Week 29: What is an Emergency?

Friday 20th July 2018

Reading time 02 minutes 48 seconds

“In an emergency, one often learns that one’s companions can be of even less help in extraordinary circumstances than they are during an average evening.” Lemony Snicket

The days may be long but the years are quick and as I rapidly approach 50 years of age I’ve noticed that my views, values and beliefs are no longer current. 

Recently I was the MC at a music festival where 1500 event partygoers were having a great day, the sun was shining and I couldn’t see what could possibly go wrong.

People that’s what. A very small group of people.

My job as MC was simple. Introduce the bands, interact with the audience, keep it flowing, the usual. During one particularly brilliant set a volunteer approached me and said she need to make an announcement as there was an emergency. 

I went straight into my American hotel customer service mode and asked what I could do to help. She explained that someone had left their car unlocked and we had to find them because it was, as previously stated, an emergency. I asked her to repeat because I thought she said someone had left their car unlocked. She repeated what I thought I heard.

I’m not sure why but I felt it was important that I explained what I believed an actual emergency was. A child stuck down a well, The Russians invading, running out of booze at a festival when it’s 30 degrees. Those were emergencies, weren’t they?

For a third time she repeated and insisted we needed to stop the band playing and make an announcement. At this juncture I exited customer service mode and went into protect the performers mode as we were not going to interrupt the band because someone had made a small human error. 

Clearly unhappy with my stance she went to see the lead roadie. The roadie also enquired as to the nature of the emergency and I just heard him laugh. He then asked what I had said about it and to her credit she explained that I said she can go on after the band had finished, to which he agreed.

15 minutes passed before another indignant person approached me. This person was clearly used to getting their own way and aggressively asked why I refused to make the announcement and anyway who gave me the authority? I offered my hand in friendship. She didn’t take it but did give me her name, her role within the festival, took a step closer, looked down at me and demanded again why I refused and under what authority.

I shrugged and apologised. And I meant it.

This really wound her up and her perplexed look told me she had nothing. I’d apologised for making a decision so she had no more wrath. This was fun.

It was explained to me that we have a responsibility to the people attending this event. Not to the normal 99.9% but to the 0.1% who had made a mistake. My stock reply that an unlocked car was not an emergency was when I found out how out of touch I am with the modern world because this woman then explained that it was and we needed to get up on stage immediately and rectify.

At the point the band were finishing so I went on stage and announced that some ‘idiot’ had left their car open. The mic was then snatched from me and the owner of the vehicle was asked to come to the stage. I was then given back the microphone. 

I kept digging myself into a hole though as I announced that if anyone wanted to rob that car now’s the time as it’s wide open. I was later given a telling off by the event organiser.

I learnt two things that day.

1. An emergency is no longer considered a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life or the environment but does include property.

2. Tall women shouting the odds often get the better of me.

Picture: Me finishing the 125 Mile overnight bike ride known as “The Dunwich Dynamo” 2017