This tale is not told from the perspective of someone in a call center, rather it is that of someone who is calling in to a call center and getting someone who is clearly at the end of a very, very long day.
The events described here took place the winter before last towards the very end of the season, this may have actually been the last day that it was super dangerous to be on the roads while it was precipitating out.
I was at my friend’s house two states away when I decided the weather had gotten bad enough that I should probably head home if I didn’t want to stay the night. The roads weren’t all that terrible until I actually made it onto the interstate, and then my driving experience got INCREDIBLY spicy.
I drive a Honda Civic, (simmer down car people, my civic is very much stock and I have been known to use blinkers and am not typically prone to driving like I’ve got a death wish) which is NOT a car you really ever want to drive in snowy conditions. I feel like the first flake hits the ground and I instantly will lose traction and start fishtailing all over the place. (Yes, I know they’re not bad if you put winter tires on, but I hadn’t that winter because I usually just don’t drive and couldn’t afford a second set of tires.)
Knowing myself and knowing the road conditions, I pretty much kept it to as fast as I felt was safe to operate in, which likely averaged somewhere around 30mph. Much faster than that and it was a question of when I’d lose control, not if. The roads were just that bad. Much to my dismay after about 10 minutes of driving in this winter wonderland I notice a pair of headlights approaching from behind. Quite rapidly. Like, alarmingly rapidly. I don’t actually know how fast this nincompoop was actually going, but I want to say it was normal highway speeds with an inch an hour of snow coming down. Not a good scene, but there’s not a lot I can do besides tighten my seat belt and hope he passes by.
Alas, I was almost that lucky. The red capped pickup truck that possessed the headlights closing in on me was in my lane, and decided I was going entirely too slow despite moving with traffic. So he changed to the left lane and zipped right past me, then popped back over into my lane once he’d passed me. Except he didn’t change lanes, he started spinning like a top. In traffic. In the snow.
I wound up standing on my brakes hoping he wouldn’t hit me, and I narrowly avoided a collision and thankfully didn’t lose traction. Unfortunately for another nearby vehicle this idjit almost saved it, and when it was pointed mostly in the correct direction wound up catching just enough traction to launch forwards into a car ahead of me and to my right. Which then started a chain reaction, with four or five cars in a pile in the breakdown lane.
I believe I said something pithy like, “Holy shit!” before dialing 911, because you know, that’s what 911 is for. Immediately got a lady who sounded like she needed a meal and a nap pronto.
“911, please state the nature of your emergency”
“Hi, I would like to report a multiple car accident on the highway between exit 6 and exit 7.”
“Just a moment sir, can you please spell your first and last name?”
(My last name is the bane of anyone trying to pronounce it without a hint, and everyone needs me to spell it at least twice before they’re sure it’s in correctly)
“It’s OP, I wasn’t involved in this accident, I just saw it. It looked pretty bad, you might want to …”
“Just a moment sir, can you please provide the mile marker where the accident is located?”
(It was at this point I started counting to 30 by 3s)
“I have no idea what the mile marker is, I just saw the accident. It’s between exit 6 and exit 7 southbound.”
“What do you mean you don’t know what the mile marker is? They’re on signs! Well, fine. What are the makes and models of the vehicles involved in the car accident?”
“I don’t know, I saw a red pickup and some other vehicles. I’m not a car guy, I couldn’t tell you. I really think you need to get an ambul..”
“Just a moment sir, were you involved in the accident?”
“No, but it looked pretty bad and…”
“Just a moment sir, do you know the names of the people involved in the accident?”
“I have no FUCKING idea, but I’m sure if you sent a state trooper between those two exits they might be able to find out. Tell them to look for the five car pileup on the right shoulder of the highway.”
It was at this moment I heard what can best be described as an indignant squawk, followed by a gasp of inbound breath. Then a weird click and someone else came on the phone.
“Hello sir, I apologize, this is a manager. Can you please repeat what you said?”
“I saw a five car pileup on the right shoulder of the southbound highway between exit 6 and exit 7.”
It was at this point I started hearing someone SCREECHING in the background, “HE CANT TALK TO ME THAT WAY! HE SWORE AT ME!”
Manager assures me that the police have been notified and help is on the way and thanks me for my report.
I’ve worked in a call center, I know the drill. I will very infrequently swear in an official or professional context, and I hate it when people do that. When someone’s doing their level best to help you, they don’t deserve profanity. I’m sure this lady meant well, and I don’t doubt she’d filed numerous crash reports that day, and was probably really tired of trying to piece the details she needed for that report from frantic people who were just in accidents and not necessarily coherent. But when you’re working for 911 and you insist on going line by line without pausing to let the person calling complete a sentence, you really can’t get THAT mad when someone uses profanity in a sentence, especially when it’s used for emphasis that’s not directed at you.