"Thank you for calling 311. This is Raquel. How may I assist you?"
Callers don't notice the voice isn't live, and "it lets you take a breather in between," Lopez said.
Many of the 311 calls, of course, are sensible, expected and easily resolved. People ask how to dispose of bulky items. They report dead animals, fallen tree limbs, graffiti or illegal dumping. Someone wants to set up a building inspection. A pothole has appeared. A streetlight is out.
Sophisticated programs let agents quickly find information. They can zoom in, for instance, on maps that show the location of each streetlight, then confirm that they've located the right one by checking to see that a photo matches the caller's description.
Some agents work radios, sending reports directly to crews out on the streets. When it makes sense to, that is.
Mario Aldaz, 34, who has worked at 311 since it opened, said an agent once took a call about an abandoned couch in an alley. The caller didn't ask for the couch to be removed. She wanted the city to remove graffiti on the couch.
As for those Butterballs, Lopez did in the end offer help. She contacted the Bureau of Sanitation — which, among other things, is responsible for collecting dead animals and spoiled meat.