Calling 811

Day’s Verse:
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
Matthew 5:9

Since we’re going to be using an excavator next weekend, I decided it was probably a good idea to call 811 and have them mark the buried lines in our back yard. I’m fairly sure there’s nothing back there, but it’s better to be actually sure. This does seem to be a “shutting the barn door after the horse is gone” situation, since we already dug the French drain trench without checking; applying another idiom, though, “better late than never.”

So I called 811. First thing you hear is an automated message: “You have reached 811. If you meant to call 911, please hang up and try again.” How disappointing would it be to try to call for emergency services, and end up having somebody asking where you’re going to be digging?

Not long after, they had another recorded menu that started with, “If this is an emergency, press 9.” I struggled to imagine an emergency situation such that you’d call 811 and then press 9, but I mostly failed. The only thing I came up with was a gas leak scenario like the one in Seattle on Monday, but in that case it seems like you’d know to call — oh, say, actual 911 and/or your gas company.

Anyway, later in the call, I got yet another recorded message: “The center experiences extremely high call volumes on Mondays. If you are calling at the beginning of the week, you may experience longer-than-normal hold times.” It sounds like long wait times are normal if it’s so predictable they include a pre-recorded warning about it. Just a thought.

Eventually I did work my way through the abundance of automated menus to speak to a real person, and got everything set up. (The person was in Wisconsin — I know because I asked. She sounded so monotonal and bored when she first answered that I felt bad, as if the job was turning her into a robot. While her computer worked, I chatted with her about the weather in Wisconsin and asked if she dreamed about asking call center questions, all in an attempt to help her break from the tedium of asking the same thing over and over again, ad nauseum. When we finished, I told her she had done an excellent job and it had been a wonderful call, and she hung up with a smile in her voice.)

For a while, though, I was afraid that I’d entered a Prairie Home Companion On Hold experience. Tarantula!