Sunday, January 13, 2013

Who You Gonna Call [in a non-emergency situation]? - The Many Uses of 3-1-1

There comes a moment in every Baltimorean's life when you think, "I should probably inform the cops of what I just saw, but I don't think it's an emergency."  You sit and ponder for a few minutes, potentially aghast depending on what you just saw, and either dial 911 or shrug and walk away, ignoring all civic obligation.

This past summer when my sister came to visit, some lovely citizen decided to baptize me in the waters of Baltimore and broke into my car.  Or, they broke my window, shuffled around my old receipts and broken FM adapter, only to decide there was nothing worth taking.  I almost want to write a letter and tape it to my car:

Dearest Potential Thief;
Some things of note in my car:
-Jumper cables.  They're in the trunk.  
-Resuable bags.  Enjoy the fun ones for wine - there should be two, allowing you to carry up to 12 bottles of your choosing!  The other bags are great for grabbing produce from the market, or just saving some plastic trees at Safeway.
-Expired insurance cards in the glove compartment.
-My mother always taught me to save my gas receipts and write the mileage on the top of them, so you'll find those in the glove compartment, too.  While you're there, please tell me what my MPG looks like.  Highway vs city, if it's not too much of a pain.
-Gum wrappers and some bobby pins are in that little plastic thing next to the steering wheel.  I recommend using the empty gum wrappers for blotting lipstick, in a pinch!
-The center console is where the good stuff is.  There's a broken FM adapter, a finicky iPhone charger, and some epic cds from days past.  Enjoy such gems as Hootie and the Blowfish, the soundtrack to Friends (each song ends in an audio snippet from the show!), some early 2000 salsa mix cds, and angsty high school mixes with The Smiths, Velvet Underground and Elliot Smith.  You can't handle this level of emo, Potential Thief.  If my Sopranos soundtrack cd is in there, please leave it.  It's wonderful.

I have no GPS and make a point of leaving nothing truly valuable in here.  If you enjoy collecting dog fur, I point you in the direction of the backseat.  If none of these things appeal to you, I implore you to move elsewhere and leave my windows intact.
Yours in legality,

So I'm standing on the sidewalk, half shocked that my window is broken, half irritated that my morning market adventure is being delayed by this incredibly inconsiderate person.  I call my friends to tell them my sister and I going to be late.
"Did you call the cops?" they ask.
"It's not an emergency.  I can't justify calling 9-1-1 for them to come out to look at a ghetto Toyota with a broken window."
"No, call 3-1-1.  It's the nonemergency line."

I had no idea this was even a thing, so I call it.  They ask me for my name, address, location of whatever it is I'm calling in, and tell me to sit tight until a cop arrives.  He comes, looks bored out of his mind because documenting a broken window in Mount Vernon on a Sunday morning just isn't what he had in mind when he walked across the stage at the Police Academy, and hands me the necessary paperwork.

My window got replaced at no cost because my insurance is magical.  I've changed none of my habits in terms of what I leave in my car, and I just acknowledge that when you park on the street, eventually someone will get bored and smash in your windows.  It's how you learn to love those Baltimore diamonds.

3-1-1 is so much more versatile than a broken window, though.  A coworker of mine was telling me about the time she was walking her dog one morning, and found a dead body in the park.  Ah, Baltimore.  Nothing says, "Good morning, Baltimore!" like a corpse. My coworker went through the same thought process as I had.  He was already dead, so it wasn't an emergency per say. The solution? 3-1-1!  They told her they would send some cops over to investigate, and could determine the severity from there.  Other times if you call 3-1-1, they'll make the executive decision that you are in fact in an emergency and transfer you over.

3-1-1 is magical.  You never know when you'll need to report something suspicious, stolen, etc.  Hopefully you never will, but for those "just-in-case" moments, 3-1-1 is there for you.

Note: For all emergencies, please dial 9-1-1.  If safety and lives are on the line, it is definitely an emergency.

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