THE BLOG

Life on Hold

02/20/2015 11:07 am ET | Updated Apr 22, 2015

Yesterday, I dialed my insurance company, punched in my card number and then, while I waited on hold again, I grabbed the phone and started driving kids around. (For anyone who's worried, my car has Bluetooth and we all had to suffer the hold music in the car without me having to touch the phone.) I picked up the neighbor, drove 15 minutes on the highway to tennis, waited for my daughter to come out, drove 15 minutes back home and was still on hold the whole time.

I'd been given the option to have them call me back. Sounds brilliant, right? Not so much. When I'd called the first time, before the kids were even home, I happily agreed and pressed "1" to have them return my call, all without losing my spot in the queue. Perfect!

Twenty minutes later, the phone rang. I had since forgotten to expect the call back (does anyone else get sidetracked that easily?) Even if someone were home, no one in my family would dare answer the home line, so it was me who picked up the phone. Answering, I remembered, "Oh yes, great! Thanks for calling back. Wait? What? I didn't want the billing department. I was on hold for the technical department."

"Let me transfer you."

"Wait! Wait, wait..." There goes that music and I'm back in the general queue all over again, 45 minutes after my original call. ARGH!

This time, I had a little familiarity with the menu options so, with precise, loud enunciation, I pronounced my request to the automated voice who, of course, didn't grasp what I needed. Then I barked it at her, more loudly, speaking every syllable. That's how my conversations with the robotic lady began.

"No, I know you don't understand me, that's why I want a REPRESENTATIVE."

"That request is not understood. Please say -"

Escalating, I interrupt and very clearly chant, "Rep - re - sent - a - tive!"

"I did not understand. You can say: 'billing,' 'technical support,' ..."

Seriously? I sigh audibly.

"That is not a recognizable command."

No kidding, lady, it's an exasperated sigh! That's when I finally yell at her, "PUT ON A REPRESENTATIVE! A PERSON! I-WANT-A-PERSON! YOU CAN'T HELP ME SO PLEASE PUT A PERSON ON THE PHONE!" Even as I rant, I amaze myself by saying, 'please' to the computer lady who is making me furious and has no sense of manners.

Menu after menu, speaking slowly and the way my parents talk mechanically to Siri, I finally think I may be getting somewhere. Then the kids get home and blast into the house yelling, "Mom! Hey, Mom, I'm home!" To which computer lady answers, "I didn't understand that. That is not an option," and I am back to the beginning.

At last, I've got painful music again, but I'm now awaiting a person. Why doesn't it dawn on me to put the call on speaker right at the start and do something else? At least that way I could check something off my list. Instead, I keep thinking, They'll answer any moment. Then seven minutes pass and I think, Well, now it's been seven minutes, they'll be answering any second now, so I stay on hold, sitting there, waiting, poking around at the mail or the piles on my desk. Then it's 28 minutes and I've been sitting there listening to awful electronic, poor-instrumental sounds thrumming through the room because I have finally put the call on speaker.

My tween and teen kids don't often appreciate the musical selections that I love, and inevitably, that's just when one walks in asking, "Mom, what is that terrible music?" No! Really, I didn't PICK this! I agree, it's unlistenable. Where did he go?

Once I have finally decided to put the phone on speaker, my tendency to refocus on another task can sneak up on me. I wander away, tidying up or taking the dishtowels to the laundry room, dusting the baseboards, hunting for a nail file. By the time I've wiped down radiators, picture frames and lamps, manicured my toes and fingers, sorted bills, answered emails, cooked dinner, baked muffins for breakfast the next morning and have become accustomed to the voiceless music, I eventually need to go to the bathroom.

Going to the bathroom is a guaranteed way to get someone on the line. The second I'm indisposed, the representative is sure to pick up, and at last, from rooms away, I hear a person. A live voice on the other end answers putting a blessed stop to the painful accordion rendition of "Mandy." (Was I really just tapping my feet and humming along?)

Since I've drifted away from my phone, I go running down the stairs and through the house shouting, "Wait! Wait! I'm here! Don't hang up! Please wait!"

Huffing and puffing, I flip the phone to my ear, "Hi? Hello?"

"Yes, hello, this is Tanya, how can I help you?"

"Um, I'm sorry, who did I call again? Oh, yes, insurance. Um."

"What can I help you with, ma'am?"

Ma'am? Hrumph. "Um, one second. Hmmm. Let me see, I can't remember. Why did I call the insurance company? Just a moment, let me think ..."

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2015