Sunday, January 18, 2009

What's Your Emergency?

Last night I was walking down 75th St, and I noticed that there was a huge pipe sticking out of the roof of a parking garage that was busted. Water was gushing out in every direction, the street was flooded, and nobody was around to notice. It was 4am, and it didn't look like anyone was coming to the rescue anytime soon, so (even though I don't live there), I thought it to be my civic duty to dial 311 and report the broken water main.

Over the course of two blocks, I had listened to five different recordings, all of which covered topics from no heat/hot water, to domestic violence, to the nearest location that offered free NYC condoms. When an operator finally picked up the phone, I had explained the situation in great detail to her, only to be told that I would have to be transferred. I held for another two minutes, talked to three different people, was transferred in total a number of four times, until I finally got a chance to speak to someone that might possibly be able to help.

A woman with a thick accent railed me with a series of questions:
1. What is your name? (I don't think you need my name)
2. Would you like to remain anonymous then, ma'am? (Sure)
3. Is the pipe above the current line? (I have no idea what the current line is)
4. Is the pipe broken in more than one place? (I have no clue, I saw it in passing)
5. Is the street flooded? (Yes)
6. Is the street sunken or about to fall? (I don't know, I didn't go wading through the water?)
-Ma'am, all I need is a simple yes or no question
7. Is your basement flooded? (No, I live more than a mile away)
-Look, I'm just trying to report a broken water main, I'm really not looking for all of this trouble right now
-Well I cannot process your request without this important information

....Really? What happened to just being able to phone in a simple request? Would this happen if I had been trying to report a homicide to 911? It pains me to think of what the world has come to...

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