Friday, October 26, 2012

What's The Number For 911?

A week ago, I had an “incident” with my truck as I headed out to watch the St. Louis Cardinals try to clinch Game 5 of the National League Championship Series – which in itself became a disaster. Chiefly, the engine caught fire. In most situations, I am typically calm and collected when it comes to assessing a situation and implementing a plan of action. While I feel I maintained that nature this time as well, it still scared the ever livin’ out of me. Anxiously stunned as I quickly exited my truck to a safe distance, I also had a momentary lapse for the number to dial – ingrained since childhood – in case of emergency.

Once I managed to recall it, this is how it basically went down:

911 Operator:  911. What’s the emergency?
911 Operator:  Okay sir, what is the address?
911 Operator [barely audible, speaking to another person]: Let’s see, that’s this district. Isn’t it?
911 Operator:  Okay sir, I’m going to connect you.

Okay, so maybe not completely calm. Don’t know why I was screaming into my phone. I’m certain the emergency operator could hear me fine, and there was very little background noise around me. Other than its initial and unremitting declaration, the fire
likely electrical in nature otherwise was silent on the matter.

Photo Credit:  "Bystander" with camera phone

First on the scene were two Creve Coeur police officers, who promptly blocked off the street. Fortunately, I was still on a side street of the intersection rather then the main one, thus mitigating traffic problems. There were still the occasional idiots who failed to comprehend two police cars, a fire truck – all with their lights flashing – and a truck on fire.

Police Officer:  You’re the owner?
Me:  Yes, yes I am.
Police Officer:  And what happened?
Me:  Was just pulling up to the intersection, truck stalled and then flames and smoke started billowing out from under the hood. I immediately jumped out, called 911.
Police Officer:  And was anyone else in the vehicle?
Me:  No, just me.
Police Officer [noting my Bob Gibson jersey]:  You weren’t headed to the game, were you?
Me:  No, just headed out to watch it.

As we waited and watched the Creve Coeur firefighters arrive, calmly setup and extinguish the fire, all I could do was laugh. I thought about getting some marshmallows from Walgreens, perhaps toast s’mores or something over the impromptu bonfire. Though most items in the passenger compartment were expendable, my thoughts turned to my music CDs. Five years earlier, they had survived a car accident; given the flames, I was less confident they would survive intact this time. They did. (Good luck charm, perhaps?)

Photo Credit:  "Me"

Then came the $143 tow…that went half-a-mile back to my residence. Yep, $143 for half-a-mile. This included the initial tow fee, plus scene cleanup labor – which, in most cases, typically is charged to the municipality – and fuel surcharge totaling $40. No longer laughing, I, like my truck, was now angrily on fire. I considered calling 911 again, this time to report highway robbery. Though the police had kindly called the tow company, I could have called one of my two usual – either D&L Towing or Doc’s Towing – for half or lesser than the price McNamara Towing extorted from me on the spot.

Government entities commonly favor and contract with certain companies, largely thanks to “charitable” (i.e. political) donations to the municipality from them. Yet, it immediately brought to mind the towing and impound scandal involving S&H/Metropolitan Towing and the St. Louis City Police Department a few years ago. Accordingly, I immediately contacted the towing company, the city’s public relations manager and the police chief on the matter. As I figured, none so far have responded to my inquiries.

Guess it’s not that big of an emergency.

©2012 Steve Sagarra