Much Ado about Toothpaste

Remember the saying “Truth is stranger than fiction”? We have living proof.

Last Thursday a transportation/timing issue required that I (Diana) take the boys to school, while Lyle escorted us to the Metro and continued onto the little town of Pushkin to teach. Being 8 am, we decided to let Lydia stay home. We’ve been gradually increasing her independence by allowing her to cross the street alone or stay “in charge” while I run to the neighborhood grocery. We thought this would be another
opportunity to stretch her wings, and she was nervous, but excited.

“I’ll just call and check in,” I said upon arriving at the Metro. I’d been gone only 20 minutes. Lydia answered the phone — in tears!

Me: Calm down, Lydia. What’s the matter?
Lydia: I called America!
Me: What?
Lydia: I called emergency in America!!
Me: What?

I spent the 3-minute ride down the Metro escalator deciphering the problem. We have 2 phones and 2 lines – a green phone usually connected to a Russian line and a white phone usually connected to a Vonage (VOIP) line through the Internet that uses our old home number from Virgina. We had swapped them, and Lydia had picked up the right (green) phone, but got the wrong line.

The conversation continued.
Me: Calm down. That’s OK, honey. Just hang up the phone.
Lydia: I can’t. The lady won’t let me.
Me: What lady?
Lydia: The emergency 9-1-1 lady.
Me: Lydia, just hang up. (I figured I’d sort this out later.)
Lydia: OK.
She hangs up; the phone rings her back.

Lydia panics: It’s still ringing!!
Me: Pull the cord out of the phone.
Lydia, calmer: OK. It stopped ringing.
Me: Do you need me to come home now?
Lydia: No.
Me: Are you sure?
Lydia: Yes. I’m fine now. 

And she was.


I called back several times en route to the boys’ school and back. At this point, dear reader, you must be wondering: How did Lydia call the 9-1-1 operator in America? Guess what the first three digits of the cell number were?

Yep. 9-1-1

Once the well-trained 9-1-1 operator heard a young girl’s voice, she must have been all ears. I later pieced together the following interchange that was in progress when I called Lydia from the Metro.

Operator: 9-1-1 Hanover. What is your emergency?
Lydia: Oh, I’m sorry. This is a mistake. I accidentally dialed our Vonage line. Please may I go?
O: You called the Vonage line?
L: Yes, please may I go?
O: Where is your mommy? Uh oh, can you see where this is going?
L: She’s taking the boys to school.
O: Why would your mom be taking the boys to school so early in the morning? 

After all, it was 1 AM ET!!  The poor operator did not have a clue that it was school time somewhere else in the world!
Lydia, starting to panic: I’m really sorry. We live in Russia. I called the Vonage line.
Enter my phone call from the Metro to find Lydia in tears.
Lydia: Please may I go? I have to go answer the phone because my mom’s calling now.
Operator: Do NOT hang up, but you can put the phone down.
 Lydia takes my call and subsequently pulls out the phone cord having overcome her fear of disobeying the 9-1-1 operator.
Once home, Lyle and I decided I should call back Hanover Emergency and try to explain what happened. My greatest concern was that the police were knocking at our old address and waking the neighbors. The explanation sounded far-fetched, even to me.

Yes, we really do live in Russia.
Yes, we have a Vonage line, and Lydia accidentally picked up the wrong phone.
Yes, our cell phone number really begins with 9-1-1.

The operator seemed to understand and assured me that no police were dispatched. What a relief…until later that afternoon when the family who purchased our house emailed very worried, asking if everything was all right. Apparently the police did indeed knock on their door at 1 AM, inquiring about some girl who called 9-1-1 and “speaking Russian”.

Oh, and why was Lydia trying to call me in the first place? We were out of toothpaste.

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4 thoughts on “Much Ado about Toothpaste

  1. We had a good laugh over that one. We do enjoy your letters. I hope you are keeping them for a book. Did you get our new email address?ajreppert@gmail.com Blessings Arthur and Joan Reppert

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