“911 emergency what’s your situation?”
I quickly hung up the phone and retreated into the garage. I wasn’t really in trouble, although now I surely would be. Horror gripped my stomach. It wasn’t me I told myself. When the phone rang I could hear it through the wall. It was the strangest ringtone I had ever heard. I wasn’t even aware our phone was capable of making that noise. Shortly after it stopped my dad came out into the garage.
“Did you call 911?” he asked calmly.
“No…” I said, avoiding his eyes.
“It’s okay,” he replied, “but you need to know that number is only for emergencies. They need to keep the lines open for people in real trouble, okay?”
It really wasn’t that big of a deal. I was 7 and curious about what happened when you called 911. Yet even as an adult I can feel the grip of that guilt from all those years ago.
I think some things that happen to us as children affect us even more than we realize. When I grew up, I had an irrational fear of using the telephone. At 14 I would try to sneak out of the room when we were deciding who would call to order pizza. At 18 I would ask my mom to call the doctor to make an appointment for me because I was “busy doing homework” or some other excuse. At 21 the fear was a huge inconvenience. I would stare at the phone, rehearsing exactly what I was going to say. Sometimes I would even right it down so that if I freaked out I could just use the script. One time I got so nervous I said “Hello my name is Justine Pittman talking” (a mix of ‘Hello my name is ___’, and ‘This is ___’ talking).
I thought that surely I was some sort of freak, so I looked it up on the internet, and I guess there are a few others out there who have a fear of using the phone. I’ve gotten better at it now. Once I’ve done a certain type of call I’m not usually afraid of making it again. But I can’t help but wonder if this crazy phobia stemmed from the guilt of my 911 mishap when I was 7.
Sometimes guilt never goes away.
Daily Post prompt: The Guilt that Haunts Me