Operator: ‘This is 110. What’s your emergency?’
Caller: ‘Um, yeah, I went to the farmers’ market to buy watermelon and now I’d like to return it.’
Operator: ‘Ma’am, what is your emergency?’
Caller: ‘The watermelon I just bought isn’t sweet enough. I’d like you to arrest the farmer who sold it to me since he refuses to refund my money.’
Operator: ‘I’m sorry, but that’s not an emergency. Is anyone’s life in danger?’
Caller: ‘Well, if that farmer doesn’t refund my money for this defective fruit, his life might be in danger.’
Operator: ‘We’ll be right there.’
If you were listening to the emergency call line in one eastern Chinese city recently, you would have heard a conversation very similar to that one. In a fit of anger, a 59-year-old woman called the police after she was disappointed with the taste of her watermelon. She had just purchased the fruit from a local farmer’s stand in Nanjing.
Upon arriving home, cutting open the melon, and taking a bite, she decided that it did not meet her requirements. She took the partially-eaten watermelon back to the farmer and demanded a refund, saying he should be embarrassed to sell fruit that lacked sweetness. Like any good businessman, the farmer refused to refund the woman’s money. He also stressed that he had no control over the development of sugar in his produce.
Still not placated, the woman called the police. After some vague comments about the situation, officers arrived on the scene. Upon hearing the woman’s complaint, they tried the watermelon and as they wrote in the final report, it “is indeed not sweet.” Rather than continue to argue over the issue, since it was already 11:30pm, officers simply paid the woman $1.20 to refund the amount she’d spent on the fruit. This settled the situation and everyone went on their way. Such a waste that this incident took the four responding officers two hours to resolve.
If this all sounds like part of a Seinfeld episode, you would be right.