THE BLOG
08/28/2014 02:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Service for a Song

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou via Getty Images

I dreaded picking up the phone.

Even in this service-driven world of ask and ye shall be given, the role of supplicant has never fit me well. But I needed to change an airline reservation. And that simple task would require me to forfeit some precious time dealing with details. Not my strong suit.

I dialed. And a pleasant voice answered. "Confirmation number, please?" I read aloud the magic six-digit combo and the voice on the other end evaporated into temporary oblivion. I pressed the speaker tab on my mobile, set it aside and settled in for what would most surely become an interlude of unpredictable duration.

... I picked up the guitar sitting next to my desk, as I often do when I'm engaged in lengthy conference or video calls. I began to pluck the strings. Oh. So. Quietly.

After a bit the voice on the phone asked, "Are you playing the guitar?" I explained that I was, you know, multi-tasking. Silence. Again.

I continued to play the song that was drifting through my mind; a composition from one of my favorite songwriters. Damien Jurado's "Working Title". In a low voice, barely audible, I sang the lyrics running through my head. A couple verses. This was beginning to take a while.

I asked just how the search for a new flight was coming along...? "Oh, fine, I'm getting there but, um, feel free to keep singing and playing."

So I sang two more verses. Added a chorus. Then asked again, "Are we there?" The Voice replied, "Looks like I've found something.... I want you to know, I've never been sung to before. I think this is maybe the best call I've ever had."

I told her I'd never serenaded a call center voice before either. Then we returned to our tasks at hand, she finalizing my travel booking and me offering up some slight but well-intended musical favor to make the time spent providing me with this service just a bit more gratifying.

I finished the song. "Are we there?" She answered, "Well, I was actually done a little while ago, but I didn't want you to stop singing." And I realized, my former impatience at having to make this call had given way, early on, to an enjoyable and gratifying shared experience. An intimate, relaxing mini-concert between two strangers intent on providing each other with the service most needed in the given moment. I no longer felt that dread of utter dependence, the frailty inherent in the role of the supplicant.

It was a fair exchange.

A few days later I received a handwritten note from Judy, the call center voice I had shared my desktop concert with. It read:

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