Emergency (n.): A serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.
Please keep this definition in mind when dialing 9-1-1. Ask yourself: Does my particular pickle warrant a police response? If you are ever in doubt, check out this veritable rap sheet of emergency-service abusers. And keep your loneliness, buyer's remorse, and parental complaints to yourself… unless you'd like to spend the night in jail.
1. To get a refund from your drug dealer
Next time you have buyer's remorse after scoring some weed, don't call 911 hoping to get your money back, as Katrina Tisdale apparently did. The 47-year-old had reportedly forked over her last $50 to a drug dealer earlier this month only to realize she'd be plum out of cash until her next Social Security check arrived. Tisdale reportedly then called her local St. Petersburg, Fla., police to ask them to track down her dealer and demand a swift return of the cash. Unsurprisingly, dispatch was not eager to help. In fact, deputies arrested her for misusing the police emergency system and held her on $100 bond.
2. Because you're lonely
One night in March, 64-year-old Fleurette French reportedly hit the bottle to distract herself from her solitude. When that didn't cut it, she called 911 and reportedly complained of an illness. But when the deputy showed up at her front door, the Florida woman came clean: She was just lonely. The medic on call noted that French was "highly intoxicated" but "in no obvious distress." The deputy was going to leave it at that, but grew suspicious of French's bizarre call and looked into her history. Sure enough, she had called 911 five times before, all without an obvious emergency. French was arrested and charged with abuse of emergency services.
3. To request a divorce
A 42-year-old Pennsylvania woman called police recently and asked officers to kindly 1) make her husband leave her home, and 2) grant her a divorce. The police had to explain that divorce proceedings weren't in fact in their jurisdiction and that, no, they could not force her husband off the premises if he had not committed a crime. What they could offer her, however, was a citation for disorderly conduct and misusing the Erie County 911 system.
4. To complain about your mom
In March, 19-year-old Vincent Valvo — perhaps tired of defending himself with angst alone — called for backup. But after receiving a warning from police instead of the warrant for his mother's arrest as he had hoped, Valvo called 911 again because he just "didn't like how his mom was talking to him." Unfortunately for Valvo, it's not against the law for your parents to be annoying, but it is against the law to abuse the emergency response system. The visibly drunk teen was arrested that night and then released after posting $500 bond.
5. To avoid bedtime
In February, a 10-year-old Massachusetts boy called the police to report his mother, who was forcing him to go to bed. The call came just after 8 p.m. on a school night and an officer did actually come out to the house, but only to sit the kid down and explain to him when it is appropriate to call 911. No one was charged.
6. To complain about a sandwich
A man from Springfield, Mo., called 911 earlier this month to complain about a sandwich he had purchased at a chain restaurant. No arrest or meal assistance came of the call, but police reports revealed the man had a penchant for benign emergencies, having called the system 77 times since 2010. The sandwich call sparked a further, ongoing investigation into his 911-neediness. Bizarrely, he is not the only man who has called 911 to report a disappointing run-in with a hoagie. In 2012, a Connecticut man reportedly called 911 to complain about a sandwich, to which the dispatcher said, don't buy it then.
7. To ask for cigarettes
Kathy Jividen's story boils down to a lesson in drunk-dialing. One February night, the 48-year-old Texas woman had had a few too many and thought it'd be funny to call the police and ask to have cigarettes delivered to her home. Hilarious! Instead of her cigs, however, Jividen received a visit from two unhappy deputies who arrested the "very intoxicated woman" and charged her with a misdemeanor count for abusing 911. She was released on a $1,000 bond.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Why China thinks it could defeat the U.S. in battle
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- What the 'death of the library' means for the future of books
- How Ferguson made conservatives lose faith in the police
- What you need to know before you support the police in Ferguson
- Girls on Film: 5 things that need to happen before Hollywood will ever truly change
- How the West produces jihadi tourists
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
Subscribe to the Week