5 Tales of Calls for Help

A READER WHO will be unnamed out of kindness wrote to ask me for help:

“sir, i am a would-be writer..any valuable advice??”

I suggested the obvious: anyone applying to be a writer should at least compose a good letter.

The young South Asian man replied:

“wat r the flaws in my letter, anyways??”

I replied that he should at least spell words correctly when communicating with people in the writing industry.

He replied: “thnx.”

Some people really don’t get it.


Talking of the wackier members of the public asking for help, a colleague sent me a report issued by the UK police last week.

It said a man in Hertfordshire dialed the police emergency number to ask them to do something about an unidentified flying object hovering over his house.

The UFO shone with “all lights blazing” but gave off “no engine noise”.

Further investigation revealed the object was the moon. Officers assured him it was not dangerous.

To be fair, I kind of sympathize with the guy. I mean, the moon’s round, creeps around at night, and there may or may not be aliens on it.


But a warning: the topic of emergency calls is very touchy in the Indian city of Pune just now. Dial for police or an ambulance and you may get nothing but the recorded message played when subscribers haven’t paid their bills.

Citizens are furious about this and may well attack whoever is responsible.

No doubt the decisionmaker’s first instinct will be to barricade himself in his office and dial the emergency services, before thinking: “Uh-oh.”


For my part, I have only made an emergency call to the police once, when we moved into a new apartment in Hong Kong.

Out of the window, we saw our violent neighbor chasing her family members around with weapons.

“Come quickly before someone gets hurt,” I told the police dispatcher. “And please ask the officers to be discreet. We’ve just spent our life savings on this apartment and don’t want the neighbors to hate us.”

The dispatcher snootily replied that ALL officers were rigorously trained to protect the confidentially of callers.

Ten minutes later, an officer turns up and rings our doorbell and that of our neighbor at the same time.

“Lemme see,” he says, looking from us to Ax-Wielding-Mom and back again. “Now one of you is the accused, and one of you the caller. So, which is which?”

And that’s how we first met our neighbor. “Hi,” I said, in as friendly a tone as I could muster.

She didn’t reply. We never really hit it off. I wonder why? Anyway, my wife and I moved out of the neighborhood as soon as the price had risen enough to cover moving costs.


When I mentioned the topic of emergency calls at my local noodle shop, a diner pointed me to the website of the UK’s Avon police, where they publish tapes of real calls.

In one, a man dials 999 to complain that he doesn’t like the dinner his wife has left him.

The police officer patiently tells him that the poor quality of his dinner is not an emergency.

I disagree. Have you tasted British food? Deep fried chocolate bars, French fry sandwiches? Sounds pretty lethal to me!