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