USA

The weirdest, wackiest calls to New York’s 311 helpline

Hello. And thank you for calling 311 in New York City. We’re here to help.

“Can you check if my boyfriend is married?”

It’s not the only bizarre question among the nearly 295 million queries the help-line operators have fielded in the system’s 17 years.

The 300 millionth call should come in late March or early April — barring a blizzard, which guarantees a flurry of inquiries — and to mark the milestone, spokesman Bill Reda shared questions that have left 311 operators scratching their heads.

One woman called to file a noise complaint about her own refrigerator.
One woman called to file a noise complaint about her own refrigerator.Getty Images/iStockphoto

There was a guy who asked if he could claim his dog on his income taxes. And the woman who was curious about whether Medicaid would cover her cat’s surgery.

Another woman wanted to file a noise complaint about … her refrigerator.

An aspiring lifeguard was curious if she would get on-the-job training. She apparently didn’t know how to swim.

Then, there were the calls about naughty neighbors. One woman didn’t like looking at her neighbor’s lingerie hanging out to dry. Another was desperate to learn what “remedies” there might be for a naked neighbor.

Technophobes often call begging for help. One couldn’t grasp how to check text messages on his cellphone. Another had texting figured out, but not his television. He texted: “my plasma screen 53 inch tv says stand by/temp how do you fix it?”

The vast majority of calls, though, are standard fare. The top 10 inquires for the first six months of fiscal 2020, in order:

  1. Heat or hot water complaint in a residential building
  2. Parking ticket or camera violation status
  3. Blocked driveway
  4. Apartment maintenance complaint
  5. Noise from neighbor
  6. Bulk item disposal
  7. Service request status
  8. Missed garbage, recycling or organics collection
  9. Property tax bill
  10. Birth certificate

There were a few that seemed unusual.

In July, when temperatures in the Big Apple hovered in the mid-80s, seven New Yorkers called about snow shoveling and ice on the sidewalk. But 65 also called about the noise from ice cream trucks, presumably the Mr. Softie song.

And then there are those who have made dozens of calls about dogs: pooping dogs, barking dogs, dogs in restaurants and dogs without leashes. The cat complaints: 0.

From July through December, the system’s 265 operators answered 9,853,631 calls — or 80 calls a shift per operator.

The bulk of calls come between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, when most New Yorkers work, the 24/7 system’s busiest hour is 11 a.m. Monday.

And every caller gets taken seriously, Reda said, because that’s what the operators are trained to do.

“It’s all about customer service.”