On hold

This is a tough one to write because I have so much to say, but I also have to keep it clean and civil. Let me begin, however, by saying that I hate being put on hold, and that when I was an operator, I did everything in my power to not put people on hold. If I am calling someone, and they put me on hold, I immediately think they are either lazy or incompetent. “Do you mind if I put you on hold,” they ask. My immediate thought is that “yes, I mind,” but I also know it won’t matter, and they are only asking me this out of courtesy, not because my answer will mean anything to them, so I get put on hold. I hate it even more when a machine does it, and then it reminds me that my call will be answered in the order in which it was received and to please stay on the line because my call is very important to them. And then the music starts and I would like to kill their music machine. So I call, the machine puts me on hold, and there I sit like an idiot waiting for someone, anyone, to pick up my call and say hello. It gets really out of hand when, after 15 or 20 minutes of waiting (yes, I have waited that long) the machine just cuts off the call as if you were not even there, and you have to start over. And often, starting over means navigating the company’s automated menu system, which does not even give you the chance to talk to someone who can put you on hold. You are in digital hell limbo where you just keep going through an endless series of nonsensical menus that just keep looping back to the beginning. What is really great is when different people answer your call and you have to keep explaining yourself to each new person who will eventually disappear by putting you on hold again so you can listen to their mind-numbing muzak. Being put on hold is a lot like the area outside of the gates of hell where Dante finds a bunch of condemned sinners who have been abandoned by Heaven and rejected by Hell because they were driven only by their own self-interest: they are condemned to blindly chase a banner being dragged through a mud storm while wasps and hornets sting them. Being put on hold tells you that you are insignificant and superfluous, that your call isn’t worth answering, and that business is not appreciated. There are even some call centers that charge you for calling–talk about adding insult to injury. Being put on hold means that the business you are dealing is cheap, disorganized, and mismanaged. And don’t you love it when you finally get to talk to someone and their English is so heavily accented that you cannot understand them? More insult, more injury. I’m not going to point any fingers, but we all know where we get put on hold the most–the doctor’s office, the airlines, repair centers. Worse still is getting put on hold, waiting awhile, and when you finally get to talk to someone, they realize you have called the wrong number or picked the wrong option from the menu, so they have to transfer your call to another desk, where you get put on hold, again. In a sense, being put on hold is a lot like waiting for Godot to pick up the phone. You sit there, listening to dead air or muzak, or worse, the same Brittany Spears song over and over again. They say they will be right back, but you know it’s a lie. You know they don’t have an answer, but they do hope you will give up. It’s happened to me. I’ve given up.