Hartley: The most pathetic phone call you’ll ever make

Todd Hartley
I’m With Stupid

As a part-time comedian, I’m understandably a big fan of other, more accomplished comedians, and one of my favorites is Brian Regan. If you’re not familiar with Regan’s act, you should be. He works clean, meaning the whole family can enjoy his antics, and he’s the man behind one of the funniest comedy bits I’ve ever seen.

The bit, from Regan’s “I Walked on the Moon” TV special, involves a trip the comedian made to the emergency room when he was stricken with a painful stomach virus. Regan opens by saying that he almost had to call 911 for himself — which gets a big laugh from the audience — before confessing that he instead drove himself to the hospital for treatment.

For some reason, I always got a kick out of the notion of someone dialing 911 for himself or herself. The very idea seemed entirely ludicrous — at least, it seemed ludicrous until I wound up in the dire straits in which I found myself Monday night.

About two weeks earlier, I had injured my oft-gimpy back while playing hockey. Typically, recovering from such an injury takes me a few days, but this time, despite occasional pain-free moments, my back failed to make any significant progress. By Monday evening it had seized up entirely, causing back spasms that literally drove me to my knees.

My wife was out running errands, and my son was across the street at the neighbors’, leaving me alone in the house, so I lay down on the floor and waited for the pain to abate enough to allow me to get up. It didn’t. In fact, it got considerably worse, and my only recourse was to drag myself across the floor to where I’d left my phone.

I thought about waiting for my wife to return to see if she could help me into a car and drive me to the hospital, but it would have been impossible right then to make it down the stairs, and sitting in a car just might have killed me. So there in the guest room, lying prostrate on my back, I did something I never would have imagined myself doing: I called for my own ambulance.

“What’s the nature of your emergency?” asked the female dispatcher.

“It’s not really an emergency,” I said, “and I feel like kind of an idiot, but I can’t move.”

“Are you trapped under something?” asked the dispatcher.

“No,” I said. “I’m just lying here in my guest room, but that’s all I can do right now. I need someone to come get me and take me to a hospital.”

“I understand,” said the dispatcher, who sounded as if she was trying not to laugh. “An ambulance is on the way.”

I didn’t get to witness all the commotion, as my vision was limited to what I could see directly above me, but apparently the presence of an ambulance outside my door caused quite a stir and brought everyone out of their houses to see what was going on. I told my wife it would be funny if she convinced everyone that she beat the crap out of me, but not wanting to seem pugilistic, she told them the truth and was met with what evidently was genuine concern on the part of my neighbors over my well-being.

I was touched by the outpouring of support but had little time to dwell on it as I was strapped to a gurney and loaded into the ambulance. Asked which hospital I preferred, I chose Glenwood’s Valley View based strictly on its proximity to Taco Bell, which I imagined I’d be eating after someone gave me a massive shot of something morphine-like in my spine.

That’s not exactly how things went, though. Thankfully, I was given plenty of painkillers and managed to spend a relatively comfortable night and day lying flat on my back in a hospital bed, but by the time I was released I had no desire to eat, and even the promise of a hot, fresh chalupa wasn’t enough to stir my appetite. Call it a lost opportunity if you must, but at the moment I didn’t care.

As of this writing, my back is slightly better — which is to say I can stand and walk — but it’s still not healed. And sitting is still out of the question, so I hope you’re all sufficiently impressed that the column you just read was written by a guy lying flat on his belly on the floor.

Todd Hartley can’t help but wonder if years of Taco Bell abuse have contributed to his ever-increasing decrepitude. To read more or leave a comment, please visit