As far as big life decisions go, choosing one’s emergency contact shouldn’t really register on the emotional scale. It’s one little line on a form that will mostly likely never be used. The deciding factors — like closest of kin, or literal, geographical closest of kin — are quite sterile. But because I’m a pile of feelings in a trench coat, I find the experience strangely confronting. I’m not totally sure who HR should call if I choke on a cracker at work, for instance, nor who needs to know if I fall off a zip-line in Costa Rica. I feel ill-equipped to answer the question!
Remember that episode of Sex and the City where Miranda started freaking out that she’d die alone in her apartment and no one would come home to find her? Remember when she decides to make Carrie her emergency contact instead of her out-of-state parents? It’s a real moment. One that ultimately serves as a supporting data point for the show’s thesis, which is that friends can be family, or maybe even your one true love.
I’ve never put a friend on the E.C. line, personally, but I like the idea of it. I’ve done my mom, my sister, my ex-boyfriend. Curiously, I’ve never put my dad or brother. What does this say about the women in my life? Also, what does it say that I selected some boyfriends but not others? Or that I ever listed them at all? For the record, I’m pretty sure my emergency contact has never ever been used. Except maybe that one time I got dizzy in 8th grade P.E.
Maybe the pre-emptive choice says something anyway. When emergency contacts came up the other day in the office, I couldn’t believe how many people had a story to tell. Everyone has very personal reason behind their choice and it struck me as charming, if a little dark.
Who’s your emergency contact? Why?
Illustration by Maria Jia Ling Pitt.