Murphy’s Law

Some of our best witnesses in recent months have been citizens who just happen to be in the area when a serious crime takes place.  From a motorist driving by and witnessing an abduction in broad daylight, to a woman on her way to work and seeing masked and armed suspects storm a bank, to the spouse of an officer calling in a shots fired.

So, with all these cases in mind, I had a conversation with my kids about what to do if we were driving along and something happened right in front of us.  I explained that if the situation were such that I could safely leave them in the car or in a nearby business, I would do so and then assist with whatever was happening. 

We had this conversation in the car, and we talked about what our course of action would be.  We also practiced what to say if they ever had to call 911, with the most important fact being location, location, location.  Even though my cell phone is GPS enabled, theirs is not. 

I taught them how to read street signs, and to know what city we were in as we regularly drive through about five different jurisdictions. 

We practiced calling 911, with me acting as the call taker.  As we were already in the car, I stopped at different locations and gave each of the kids a scenario. 

First up was my daughter.  I stopped at a residential intersection and said a man was breaking into a house, and then I pointed out a random house with the homeowner working in the front yard.  We went from there, and it sounded something like this:

daughter ‘calls’ 911

Me: 911.  Police, ambulance or fire?

Daughter: Police, please.

Me: For what city?

Daughter: Vancouver

Me: Just wait a moment while I put you through….


Me: Vancouver Police, what’s your emergency?

Daughter: A man is breaking into a house (she is looking around for the street signs by this time)

Me: Alright, can you tell me where?

Daughter: It’s a blue house by the intersection of E 54th St and Sherbrooke St.

Me:  Can you see the address?

Daughter: No

Me: Alright.  Is the house on 54th or on Sherbrooke?

Daughter: Um, Sherbrooke St

 Me: Alright.  What did the man do?

Daughter: (she looks at me and I pantomime kicking in a door)  He broke the front door down.

Me: Alright, can you describe him?

Daughter: (she looks at the homeowner as he unknowingly becomes a player in our scenario) He’s old, with gray hair, a blue t-shirt and shorts.


For the next scenario, I told my son the people in the car ahead of us had robbed a store.  After the regular preamble with getting to speak to police dispatch, the call went like this:

Son: We’re following some guys who just robbed a store

Me: What store?

Son: I don’t know.  A corner store back there.

Me: Alright. Where are you now?

Son: (he almost gives himself whiplash trying to read the passing street signs).  We are on E 57th St.

Me: Which cross street?

Son: We are almost at Knight St.

Me: Are you walking or in a car?

Son: We are in a car and so are they.  It’s a red Honda.

Me: Can you see the license plate?

Son: Yup.  5-5-5-A-B-C

Me: 5-5-5-A-B-V?

Son: No, C, like cat.


We had finished with the ‘game’, which is what the kids called it, and they were chattering away about license plates and street signs, and how cool it was to pretend to be a witness when our lane of traffic came to a screeching halt.  My tires locked up, all our seatbelts proved they were able to hold us in our seats and there was the awful sound of crunching and disintegrating metal up ahead of us and just out of sight.

Then, in between the line of stopped and zig zagged cars I could see the tangled remains of a motorcycle and the figure of the rider writhing around on the ground.  At least he was moving.  The kids were silent but very alert and they looked at me with the question of what had happened in their wide eyes.  I pulled over to the side of the road, saw that about six people were already on their cell phones, and told the kids there had just been an accident.

Both of them looked for and found the street signs, and my daughter reached for the cell phone as my son waved his hand at my door in a ‘well, aren’t you going to go help’ gesture.  I had to laugh, and told them to stay put, that this time they didn’t have to call 911 as lots of people were already calling.  Then I proceeded to get out and went to see if I could be of any help.

Later, when I returned to the car, I told the kids the motorcyclist had been broadsided by car.  The fellow had a broken leg, but his motorcycle had taken most of the impact.  He was going to be fine.

My son, the one of dry wit and constant observation, piped up that what had happened was spooky as we had just been talking about how to call 911.  I told them it was Murphy’s Law.

“Who’s Murphy?  He has his own law?  Cool!”

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4 Responses to "Murphy’s Law"

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