My Greatest Fear #29: Accidentally Dialing 9-1-1

Mom showing me how many fingers 9-1-1 is.

I’m not sure if other people had the 911 talk with their parents when they were kids. Nor am I sure that my talk went anything like the following. In fact, I’m pretty sure it didn’t. But this is the impression it made on me:

Dad: Jamey, your mom and I need to talk to you about how to use the phone in an emergency.

Jamey (looks up from Lego masterpiece): Okay Dad.

Mom (holding rotary phone): If anything bad ever happens at home and Mom and Dad can’t make it to the phone, you need to call 9-1-1.

Jamey: 9-1-1. Got it.

Dad: It might be a fire or tornado or those silent, bloodthirsty horses you sometimes have nightmares about. If any of those things happen, just call 9-1-1 and stay on the line as long as possible.

Mom: 9-1-1 is a very serious number to dial, Jamey. It is not a joke or a game. If you dial 9-1-1 and there is no emergency, you’ll be in big, big trouble.

Dad: Just so you know how to do this, dial 9-1-1 on this phone. But just pretend for the last 1 so you don’t accidentally dial the number.

Dad showing me how to dig a bunker.

Jamey: 9….1….

Dad: Good job!

Jamey: ….1

(stunned silence)

Mom: Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod.

Dad: Noooooooo!

Jamey: It’s okay! I hung up! It’s okay!

Mom (wild-eyed): It’s too late. They’ll be here any minute. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Dad: You know the drill. We’ve done this hundreds of times. I’ll get the wigs and passports. You get the crossbows. Jamey, go get your toothbrush and Koala.

Jamey: But I–

Me, ready to set out into the world after accidentally dialing 9-1-1. Koala is taking the photo.

Dad (shakes me by the shoulders): Now! There’s no time!

Mom: We’ll never make it. Maybe we can just explain that it was a mistake?

Dad (throws a chair through the nearest window): A mistake? 9-1-1 doesn’t care about mistakes. They’ll hunt us like animals!

Mom (applying warpaint): I know, I know.

Jamey (returns with Koala, toothbrush, and his Cabbage Patch doll): Are we having a sleepover?

Dad (grabs the Cabbage Patch doll): This was not in the inventory! We’re dead if we don’t travel light!

Jamey: Sorry, I just thought she’d be lonely.

Dad (gets glazed over look in eyes): Lonely? Son, you don’t know loneliness until you’ve slept among the wolves. You don’t know loneliness until the last man in your unit dies in your arms, his last wish fading into the morning dew. You will soon know loneliness, boy. And it will be your only company.

Jamey: I’ll always have Koala!

Dad (rips Koala open from the back seam): Inside of Koala we’ve stashed everything you need to survive–a hatchet, vitamin pills, a slingshot, and three Star Wars MicroMachines.

After months in the wild, I return with the strength of 10 men.

Mom (holding a rope ladder): Jamey, come. Out the window. You must run as far and fast as you can. You must live in the foothills of Virginia. If you make it that far. Your dad and I–we…we’ll fend them off as long as we can. And maybe, just maybe we’ll escape. We’ll assume new identities, move to Marrakesh.

Dad: When we know we’re safe, we’ll contact you.

Jamey: How will you know how to find me?

Mom: We’re your parents. We’ll know. Now go, before it’s too late!

Or something like that.

The point is, I sometimes almost dial 911. Maybe I’m dialing long distance at work, and I hit 9 instead of 8, and then 1, and then…what happens if my finger slips and I press the other 1? What if I forget that my cell phone keyboard is the opposite of my computer keyboard, and I mix up the numbers and dial 9-1-1? What then?

Good thing I still have Koala.

19 thoughts on “My Greatest Fear #29: Accidentally Dialing 9-1-1”

  1. That was one of the funniest things I have read in awhile. It was also really relatable…I can’t tell you the number of times I have preemptively put 911 in my phone (because I was walking somewhere alone and assumed that having 91 already in place would save my life from the manical hooligans following me) only to worry I would accidentally complete the call and a swat team would arrive at my house. Love this blog! Thanks!

    • Ha ha…thanks Caitlin! It occurred to me while I was writing it that other people may not have that fear, so I’m glad you share it. 🙂

  2. My stomach hurts from laughing at this and I literally almost peed my pants (and this time when I say “literally” I mean “In a literal manner or sense”).

    Your dad is an amazing man. To have both the foresight to conceal a hatchet in his young son’s stuffed animal and also the compassion to include some Star Wars MicroMachines shows the warmth, wisdom, and love a truly amazing father.

