“Why No, I Don’t Mind if You Put Me on Hold”: How To Survive Hold-Hell

Made a new friend the other day. She’s 26–or she will be on November 21–she’s from Cleveland, she works near Raleigh, North Carolina, and she’s getting her Masters from UNC-G, after which she hopes to become a fashion buyer. Also her mom turned 50 just a day before my birthday. Also she loves gumbo.

Oh, and her name is Chris. But I didn’t learn this until about 75 minutes into our new friendship. Although a good 65 of those minutes were spent in silence. Holding.

See, Chris works for Verizon. I threw myself at the feet of that mega-Lucifer called that noble, worthy scion of technology last week after our iPad suddenly stopped communicating with whatever satellite is supposed to be holding its little 3G hand. (Since we’re about to embark on another road trip, we kinda need our iPad to have all its wits about it.) After holding for 26 minutes (“we are experiencing a higher than normal volume of calls,” “your time is important to us,” “did we mention, you moron, that you can get all your questions answered on our website, even though you can’t?”), I finally reached a human.

I won’t bore you with the back-and-forth of our exchanges as I familiarized her with my problem and my failed attempts to solve it via the website. She was cheery; she called me “Miss Gretchen.” Just the sound of her voice made me feel like we were getting somewhere. Except we weren’t. After walking me through several fixes that didn’t fix, the cheery Verizon rep uttered these chilling words: “I’m going to have to put you through to our tech department.”

At this point I wailed, “No, don’t leave me!” asked politely if she would remain on the line with me, so that she could explain to Tech what-all she had tried to do, rather than making me start over. She agreed.

And so began our journey of friendship. She held for Tech. I held for her. Every few minutes she would check in on me–“Still holding? Doin’ okay?”–to reassure me she was still there. The second time she did this, I asked her to tell me a story.

She laughed. “Oh, I don’t know any stories!”

“How ’bout a joke? Don’t you know any jokes?”

“Miss Gretchen, I can’t think of any jokes. Do you know any?”

“Yes,” I said, but then it was time for her to put me back on hold.

When she checked back in, she said, “I’m ready for my joke now.”

“What’s blue, and tastes like red paint?”

She chuckled. She had a lovely, appreciative chuckle. “I don’t know, Miss Gretchen! Uh…blue paint?”

“See–you DO know a joke! What’s brown and sticky?”

I got a real laugh that time. “I don’t know!

“A stick.”

When she accused me good-naturedly of stealing my material from Laffy Taffy wrappers, our bond was secure. I think that’s when I asked her where she was working from, and she said North Carolina. Since that’s my home state, a flurry of conversation erupted, during which I learned most of the material in my opening paragraph. Except her name.

What Miss Chris did not say to me. (Courtesy someecards.com)

What Miss Chris did not say to me. (Courtesy someecards.com)

The Mate came home in the middle of this exchange, and looked at me questioningly. “I’m talking to my new friend…uh, what’s your name?” I finally asked.

She laughed again. “Chris.” (Or perhaps Kris? I didn’t check.)

Of course from then on I called her “Miss Chris” for parity’s sake. And of course she put me on hold a bunch more times. And oh…Tech never did pick up. After Miss Chris and I had been on hold together for an hour and five minutes, I had to leave for a dinner engagement. Chris sounded honestly sorry to have to relinquish me back into the icy wastelands of Hold, where we both knew I’d end up when I returned to the iPad/Verizon Solution Quest.

The Mate noted I seemed pretty upbeat for a person who’d just wasted 90 minutes of her life holding the phone. He was right. Yes, the problem remained unsolved, but my time wasn’t wasted. Somewhere near Raleigh, a young woman was feeling better about her soulless job because, well, a little soul had snuck into it. I like to think she was still chuckling over my stupid sense of humor.

Along with thinking of jokes to share with Miss Chris, I also spent some of my hold-time jotting down lyrics for a new song I’m working on. Actually, I put Miss Chris to work on that topic. “Hey, can you think of a rhyme for “won’t” other than “don’t?”

I spent another hour in hold-hell the following morning, but I was in the car with The Mate, so I had him to chat with. By the time I reached a human voice, I didn’t need my hand held, so I let myself be connected with Tech all by my lonesome like a big girl. Besides, that rep was no Chris. I could tell.

For the record, my iPad’s still not fixed. Still workin’ on that one. But I’ve definitely learned my lesson about such moments: I get to decide if my time is wasted or not. I choose not.

Do you have your own Hold-Hell stories or strategies to share? I’ll hold.