Here’s the situation: You’re out for a stroll in a London park on an icy winter’s day. You look at the pond. There’s a swan swimming there. You are certain he’s cold.
A) Do nothing. It’s a bird. He’ll be fine.
B) Pull out your mobile phone and dial emergency services immediately.
Incredibly, Londoners go for option B in thousands of equally inane situations every year. Between 2010 and 2014, the London Fire Brigade fielded 13,000 time-wasting calls. This included 8,600 hoaxes, nearly 3,000 animals in distress, and more than 1,500 people who managed to inextricably wedge themselves into toilet seats, furniture, penis rings (yep), and other household objects.
There was a man who called 999 (the UK equivalent of the US’s 911) specifically to recite the Lord’s Prayer to the operator. Another, a French guy, called for help translating a word.
Animals in distress particularly move the public to panic. In addition to the chilly-looking swan, firefighters were called to a goose on a roof and a cockatoo that seemed “bullied” by other birds. Such calls should go to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, not the fire department, director of operations Dave Brown said.
To shame lame callers, the London Fire Brigade took to its good-humored Twitter account for a campaign warning people to save 999 for actual emergencies. In the spirit of the season, here are their most ridiculous calls, loosely based on the 12 Days of Christmas.
12 drummers drumming . . .
11 pipers piping . . .
10 lords a-leaping . . .
9 ladies dancing . . .
8 maids a-milking . . .
7 swans a-swimming . . .
6 geese a-laying . . .
5 golden rings . . .
4 calling birds . . .
3 French hens . . .
2 turtle doves . . .
And, of course, the partridge in a pear tree.