    Your mother was a young Lily Potter, placing herself between her son and danger. She seems fortunate then, by comparison, to have only had to spend a season of her life in Morocco. While I’m sure establishing a new identity while separated from her family was no walk in the bazaar, at least she did not die by the Dark Lord’s hand.

    Bravo Jamey, this is a story that must be told and you told it tellingly.

    My hope now is that JoshVision will tell us the story of how his parents had the 911 talk with him

    • Bryce–I’m delighted that I brought a little mirth to your evening.

      Indeed, my dad was wise to include both the hatchet and the MicroMachines. And if I’m correct, my mother served as JK Rowling’s inspiration for Lily Potter.

  3. Agreed, Bryce – awesome entry, Mr. Stegmaier. Can JoshVision even touch such a masterpiece? Perhaps one day, maybe even one day soon, we’ll find out…

  4. I had the same experience! I still live in mortal fear of accidentally dailing 9-1-1 and my current place of work constantly places me in peril because we have to dial 9, then 1 to dial long distance out of our building. What kind of HR sadist created that regulation?

    Awesome story too. I think my favorite picture is the bunker digging. You just look like, “Of course I’m digging a bunker, and I’m proud of it!” That whole line of pictures reminds me of the genre of movies where a kid is trained from a very young age to be a killer and only realizes that all of the other kids didn’t have to shoot their own breakfast after he puts the mental puzzle together as an adult. Well done, sir.

    • It is weird that so many companies dial out with 9, and then a 1 is immediately needed afterwards for a long-distance number. That decision set up tons of people for accidentally dialing 9-1-1.

      Ha ha…I’m glad you enjoyed the photo. And yes, that’s exactly the feel I was going for. Don’t all parents train kids that way?

  5. Our office had 9 as the number to dial out of the office system for years—so of course when you dial long distance you need to hit a 1 next… needless to say we had a number of mistaken dials to 911. They’re cool about the first one, just not 5+ in a few weeks. Apparently if you hang up right away, they still need to phone you back to make sure it’s not an emergency. We were getting a lot of annoyed all agency emails from the receptionist at the front desk about NOT dialing 911—and if you accidentally did, to stay on the line to let them know it was a mistake because otherwise she had to field the call from 911 since caller ID has one number for the agency no regardless of what extension it came from.

    Anyway, it became such a frequent problem that six months ago IT finally got around to switching the phone system so we now dial 8.

    • 5+ times in a few weeks! Wow. I’m glad you all were able to switch that. I assume that you all had a plan involving crossbows and Koalas whenever you accidentally dialed the number?

  6. humm…. I laughed too and could already keep focus, wanting to get to the next funny part.
    But your readers need to know the truth, the whole truth…. in a panic.. or an incident that may have required a 9-1-1 call…..
    here is the story (as I remember it)
    We left you home alone for the first time. You must have been… maybe 2 years old, maybe 12, or maybe 18 (whichever gets the best laugh)
    You apparently heard a noise outside and ran out the front door and down the driveway, we found you in the morning, crouched down in a ditch near the a neighbors driveway 🙂 🙂 (for the readers — we usually entered in the back door and our drive way is about 1/2 of a foot ball field long)
    Since this incident we have never left Jamey home alone again and we have found that he never needs a phone, his legs will carry him through the panic.

    • Ah, my first True Survival Story. I might have to write that one up on the blog sometime. Just to clarify to everyone–I wasn’t crouching in the ditch all night. Just for an hour or so.

      “Since this incident we have never left Jamey home alone again.” LOL. That made me laugh out loud, Mom. Well done. 🙂

  7. HAHAHA…best story ever! Even if it was a little embellished.

    Also, just thought you should know that you have 29 ‘greatest’ fears–they can’t all be the greatest Jamey. I know, semantics. 🙂

    • Ha ha…thanks Jen! Oh, and it’s my not-so-clever ongoing joke that I have so many weird paranoia that I consider each one to be my “greatest” fear, even though you can only have one “greatest” of anything. 🙂

      • Also, Jamey, I didn’t know your dad was the original hipster. Trucker hat, check, plaid shirt check, puffy vest, check. Does he listen to indie music too? 😛

        • Jen–You’re totally right!!! I can’t believe I didn’t see that. My dad, the original hipster…wow. My whole family is going to get a kick out of that.

          He’s more of a country fan, though. 🙂


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