Opinion: Don’t call (or text), in case of emergency


This story was inspired by an actual event. The names have not been changed.

It was about 3 a.m. when my wife Mary Ellen nudged me and asked, “Are you having a medical emergency?”

I was sleeping peacefully, enjoying a great dream. I was a bit woozy.

“Who are you?” I asked Mary Ellen. “And where is Margot Robbie?”

“Very funny. Dick, I just got a text on my cellphone that you called for emergency assistance. I didn’t see the message right away. Are you OK?”

I looked at my phone and sure enough there was a call to 911. Then suddenly I received another text from Nettie, our longtime housekeeper.

“Dick, it’s Nettie. Are you OK? I just got an alert on my phone that you were having some kind of crisis.”

I texted back: “In what kind of crisis would I need you?”

“I thought maybe you spilled something on the rug when you went for a late-night snack and didn’t want Mary Ellen to see it in the morning.”

My wife and I were very perplexed as to why Nettie even got the alert. Then another text arrived. It was from Patty Spitler, my former co-host years ago on WISH-TV and a well- known TV personality.

“Are you OK, Dick? “She asked. “I just got a 911 alert that you were having some serious problems. Do you need help with an ad-lib or a funny last line for your column? Can’t this wait till the morning?”

I apologized to Patty and told her it was a false alarm. Then a final text. This time from my brother in New York who drives for Uber. The emergency text had awakened him.

“Dick, it’s Peter. If it’s a real emergency, I can be there in 12 hours, but that’s going to run you about 1,500 bucks and I refuse to come back light (this is cab-talk for having no passenger on the return trip).

Mary Ellen finally agreed to remain a contact, but it took a little convincing and an expensive dinner out. My brother was too far away and much too expensive. Nettie was a possibility, but she’s only available on the third Tuesday of each month.

So, who made that emergency call? Apparently, I had accidentally clicked the emergency button on the bottom left corner of my iPhone just before I dozed off.

If Mary Ellen had not gotten back to them, I am sure I would have had a police car, an ambulance and a firetruck in front of my house in no time.

I am still missing two emergency contacts. Patty said I could put her back on the list after she retires. At the rate she’s going, I don’t think I’ll live that long.