What is Your Emergency? A Night at the Theatre

“Hi! This is Dorothy! We are happy you’ve joined us for this performance of The Wiz here at the historic Ford Theatre. We are about to begin our performance. Please silence your cell phones.” The yellow brick road wanderer’s voice blows through the intimate theatre’s audience.

Shuffle, shuffle, zip, whisper, mutter, squeak. The hushed sounds of the crowds double-checking phones fills the silence after Dorothy’s voice fades.

This was before the phone “situation.” Yes, that’s Pres Lincoln’s box in the background.

I won’t just set my phone to vibrate, I think to myself. I’ll turn it all the way off. I’d recently read some iPhone tips. How to access my emergency contact info. Call 911. View information about any life-threatening allergies or illnesses. And turn the phone off.


Thoughts of pushing a few buttons in sequence to turn my phone off crawl through my mind like so many words across the evening news screen.

I pull my phone from my purse and begin pushing side buttons.

Three clicks. My screen inverts the colors.

No, I don’t want that.

Three more clicks to reset the screen. OK.

Was it five clicks? Six? Both side buttons? Hold one button for ten seconds? Or was it ten clicks?

Unsure, I try a bunch of clicks in sequence. At that moment, the theatre lights dim.

I glance at the stage. Lights come up on Dorothy’s house in Kansas, center stage.

Suddenly my phone emits a blaring whoop whoop whoop alarm sound just as the crowd begins to quiet down. When I look back down at my phone screen, it’s counting down.

10… 9… 8… 7…

OMFG. What is happening? I frantically tap the screen.

“I think I’m calling 911!” I whisper to Wendy, seated at my side. I continue tapping and holding the side buttons.

6… 5… 4…

The sound of the Kansas wind begins, quietly at first, through the speakers. My phone still blares its alarm.

Messages pop on the screen that start with the words, “Cancel (words I can’t read because I’m freaking out)” and “Stop (more words I don’t read either).”

Stop! Cancel! Cancel! I think. I hit “Cancel.” Or am I hitting “Stop?” Why are those choices so similar?

Seeing these choices–now–makes it seem simple. #Stressfulsituation (Photo Credit: howtoitz.com because I was afraid to capture screen shots myself, even while having a calm moment.)

I’m emitting an unconscious frightened stream of whispers. The Kansas wind roars. So does my phone alarm.

“Go!” Wendy whispers, grabbing my arm and shoving me past her towards the aisle. I look down at my phone as I climb the stairs.

The phone screen is black. The siren sound has stopped.

I hesitate on the stairs. Did I actually hang up the call?

My heart is thumping as loud as the howling Kansas wind.

Behind me, the first musical number begins.

Suddenly, the phone vibrates in my hand. An area code 202 number. I resume climbing the stairs. I swipe my finger across the screen and bring the phone to my ear.

“Hello?” I have to whisper-yell over the theatre noise. The operator can definitely hear the music. Now I’m hustling up the carpeted steps.

“This is DC Emergency services. We received a call from this phone number. Are you experiencing an emergency?”

My shame, heavy, “No. I called by accident!” I whisper-shout. “I’m sorry. There is no emergency.”

“All right. Have a good night, ” she replies over the stage music. I imagine she is rolling her eyes. She ends the call.

Heart still thumping, I lower the phone and turn back towards the stage. I whoosh out a breath that mixes with the Kansas wind and ease on down the stairs to my seat.

2 thoughts on “What is Your Emergency? A Night at the Theatre

Add yours

  1. Sorry to laugh at your expense, but I’m laughing. ;0 That said, I’m sure you’re not the first person who has done this and won’t be the last. Thus why they were so understanding. And, how was The Wiz? I wanted to go see it, but timing just didn’t work out. I love that play!

    1. Glad you laughed. It was quite the moment. We enjoyed the show very much! I’m sure the 911 operators are getting tons of calls every time Apple changes its procedures for automatically calling 911. I hope the auto feature is also saving lives, not just irritating emergency operators!

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