TITLE: Then Ted Ate Erica
Late October, that sort of L.A. evening that claws at your throat: grit in the air, gritted smiles. Drivers caged in their cars to protect one from the other. Station attendants who would just as soon toss a lighted match in your tank as to fill it with gasoline.
"I'm calling for an ambulance." Soft-spoken, matter-of-fact, no trace of panic.
"Sir, what's the nature of your emergency?" I asked.
"I need an ambulance."
"Fourteen hundred Tipton Road."
"My crew's got to gear up. Can you describe your problem?"
"You get here soon. My name's Jiffy."
The line went dead. Even before being called to the phone, I had my first clue to the oncoming disaster: he rang up the admissions desk in the emergency room. In times of crisis, most folk dial 911. These exchanges are recorded and, in criminal cases, anything the speaker says can and does get used as evidence. The paranoid and the lawbreakers, all those who game the system, invent dodges around this, including contacting lines inside the hospital.
Beyond that, in an authentic cry for help, the first words uttered speak to the nature of the crisis. The urgency and drama of the incident, the distress and anguish and the fact the caller has connected to someone who can help—these merge in a shrill desperation: "I've been shot," or, "I'm having chest pains," or, "My kid is barfing blood." The suffering is conveyed even before places and names.
The clincher: I recognized this address.