Nature of Emergency

(by Lance Erlick)

They come without warning.

Wendy wakes. By grayish light from her bedroom window, she sees she’s surrounded by ants. Their sting is beyond annoying. They cover her arms and legs, over and under her sheets, on the walls, and even the ceiling. She brushes ants from her arms and her face, but they keep coming. She looks longingly at her bedroom door. It, too, is covered. She realizes the grayness is from trails of ants crossing her window, blocking the new day. Carefully, she reaches for her trusty landline and dials 911. She waits seven rings.

A soft, sugary Voice answers: What is the nature of your Emergency?

Wendy: I’m surrounded by ants. They’re stinging me all over.

Voice: I need your name, ma’am.

Wendy: Can’t you just send someone over. Please, hurry.

Voice: Your name, ma’am.

Wendy: Wendy Williams. Now hurry.

Voice: I need your social security number, ma’am.

Wendy: You don’t need a social security number to send help. Now hurry.

Voice: Getting upset won’t bring help, ma’am. Your social security number, please.

Wendy: Why do you need a social security number to send help?

Voice: The volume of calls, ma’am. We need to verify that you are who you say you are. This will only take a minute.

Wendy: I don’t think I have that long.

Voice: Then please provide your social security number.

Wendy: I want to speak with your supervisor.

There is a click and a tinny voice answers: Your name, ma’am.

Wendy: I already gave that. Wendy Williams.

Voice 2: Your social security number, ma’am.

Feeling desperate, Wendy gives it. Now can you send someone?

Voice: Please verify your address, ma’am.

Wendy: Don’t you have that from the phone records?

Voice: Ma’am, do you want help?

Wendy provides the address. Now how will you send help? They’re swarming me and outside my window.

Voice: We’ll move as quickly as we can, ma’am.

Wendy: Please hurry.

The phone goes dead. Ants continue to bite as Wendy tries to find a safe haven. She tip-toes across her bedroom, opens the door and finds ants covering every surface in the hallway.

#  #  #

The call center is quiet. Three operators on the floor covered with ants have stopped thrashing. A phone buzzes. After seven rings, a sweet Voice answers: What is the nature of your Emergency?

The caller sounds desperate: Please hurry.

Lights from the automated system blink on autopilot.