A Life on hold


‘”Your estimated wait time is approximately…”‘

Well, I should be feeling really fit. Because today I had way more than my usual exercise–in frustration.

It all started when I couldn’t find an extremely cute photo that I was determined to showcase at the top of this post. It shows Yours Truly at about age two holding a telephone receiver up to her teensy little shell-like ear. On the back of the deckle-edged black and white Kodak print is written, “Hello, Daddy.”

What’s on the back of this milestone shot? “Big Girl”

That photo was taken by my Mom and sent to my Dad, who was serving in Korea, along with more shots showing other milestones: me riding a hobbyhorse, feeding myself, holding a baby (Oldest Younger Brother Scott, whom my father didn’t even meet till poor Scott was almost two.) You can read about what happened when he came home in “Kissing Daddy Good-night.”

Instead, I decided to feature another extremely cute photo of The Child. Because, why not? Though in her photo she is not even “fake-calling” her daddy. Mainly because he is standing right behind her. If I remember right, she was ordering pizza to fuel up for her night of impersonating a Bloomingdale’s bag for Halloween. (See more about her penchant for dressing as objects at “Happy Ho-Made Halloween.”)

The Child as a Strawberry. Her parents as, well, Parents

Anyway. My ultimately fruitless search for this photo was interrupted by a low bonging sound. You guessed it: “lobat 2nd floor fire,” an alarming situation (literally) I have also written about before. Twice. Check out “Things That Go Shriek in the Night” or “The One Where My Life is Like a Friends Episode” if you feel like sharing my pain.

So. Thank you for your patience: A phrase which is a very nice segue into the actual topic for today — being on hold.

How many of you out there have never been on hold? Raise your hands and then stop reading. Because this post is for the rest of us. Being on hold, of course, is nothing new. But does anyone else feel that this purgatorial practice has become more prevalent lately? And not only more prevalent, but even more irritating?

I don’t know about you, but being on hold makes me want to scream — maybe even more than getting a call from a serial killer

One expects, I suppose, to be on hold when one calls an airline. This was always thus. But recently I gave up when my call to American Airlines went on for more than 45 minutes. (Yes, yes, I had the speaker on and I was making use of the hold time folding clothes and whatnot. But still.) And 45 minutes is considered not so bad. I heard about poor souls being on hold with airlines for four hours and more during that Bad Stretch after the holidays when so many flights were cancelled.

Hanging out at The Child’s this Christmas season. I was upstairs, on hold with American Airlines

And not only is the time on hold irritating, it’s the way they make you spend it. You either get Muzak — “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” being a particular fave — or really bad “classical” like the Skater’s Waltz or whatever it’s really called. Oh, Apple does that thing where they offer you a “choice of music,” but each is a bad choice when it’s a person you want to listen to, not Rock Oldies.

Another cute photo of The Child. She’s “holding,” but not “on hold.” Or at least I don’t think so

Speaking of people, how about that recorded voice that explains you are on hold? (Like you didn’t realize that.) It’s either a mechanical roboty voice or it’s a prerecorded uber-chirpy person saying something like, “We’re busy helping other customers just like you!” Yeah. Just like me: fuming and cursing.

Oh — and then there are the ones that tell you to leave your number and they’ll call you back when an agent is free. Great idea! But the last time I did this — it was a call to Verizon to cancel my land line — when I got the callback I was placed on hold.

But the prize for phone-hold frustration simply must go to Cook’s Illustrated. You can subscribe to this cooking magazine online — which is what I did — they offered a free trial subscription — when I wanted their foolproof-unless-I-bake-them popover recipe. (See“‘Pop’ Goes the Weasel” for my less-than-poofy experience.)

Me, at Christmas, with my less-than-popped-overs. (I look tired because I was on hold so long unsubscribing from Cook’s Illustrated)

But to unsubscribe? They make you call them. And, trust me, if you can survive the length of that hold, you can survive a measly airline queue. I could have baked several test batches of popovers in the time it took to unleash myself from Cook’s Ill. I’m betting that most people cry “Uncle” and let their test subscriptions turn into permanent ones — rather than endure permanent hold.

Okay. I feel better now. Though even writing about being on hold makes me feel like my life has been on hold.

New York City. February 2022



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6 thoughts on “A Life on hold

  1. Debi Feinman

    in the interest of maximizing fun and minimizing stress, I have decided that on-hold time makes me very productive to all the things I HATE DOING…because i hate nothing more than being on hold. So, when its all over, those other things get done and off my list with little anger and frustration….unless my mobile runs out of juice 🙂

  2. Janet Neal

    It must be that time of year. I have never said the F word so much as the past few days being on hold. And getting a recorded message, every 5 minutes, saying “Your wait time will be longer than 5 minutes”. Oh my F****g G***D!

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