little drama into it. What a rush! And no ramifications whatsoever!
Just kidding. Within ten minutes their house was surrounded by cop cars. And at almost the same moment our parents arrived home. Everyone was freaking out, trying to figure out what was going on and who had called 911. *Actually, no, I don’t think anyone was really trying to figure out who called because they already knew. This was during my “wreak havoc, deny everything” phase of childhood. And deny I did! No, of course I hadn’t called, yes I knew that it was an incredibly serious offense to call 911 as a joke. The flaw in my stubborn assertion of innocence was having a friend who spilled the beans almost immediately. (Snitches get stitches, Susan!) So I was outed, forced to apologize and promise never to do that again. And as the police filed out I realized that I honestly didn’t want them to leave, because my mom was looking at me with an expression that I can only describe as murdery. (And she did murder me. With her disappointment.)
The second time I dialed 911 I was nineteen, working at an upscale tanning salon. In addition to my duties at the front desk I was also a spray tan technician, frequently dipping into my own product, resulting in a hideous year-round Trump glow. Of course, at the time I thought I looked amazing, and the contrast really made my teeth pop.
The salon was on campus, right in the middle of everything, and it was close to closing time on a Friday night. A coworker (I think her name was Brittni or something obnoxiously spelled like that) stumbled in and asked to tan for ten minutes in a deluxe bed. The deluxe bed was no joke an enormous bed with a plush mattress. The tanning bulbs were on the inside of the top, and they were intense, so I would advise people to start with five minutes on each side. Twenty minutes was the max, but you had to work your way up to that. Gradually increase your tolerance. One time a very fair skinned girl tried to buy twenty minutes and I was like, “No, you will die.”
But back to Brittni. The bar she had been drinking at next door was “too crowded and loud” and she wanted a quiet moment, alone with her thoughts and mutating skin cells. I set the timer for ten minutes, which came and went, but she didn’t emerge from her room. I knocked, loudly. Nothing. I yelled her name “BRITTNI WITH AN I, ARE YOU OKAY?!” but got no response. I started to panic. I called another coworker who lived nearby and within a few minutes, she had joined me, trying in vain to pick the door’s lock, yelling and pounding on it when we failed. Finally, fearing that something was seriously wrong, I called 911. “Brittni is unresponsive in the deluxe tanning suite. Please send help.” Within minutes a fire truck, sirens roaring, pulled up and three firemen jumped out. They were pumped. Maybe it had been a slow day at the station, but they were ready to rescue the shit out of someone. I pointed to the door and they literally broke it down. With their bodies. I don’t even think they tried the handle first. They ran into that tiny room and lifted the top of the tanning bed and Brittni sprang up like a tipsy, topless Jack In The Box screaming, “WHAT THE FUCK?? WHAT THE FUCK!?”
I immediately started laughing and could not stop. Like, tears streaming down my face. Spray tan streaked to hell. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or just relief that she wasn’t dead, but I couldn’t turn it off. The firemen left the room, dejected, propping the broken door up against the splintered frame to give Brittni privacy to dress. She did so, sputtering expletives. I was reigning in my hysterics, apologizing to everyone. The firemen, disappointed by the lack of real emergency, unceremoniously left and soon after Brittni moved the door aside and stomped out into the night without so much as a goodbye. Oh Brittni. You tawny Lady Lazarus. I wonder what you’re up to now.