Crazy Callers, Part 2

CALL #1

Racist Lady: I’m in a nursing home in Staten Island, and I need your help. There are Arabics working here. When I was younger I was abducted by an Arabic and forced to marry him. I luckily escaped from him but I know these Arabics are out to get me.

Me: Have they done anything to threaten you?

RL: No, but they will, because they are Arabics. All Arabics know each other. I can tell they are out to get me.

Me: But they haven’t done anything to hurt or threaten you.

RL: No, but I can hear them talking in their own language. I’m sure they are talking about me and what they’re going to do to me.

Me: Ma’am, if they haven’t done anything to you, we can’t do anything to help.

RL: But they’re going to get me! I know they are plotting!

Me: Maybe you should change nursing homes.

RL: I can’t. They will find me there too. Arabics are everywhere. You need to help me.

Me: We can’t do anything to help you. If you feel like your life is in danger, you should call the police.

RL: Okay. I’ll call the police.

 

CALL #2

(This took place the day after New Year’s Day)

Garbage Guy: I’m calling because I didn’t get my garbage collected yesterday. You didn’t say anything on the news about garbage collection being suspended.

Me: Sir, yesterday was a holiday. I’m pretty sure they don’t collect on New Year’s Day.

GG: Well there’s garbage everywhere! No one told me there wasn’t collection.

Me: They never collect on holidays. Hold on, let me check.

(Within five seconds I googled and found that garbage collection had been suspended the previous day)

Me: I just checked. There was no collection yesterday because of the holiday.

GG: Well, you didn’t say that on the news!

Me: I’m sure we did. We always announce that stuff. Maybe you just missed it.

GG: No, that’s not right! You didn’t say it! And now there’s garbage everywhere! Next time you have to say it!

(The guy had started screaming by this point…so I decided not to tell him that it’s not the news’s job to tell him when to put out his garbage, and that he could have checked himself by looking it up)

Me: Okay, thank you, goodbye.

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Crazy Callers, An Ongoing Series

When I first started working in the field, a coworker gave me a great piece of advice.

As we were sitting in our office in Staten Island, the phone rang. It wasn’t our extension. It was some weird line that had a 718 area code.

I went to pick it up, and the coworker stopped me.

“Don’t pick that up,” she said.

“Why not?”

She shuddered, “That’s the tip line. I never pick up the tip line.”

Turns out the number is the one that plays after our segment airs. Anyone can call in. But half the time, the people are actually certifiable. You never know what psycho has memorized the number and decided to call in.

Recently I’ve been filling in as a researcher, which means many things, but mostly that I have to pick up the tip line. It is literally part of the job description.

So, I have decided to do a series of posts about all the crazy calls I have received while picking up the tip line. Here’s part 1:

CALL #1

A few days after Paul Walker died, we were running a story about the crash investigation. A woman called our tip line (which specifically plays after the Queens, Staten Island, and Bergen County news) about the story. The conversation went like this:

Crazy Lady: I saw that the guy from the Fast and Furious died. Which guy was it?

Me: Paul Walker.

CL: The bald guy?

Me: No, the other guy.

CL: Which other guy?

Me: The blond guy. The other main character.

CL: Oh, so not the bald guy?

Me: Not the bald guy.

CL: Oh because I thought it was the bald guy. They showed the picture.

Me: They showed a picture of Paul Walker.

CL: Okay. How did he die?

(By this point I wanted to scream “DIDN’T YOU WATCH THE STORY???” but I remained calm.)

Me: A car crash.

CL: Oh yes, that’s right. It’s terrible. Can you give me more details about that.

Me: I’m sorry, I didn’t cover that story. I only know what we’ve covered.

CL: So you don’t have any more information.

Me: No, we’re getting all our information from national news sources. You can look it up on CNN if you’re interested. It happened in LA and we’re in New York, so we’re getting everything from national sites.

CL: Oh, okay. It’s such a shame. I really liked that guy who died.

(I wanted to yell “YOU DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHO HE WAS FIVE SECONDS AGO” but didn’t)

CALL #2

Insane Woman: I just saw a story about a cop that was arrested in Staten Island. What was he arrested for?

Me: Extortion.

IW: I left my young son in daycare on Staten Island today. I’m worried that he’s in danger from the cop.

Me: Well, the extortion took place in Queens, so you really don’t need to worry.

IW: But what if the cop is still out there? And dangerous?

Me: Ma’am, he’s been arrested.

(I wanted to add that extortion doesn’t really pose a physical danger to young children)

IW: So in your opinion, should I go pick up my son from daycare?

Me: He’s not in danger from the cop. The cop isn’t on the street anymore. He’s been arrested. He’s in court right now.

IW: Okay, if you think he’s safe, I won’t go get him.

CALL #3

Me: Hello, how can I help you.

Whacko: I’m in the hospital and they aren’t serving me tasty food. The food is absolutely disgusting here. It’s inedible. I told them I won’t eat it, but they keep bringing it to me and I said I won’t eat it but they don’t stop. I wanted them to bring me chicken but they brought me some slop and I have diabetes and this is not food and I hate it. I hate the food here. I’ve been here a week and the food is awful and I can’t even eat it.

(He went on for about 5 minutes without taking a breath, but I’ll spare you for now)

Me: I’m sorry, there isn’t anything I can do.

Whacko: Okay (hangs up)

Crazies

There are several types of crazy people. And in this business, you get to deal with all of them.

There are intense crazies. People who insist their story is super important, even though it’s not. People who call you repeatedly, begging you to cover their event.

There are angry crazies, who scream and yell until they get their way. Sometimes these people are also intense crazies.

And then there are just crazy crazies. I encounter these people alarmingly often.

Yesterday, I was walking to a shoot, holding my camera and tripod. A man walked by me, looked at me, and growled like a dog.

This isn’t the first time this has happened.

In one of my earliest assignments, I was sent to a really bad neighborhood right around dusk. Half the cars I drove by had flat or slashed tires and broken windows. It was so bad that I had to make the uncomfortable decision of whether to take my valuables with me, because I thought if I left them in the car, the car might be stolen or broken into. If I took them with me, I might get mugged. I decided to lock them in the trunk but take my cell phone to call for help if needed.

As I was walking to my shoot, a man walked past me. Suddenly, he turned and started barking at me. I wasn’t sure if it was some type of mating call or possibly a warning that he was about to attack. In case of the latter, I held my tripod out as if it were a weapon. That’s really one of the few upsides to having to carry it around everywhere–it serves well as a defense mechanism.

He finally continued down the street, deciding not to pursue me. I dashed off to my shoot, feeling grateful that I had not been attacked by a crazy person.

Besides menacing crazies, there are also friendly crazies. One time I was getting interviews and this woman who I asked for an interview spent 20 minutes talking to me (while holding my hand in a death grip) about how she was homeless, but god had a plan for her. Also she had started an Indiegogo campaign to get herself out of poverty, and she wanted me to put it on the news. She also went on a rant for about 10 minutes about how even though we had different skin colors, we were all of one blood, and that I was her sister.

After a while, it got pretty old. But at least she didn’t growl or bark at me, so I appreciated that.