Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Columns

July 26, 2010

SIMPSON: One Moment, Please

Corsicana —     No matter where you live these days, you have to make a good many long distance telephone calls. Maybe you made a purchase in an establishment close at hand. That does not mean that all your dealings will be nearby. Many times you have to call a number on long distance. It is true that you probably won’t have to pay to reach the necessary number; but before you talk to the party you really need, you may have a fairly long waiting period.

    If you are like me, you have a million things to do and only about five minutes in which to do them. Being stuck on the line, waiting does away with that five minutes pretty fast. One way the company deals with me, and others like me, is to pipe music to us while we wait. Every once in a while a voice will break in and remind us of how much the said company wants our business and that someone will be with us shortly. I would like to answer that it can’t be too ”shortly” to suit me. But I keep my mouth shut out of fear that I will never again get this close to talking to a real person if I let out a peep.

    While I am languishing, I often think of places I would rather be, and people I would love to be talking to on the telephone. Holding the line has never been a favorite pastime of mine.

    Usually I become overwrought and may even hang up in exasperation, of course, then have to do it all over again. But recently came across a chapter title “music appreciation” in Art Buchwald’s book “I don’t Think I Remember,” which really helped me to see the humor in the situation. You know how I love music because it has a special power. But somehow I have always resented having it used on him every time he would “dial an institution.” He implies that there is something not quite right about this. I must say that I agree. We love to hear great music, but we prefer to choose the time, the place, and the musical number. Of course, Buchwald makes it all comical by quoting Stuart Brotman as saying, “once you’ve heard Mozart on the phone you never want to hear him live again.”

    The airlines are subject to many, many calls per day. Brotman is quoted as saying that he called Atlanta for reservations and got, “plugged into Handel’s “Messiah.” He continues by boasting that he had to wait so long that he learned “the lyrics by heart.” Buckwald countered by boasting that the gas company played that every time they put him on hold. Not to be put down, Brotman counters, “The difference in American Express pipes theirs in live from Vienna”.

    At this point, my eye was drawn to a later discussion of the reason that longer and longer numbers were played because more and more employees were being let go. So one need not expect to hear “Begin the Beguine” because the average wait at the average car rental agency would be “at least a Beethoven symphony”.

    I got the biggest chuckle from the exchange about the IRS Buchwald had just confessed that he hadn’t realized “so much thinking went into institutional answering services.” That’s when Brotman decides to prove it to him by dialing the IRS because he says, ”they always put you on hold.” Buchwald said, He handed the receiver to me. I listened and then said, “I don’t believe it.” The IRS is playing Wager’s “Gotterdammerung.” Buchwald was surprised because it was “a funeral announcement.” But Brotman counters with, “What did you expect, Happy Days are Here Again?”

    In the future, I am pretty sure I’ll be able to wait through just about any musical rendition just by remembering this comical exchange.

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