Please State Your Emergency

Ella spent the first twelve minutes of the CPR presentation lost in thought, wondering how she could persuade her dad to get her a new cell phone, despite the contractual period not yet being over. The dang thing had been crapping out on her way too often lately, especially while texting, which was totally unacceptable. The auto-correct was also getting more senile than before, making her sound like a real dork as—she could swear—it would switch words even after she hit SEND.

Today was September 7th. The school year had just begun, and the St. Mary’s High School senior had scheduled in her new agenda book to badger her dad on Sunday, right after brunch, to get her a new cell phone. But if her silly and antiquated two-year-old phone kept acting up like it had been doing all day, she might have to campaign sooner, despite the timing being less than ideal. To achieve maximum success in her endeavors, Ella liked to pace herself, and she hated the thought of having to pressure her dad again so soon after begging for last week’s shopping spree.

A sudden jab underneath her ribcage brought Ella back to reality. Her friend Sandy, who was sitting next to her on the gym’s rubbery floor, legs in a pretzel, had ceased chipping the flaking burgundy nail polish off her fingernails and was now elbowing Ella to get her attention. Ella turned to her friend. Sandy tilted her head and arched her eyebrows, trying to tell Ella to look at Mr. Moog, the gym teacher giving the CPR presentation. Ella looked up at the man, who was staring at her, along with every other student in the gym.

“Would you like me to repeat the question, Ms. Briggs?” asked the teacher in a monotone voice.

Mr. Moog was a controlled dude who never lost his cool. He was tall and broad-shouldered, a real bodybuilder type. He could have been a martial arts star—or an assassin—you could easily picture him strangling someone with his bare hands. He inspired fear and respect in most students, who figured it was best to not mess with the guy. To Ella, however, he was just another boring old guy on the aging teaching staff.

Ella kept calm, trying to guess the question Mr. Moog had asked her. It had to be related to a medical act of some sort, from pounding on someone’s chest to giving mouth-to-mouth to a disgusting stranger with revolting breath and who hadn’t bathed in ages.


Seeing she was stalling, Mr. Moog added, “My question was, ‘What do you do, Ms. Briggs?’”

What do I do? How very not helpful.

“That’s a good question,” Ella replied diplomatically, to buy herself some time. She pretended to think while leaning her head towards Sandy to give her friend a chance to whisper her a clue. Sandy mumbled something while hiding her mouth behind her hand, but—dammit!—Ella caught none of it. Today was going to be a long day.

Mr. Moog looked slightly annoyed. He cut to the chase. “The full question was, ‘Someone’s lying on the ground in front of you, unconscious. What do you do?’”

Oh, that! She could answer that. 

“I’d call 911. If I had a working phone, that is,” replied Ella.

“Someone already called 911.”

“Oh, right.” Fudge. “But it never hurts to double check, no?”

“No. I mean, yes. You’d be wasting time. And we’ve already established that time is crucial when someone needs CPR. So, Ms. Briggs—focus—what would you do?”

Ella tried to focus and come up with a proper answer so that the gym teacher would get off her back and pick on another student. But since she hadn’t been paying attention at all, this was difficult. 

“I’d ask the person who called 911 to take over.”

Some students chuckled. Mr. Moog took a deep breath. 

“Let’s say that person cannot take over.”

“Why not?”

“Because . . . because that person is a ninety-two-year-old, little old lady who—”

“Who has a cell phone? Really?” 

“YES, she has a cell phone!”

Mr. Moog’s voice rose a notch, startling some of the students. “Can we agree that she has a goddamn cell phone, knows how to use it AND is too weak to give someone CPR? Can we just agree to that?”


“Good. So, what would you do?”

“I’d Google how to do CPR on my phone.”

The whole class erupted into laughter, the sound bouncing off the acoustic-enhancing walls of the gym, magnifying the hilarity. And making Mr. Moog’s blood pressure go through the roof. His face was turning to a never seen before shade of red.

Noticing the teacher’s face, Ella figured she had not only crossed the line, she had waaaaaayyyyyy crossed the line and was, in fact, so far over the wrong side of the line that she could never quite come back onto the right side of it. This was an unsettling situation, not only because no one had ever experienced the consequences of getting Mr. Moog angry—uncharted territory—but also because Ella remembered she was going to a birthday bash on Saturday and couldn’t risk getting grounded. So, right now was a great time to step on her ego, backtrack and try to help the gym teacher save face.

“Sir, I’m so very sorry. I think I didn’t express myself correctly.”

Searching for the right thing to say to appeal to Mr. Moog, she stood up and put on her best face of contrition.

“Please hear me out, sir. What I meant is . . . I know what I’m capable of and that includes knowing my own limits. Believe me when I say I would be totally useless—and by that, I mean actually dangerous—in this kind of situation. I know that even if, under your excellent teachings, I were to learn this procedure by heart, I’m afraid I would only make things far worse for that poor victim by taking any kind of action. Actually, I’m so clumsy and clueless, I’d probably finish them off.”

Mr. Moog considered Ella’s plea with a skeptical eye.

Ella scanned the crowd of students. “In fact, my money would be much more on . . . someone like Tyler?” She was looking at Tyler Tremblay, one of Moog’s biggest pets. The teacher surely had to agree that Tyler would most likely know what to do.

“Tyler, what would you do?” Ella asked him.

“May I answer, sir?” Tyler asked Mr. Moog in a brown-nosing tone. He seemed very happy to jump in and help Ella, on whom he had the biggest crush, and also show his mentor, once again, that he was great and reliable.

Frowning, Mr. Moog nevertheless took this opportunity to put an end to Ella’s circus and head in a different direction. “Of course, Tyler. What would you do?”

Ella sat back down, with an inward sigh of relief that her redirect did the trick and that she was off the hook. Sandy gave her a discreet little punch of victory on the arm.

It then occurred to Ella that she now had yet another life-saving argument in favor of a new cell phone: to reliably be able to Google how to do CPR should she ever need to.


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