Where's Richard?

Posted on October 11, 2009


Anyone who answers 911 calls for a living will tell you  that they, like us, have certain members of their community that are a little…


People who call on a consistent basis, for no legitimate reason.

“Frequent Flyers”

We call them 918’s.

People who, through no fault of their own, were sentenced to a lifetime of mental illness. Doctors with fancy degrees attach elegant names to their conditions. Things like, Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder, and Delusional Disorder, and…well, the list is long and undistinguished.

And I suppose it is easy for the rest of us to sit back and get a brief chuckle at their expense. Be honest, you know you do.

They pick up the phone and they call us. Sometimes they scream obscenities too graphic even for THIS blog. Sometimes they are paranoid and are calling to report a myriad of government conspiracy theories. Sometimes they ramble about nothing at all. Sometimes they are completely incoherent.

And sometimes they sing.

Anyone who answers 911 calls for a living will also tell you that they often learn to connect with these people on a personal level. They call so often that they become a familiar voice that in some strange, twisted way brings a momentary sense of sweet relief between calls during a busy and often violent shift.

Their insanity brings sanity to our insane environment

Richard is one of those people.

Richard has been known to call our department for decades. He is mentally ill and lives with his mother. He enjoys calling the non-emergency number and telling us about his day and often does so in the form of a song – and he does so in a completely incoherent fashion.

Mumbling really, set to a tune.

When he calls, you know it’s him. And you are secretly glad it is him. Because THIS is a call you know how to handle.

THIS is a call that doesn’t involve injury, confrontation, rape, child abuse, suicide, fatal car accidents, domestic violence, murder, heart attacks, and woman waking up next to their dead husband of 50 years.

THIS is a call that does not involve talking to someone who has just experienced the worst day of their life.

THIS is a call that brings you a few moments of familiarity in a job that can drop blood curdling screams into your ear in an instant and with no warning whatsoever.

And so Richard sings.

He sings songs to you and flirts with female operators and tells them about his day. And even though you are not supposed to encourage him, you do anyway.

You like hearing from Richard.

You like to try to converse with him on a level that goes beyond verifying if he has a valid emergency. He brings smiles to the faces of the 911 operators who hide from the watchful eye’s of supervisors who must admonish those who encourage him to tie up our lines.


Sanity through insanity.

Then one day you get promoted.

Your job is no longer to take the calls for help, but to help others learn and become better at taking those calls for help. You no longer get to talk to Richard. You must now become the one that disallows Richard’s tomfoolery. But strangely, you miss talking to him.

Time passes, then one day you reminisce about the days you talked to Richard and the fun you weren’t supposed to be having with him.

Admittedly a little envious of those who still enjoy his occasional calls.

Remembering when you had fun by transferring him to a co-worker without them knowing just to get a quick laugh to create a momentary break in the madness.

You laugh and you remember and you relate.

You ask your co-worker if they have gotten any calls from him lately.

Then that co-worker tells you that Richard died some time ago and is surprised you hadn’t heard.


Posted in: Life