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On Hold

February 27, 2013

Confession: I love being put on hold.

I know I know, the dreaded hold is the low of your day, the place you get sent when a company isn’t going to help you, the wasted time spent listening to overplayed Rascal Flatts, the costly minutes melting away from your phone plan. But guys, being put on hold is also kind of awesome.

At work I’m the queen of odd jobs; I draw engineering plans, edit proposals, compile reports, take meeting minutes, analyze data, research products and everything else in between. I’m part personal assistant, part manager; part engineer, part editor and yesterday I even taught my coworker how to work a program I only learned last week. It’s great, instead of being focused on one project I’ve got a foot in them all, and most times that variety is a life saver. But last month when I was asked to do something so far out of my comfort zone I wanted to cry, I would have traded it all for a monotonous data entry position in a heartbeat. What, you may ask, was so terrible that I considered quitting the company and moving to Mali just so I wouldn’t have to spend a measly 4 hours of my week doing this one thing? Phone calls people, they wanted me to make phone calls.

I know it is partially generational, we’d rather text than call, rather Google than ask for directions. We hate intimate candlelit dinners but love online chatting, we can’t bring ourselves to make that birthday get together but wouldn’t miss that big party for the world. I’ve heard countless friends say they hate talking on the phone, though the device never leaves their side and don’t get my mother started on all this automated, online bill pay; I know people who would rather be broke for a weekend than walk into a bank and deposit with a real live human teller. We get it, our generation sucks at person to person interaction. But it’s also more than that. When I was younger I was afraid of the phone, never answering it and falling into crying fits when my father asked me to call the skating rink to ask for their hours. My anxiety even extended to conversations with my friends, just touching the phone would flush my face.

Now I’m not so bad; I can function in the real world and make a phone call or two when needed, but that doesn’t mean I’ve learned to like it. Every time my office phone rings, I cringe and the Naughty Princesses will tell you that I’ve avoided many a phone call from a friend because I just ‘couldn’t bring myself to answer it.’ I’m really not sure where this phobia has come from and I’m aware that it could be much, much worse, but it is something I want to work on, so really, this work assignment should be good for me. Maybe it will teach me that phones aren’t the enemy I once feared.

But here is the thing, they didn’t ask me to make any old phone calls; they wanted me to partake in the worst possible kind of phone call, the telemarketing kind.

I don’t think I’ve ever really tried to sell anything in my life. “Want to be friends? No? Okay your loss.” “Want some girl scout cookies? Only 2 boxes? Cool.” “Teacher, you’re giving me an A- instead of the A I deserve? Sure, whatevs, close enough.” It’s not that I am not competitive, play cards with me and you’re going down. And it isn’t that I can’t handle conflict, I LOVE to argue and just ask my brother, I’m always right. But I genuinely believe what is right for me isn’t always right for other people and when it comes to selling a product, I just don’t enjoy it.

So when the civil engineering department found me and asked me to make some phone calls to help secure new clients, my worst nightmare had come true. Doing the leg work has been fine-finding the people who might need our help and calling the city planning commissions to ask for their contact information is doable, but it’s the cold calling of building developers that just crushes my soul. What is the point of working to be better at something I don’t enjoy?

Luckily, in this unpleasant task I’ve found a silver lining, I love being put on hold (no this isn’t some deep metaphor for my life and my current penchant for living at home).

After my heart is sufficiently racing from whichever person I’ve spoken to first, I’m usually put on hold. This time has become my sanctuary, my welcome reprieve, my fortification. I take these seconds to remind myself they’re just people on the other end, sitting at work just like me. All I’m here to do is let this company know we exist, that we might possibly help with their building needs, just in case, no problem if not. If I get to wait long enough I let my mind wander, thinking about the people who must have chosen this song and whether or not they thought it was a joke to play Lady Gaga. You won’t believe the types of music I’ve heard on hold in the last week alone; Michelle Branch, Sci-Fi Instrumental, Country, Latin, not to mention the endless varieties of giggle-inducing elevator. People choose this stuff! For an office environment!

I love it. No matter the time I have to wait, the ridiculous music selections or the grumpy people I’ll inevitably have to deal with, the hold has become a beautiful part of my day. And you know what, somehow talking to a stranger no longer seems so bad.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. thelittlemerskank permalink*
    February 27, 2013 11:59 pm

    It is funny that you have always hated answering the phone; I have memories of racing to be the first one to the phone. I also love it when my phone rings– for just a second, my heart races: someone is calling, someone seems to want to talk to *me*. This excitement sometimes fizzles out when I realize it is only my land-lord calling–or worse yet, a text from my phone company telling me I am low on minutes. But, generally, the little three-pitched tune from Zelda playing in my pocket makes me feel happy and loved. Especially when it is one of the naughty princesses calling.

    But yeah, I have never had to do telemarkting, but even with my love of phones and love of talking to strangers that doesn’t sound too fun. I guess, to be honest, I don’t really like being on the initiating side of phone calls: I want people to call me! When I call them I just worry: maybe I am using up their time, maybe they don’t really want to talk to me, maybe they are staring at their phone right now trying to decide whether or not to answer.

  2. February 28, 2013 3:30 am

    I also dislike phones, and I’m not a fan of being on hold either. Too many bad memories of wasted hours back in college trying to keep our internet rates from skyrocketing every three months. But now, living in a foreign country, all those uncomfortable human interactions are made so much worse by the fact that there’s a language barrier. So I think I’m in training. When I get back to the USA, I probably won’t even mind when someone cold-calls me, because at least I’ll be able to understand what they’re saying. 🙂

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