A Simple Misunderstanding Dissected

I have decided to write about the time that I, personally, called the police…on accident. Several years ago, I was living in a four-bedroom townhouse in a moderately-sized, suburban city that we will call “Souptown.” I was living with my wife and four young children, so it was a relatively full house, but we always had room for more. On this particular occasion, we were hosting my wife’s cousin, Rosa, and her two small children. Rosa had recently made the emotional and traumatic decision to leave her husband and my wife had generously offered her shelter in our domicile.  

Now there are a lot of moving parts in this story, so I’ll try to keep things straight. To start, I decided to call my father in North Carolina and chat with him and the area code for his part of North Carolina is 919. That’s important and this is a story involving a landline, so if you don’t remember how landlines work, you’ll have difficulty with this story. Anywho, I called my dad, but the call didn’t go through because one of the buttons was sticking. I tried again, but the same thing happened, no completed call. Finally, third time’s a charm, but a few minutes into my conversation, the Call Waiting signal beeped, letting me know that I had someone on the other line. I asked my dad to excuse me and switched calls.

Very polite, professional voice. “Sir, this is the Souptown Police Department, did you call 9-1-1?”

Me. “Um, no. I didn’t…(and then something occurred to me. The button on the phone that was sticking, was the 1 button…oh no)…oh, wait. I bet I called 9-1-1 and hung up twice, didn’t I?”

Very polite, professional voice. “Yes, sir. As a matter of fact, you did call 9-1-1 twice and hang up. Is everything okay there in the house?”

We had a very constructive conversation about my phone’s failure and that nothing was going on in the house. I was asked by the dispatcher if she could speak to anyone else, but my wife was in the shower and Rosa, who is naturally kind of volatile, was busy changing her baby’s diaper, upstairs. My younger son, Bronson, who was seven at the time, spoke to the dispatcher for a moment or two. And then we were done. I switched back to my dad and told him I would call him back later, because, even though the dispatcher didn’t say to expect a visit, I knew better.

I was already walking toward the front door when I heard the hard, staccato knock. I opened the door immediately to two of Souptown’s finest (I had worked for Souptown Police Department as a records clerk while I was in college and had attended training with several of their officers over the years). There was a young, officer, who was all pressed and shiny, accompanied by an older officer with a more rumpled, experienced look. And that means that the young officer was on field training.

The trainer cocked his head slightly and said, “Hi, Sgt. Blalock.”

The trainee looked confused, so the trainer explained, “Sgt. Blalock works for the University police.”

And now the trainee looked even more confused, especially as I smiled and waved. “Hi.”

And then the three of us stared at each other for a moment. The trainer looked at the trainee and asked, “What are you supposed to be doing?”

The trainee collected himself and explained about the 9-1-1 hangups and asked all the same questions the dispatcher had. I answered the questions exactly the same and then waited.

For a moment, we all stared at each other, until the trainer asked, “What are we doing here?”

The trainee started to ask the trainer a question, but the trainer looked at him and asked, “What would you do if he weren’t a cop?”

“Oh.” The trainee looked at me and gulped. “May I come in and look around? Make sure everyone is safe?”

“No problem.” I stepped aside to allow the officers in, but the trainer waited on the doorstep.

“You’re good to go,” the trainer said. “I’ll wait here for you.”

The trainee asked me who else was in the house. I told him that my four children were in the house, my wife was in the shower, upstairs, and my wife’s aunt and her two children were in the house as well. It was a pretty full house.

Although I waited with the trainer, I will describe what occurred from that point on based on witness statements I obtained later.

The trainee checked the rest of the first floor and didn’t find anyone, so he asked if he could go upstairs. I said that he could and reminded him that my wife was in the shower.

Remember, that at this time, Rosa is upstairs, changing her baby’s diaper. And even though she is my wife’s aunt, she is actually four years younger than Mia. As she is finishing up with the diaper changing ritual, she sees a police officer stop outside the door to the bedroom.

“What are you doing here?” she asks, shocked.

“Oh,” the young officer responded. “Your husband called 9-1-1.”

Think about that for just a minute. The officer assumed that Rosa was my wife, but now Rosa thinks that the husband that she just left…forever…has called the police on her.

“Why the hell did he call 9-1-1?” Rosa shouted, getting very defensive and agitated.

“I don’t know,” the officer responded, getting very nervous. “He’s downstairs…”

“Why is he here?!” Rosa was now getting seriously alarmed that her soon to be ex-husband was downstairs with the police and some kind of devious plan.

“Your husband…Sgt. Blalock…he…uh…” I am told by my children that the officer looked as though he was going to jump down to the first floor to escape Rosa.

“Blalock?” Rosa paused. “No, he’s my nephew. He called 9-1-1?”

Now visibly relieved that he wasn’t stepping into the middle of some kind of domestic violence situation, the young officer explained about the accidental 9-1-1 call and Rosa calmly told him that Mia was in the shower and that all the kids were playing in the upstairs bedrooms, so nothing criminal was going on.

The officers concluded that everything was fine and went on their way, although I noticed a second unit arrive, turn around and leave, so I later wondered if the young officer had called for backup.

Either way, it was the kind of experience that led to a great story.

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