Latest entry in the national routine

Via an email, I learned about a fascinating incident in which a woman called 911 because a McDonalds restaurant had run out of Chicken McNuggets:

ARCH 3--Angered that her local McDonald's was out of Chicken McNuggets, a Florida woman called 911 three times to report the fast food "emergency." Latreasa Goodman, 27, last Saturday called police to complain that a cashier--citing a McDonald's all sales are final policy--would not give her a refund. When cops responded to the restaurant, Goodman told them, "This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn't have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don't want one." Goodman noted, "I called 911 because I couldn't get a refund, and I wanted my McNuggets," according to the below Fort Pierce Police Department report. That logic, however, did not keep cops from citing Goodman for misusing the 911 system. Even after being issued a misdemeanor citation, Goodman contended, "this is an emergency, my McNuggets are an emergency."
The story also notes that another man had called 911 to complain about his displeasure with a Burger King combo meal. Depending on how stoned the employees are, my local burrito joint has been known to short me on the meat -- one time after I had already hit the tipjar! I didn't think that was an emergency, but that only reveals my cultural biases. I was not raised to think of my incidental desires as needs -- much less as akin to life and death matters. Silly me.

While this woman's conduct in calling 911 would seem indefensible by most people's standards, there are a lot of "emergencies" that aren't emergencies at all. Not only are hospital emergency rooms often used for routine health care (forcing those with emergencies to stand in line), but so are ambulances. Unharmed but litigious people will often demand ambulances when they are in ordinary fender-bender accidents, simply because they know it will make the case look better to an attorney. This reminds me of the time a friend was leaving a Philadelphia parking lot and a woman suddenly slammed herself against the front of his car and screamed that she'd been "hit." Through pure luck, a police officer witnessed the whole thing, and told the woman she was out of luck, but she remained adamant, and demanded an ambulance. (And believe it or not, that cop was required by department policy to call her an ambulance, simply because she demanded it. Fortunately for my friend, she never sued, probably because no lawyer was sleazy enough to take her case.)

The word "emergency" is almost as misused as the words "war" or "crisis." Things are so bad that as Mark Steyn observed recently, this country is living in a "permanent state of routine emergency."

Steyn isn't kidding. While so many different types of problems have been called emergencies that I couldn't list them all, here are a few selected, um, nuggets:

  • According to Barbra Streisand, we are in a global warming emergency.
  • Autism is a national emergency. (As I'm sure are countless diseases.)
  • The current state of US math education is a national emergency
  • The lack of awareness throughout America about the nature and impact of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation is a national emergency.
  • It is a National Emergency to have no domestic manufacturing of Vitamin C!
  • And this man makes a good argument that his student loan is a national emergency and demands a federal bailout.
  • Is it so much to ask that a Chicken McNuggets shortage be included in the national routine?

    And if it isn't an emergency, I think it's only fair that we at least call it a crisis.

    After all, we wouldn't want to damage anyone's self esteem.

    posted by Eric on 03.03.09 at 02:15 PM


    "no lawyer was sleazy enough to take her case"

    She was just too lazy to look very hard.

    Whitehall   ·  March 3, 2009 3:51 PM

    If McDonalds took her money for McNuggets, and then failed to provide said nuggets, and kept her money, then they were at the minimum in breach of contract, and possibly stealing from her.

    Brian   ·  March 4, 2009 11:49 AM

    I called 911 from a pay phone (mind you, this was a long time ago, when pay phone were common) to report a car travelling on the wrong side of the highway (opposite the flow of traffic) and at a high rate of speed, and was told that it wasn't an emergency!

    Robert   ·  March 4, 2009 3:19 PM

    I recently called 911 due to slip of the fingers. Clearly wrong numbers are a national emergency.

    Joseph Hertzlinger   ·  March 5, 2009 1:00 AM

    see, you can't depend on the McNuggets -- when in doubt, obey the Big Mac attack

    coffee   ·  March 5, 2009 11:41 PM

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