this is part of as days pass by, by Stuart Langridge

I managed to ring 999 the other day. Not deliberately. I was trying to untwist the phone cable, and I obviously leant on the button. I heard that scratchy noise you hear from phones not next to your ear, or from someone else's Walkman on the bus, so I listened to the phone and heard "999, is there anyone there?" I think it had been 10 or 20 seconds before I realised. I apologised profusely for wasting their time and hung up. But before I did that, I couldn't help noticing that the woman's voice was nothing short of bored. Now, she was right to be bored on this particular occasion; I was a timewaster (although not a malicious one). But she sounded just that hacked off and uninterested before I'd spoken a word. She had no idea why I wasn't speaking. I might have been trapped under something or be fighting my attacker for the phone. I admit that answering phones all day is not a very exciting job. But surely about the worst thing that someone in serious trouble can hear is a bored and lackadasical voice that clearly couldn't give a toss about their problem?

© Aquarius, March 2002