As I write this I am waiting on hold. I have been waiting on hold for 27 minutes already, and I’ve heard the instrumental piano song they have on repeat about 3756 times. It’s no longer soothing. I think it may become the soundtrack of my nightmares. Every time it winds down at the end and pauses before re-starting I think that someone’s answering my call. But no, no such luck for me. In fact, since it is 12:30pm as I write this I’m rather afraid that the person I want to talk to has forgotten about me and gone off for lunch.
While I’ve been on hold I’ve been wondering – what is it about being on hold, exactly, that is so anxiety provoking? I totally, totally hate this, and I know I’m not the only one. But it’s not like it’s painful or dangerous. You can even set the phone to ‘speaker’ and wash the dishes while you wait. It’s just a minor inconvenience in the course of your day, waiting to speak with someone who is otherwise engaged.
I have a few theories as to what it is about being on hold that is so awful:
The Traffic Theory
I hate being in traffic even more than I hate being on hold. It’s a really powerless feeling. You’re trapped in your car in a long line of cars and there’s likely no way out of it. If you want to get to your destination you just have to be patient and creep forward inch by excruciating inch. But the thing about traffic is it’s not like you can just zone out completely and take a nap or read a book. OK, there are probably other drivers you’ve witnessed doing exactly that, but I think we can all agree it’s a bad idea. In spite of the tedium you need to pay attention because you’re in control of thousands of pounds of metal.
Being on hold is the same as being stuck in traffic because it’s outside of your control. You are at the mercy of fate if you want to accomplish the task at hand. And you have to pay sufficient attention so that you don’t miss your call. Not. Fun.
The Bad Call Theory
Very rarely, or never, am I making a call I really want to make when I’m stuck on hold. I’m usually trying to sort out a problem or question with the cable company or the phone company. I might even be really cheesed off because my internet is down and that’s my lifeline, man, don’t mess with it. Or maybe I’m making an appointment with the doctor or dentist. Really, who wants to go to the dentist?
Being on hold when you’re already irritated or don’t really want to make the call in the first place is like pouring salt in the wound. No wonder we hate it so much.
The Muzak Theory
When you’re on hold you’re usually subjected to some sort of ‘music’. It’s never good, and never what you would choose to listen to yourself. Often the sound quality is even poor and so along with Girl from Ipanema you’re hearing annoying cracks and pops. Sometimes they even do this horrible thing where they cut into the music every couple of minutes with a recorded voice reminding you how important your call is, and asking you to please be patient. This pause in the music causes you to leap to and grab the phone because you think your call is being answered. Only not.
What’s fun about bad music, recorded messages, and poor audio? Nothing, that’s what.
Anyways, my call was finally answered after 32 minutes on hold. And then when I tried to switch from speaker to handheld I cut her off. Go me! Luckily I was able to call back immediately and get the person I needed right away. I’m not sure I could have endured another 32 minutes, at least not today.
How about you? Do you hate being on hold as much as I do? Do you have any tips for avoiding it or passing the time? Do share!