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Hold Me, Please

Sorry, can’t do it. You thought that eventually stay at home sad – the stay at home dad (who’d rather not be there) would break down and talk about how he just wants to be loved and understood and held? Never. I want to admit how I need to be on hold. If you ever have the opportunity, please put me on hold. Sometimes I’ll choose the music, sometimes I prefer the solitude. Either way, don’t worry, I’ll wait. I wasn’t always like this.

Just  a few short years ago I was busy like you (well, maybe I was busier than you over there). I got to my job in the morning and it was a non-stop carnival ride, fire putting out, customer appeasing, vendor tracking down day. Every second of my day was thought about to maximize efficiency. If I needed to go to the bathroom, I thought about what kinds of things I could get done on the way there or back. Every day I was on the phone like 7 hours out of my 10 hour day. My headset was my lifeline.

What did people do before headsets. Sure, I guess in the 70’s there was that big knob that attached to the back of a phone so you could hold it between your shoulder and ear with 20% less neck pain. I’m not sure if the phone shoulder bump will make it into the annals of high-tech history when all the cards are finally counted, but it was sweet in 1978. Can you imagine the excitement on the Tuesday that Bernice at the front desk had the phone technician screw or glue the phone bump to the sea-foam green phone. Bernice was happy. Customers were happy. Company was happy. Phone bump was happy.

I had to spend time on the phone with customers, as well as talking with my business associates (note: usually when someone refers to himself and associates, it’s usually just himself. Associates are make believe employees). I actually did have a business partner who I talked to every day. If he got another line calling in he would ask to put me on hold. I would always agree. The second that he put me on hold I would hang up. I was way to busy for hold and at some point it just became funny to agree to the hold and then back out of my verbal agreement and hang up.

Someone younger than me would have a difficult time explaining the importance of twitter. But, I’m older so I just assume I’m missing something. Just like some people older than me believe some elements of the phone are rude. Call waiting lets you know if a more important person is calling – someone you’d prefer talking to. Hold – need I say more. Hold says that not only do I want to talk to someone more important, but I want you to wait around and do nothing else until I have time to talk to you. I don’t agree that these are rude. It’s all about efficiencies. I think it’s rude to commit to a hold just because you can’t say no. If you can’t hold, say you can’t hold. But, us Americans are a nervous lot who don’t like to lose our place in line. And in the world of business, hold is basically a line.

Since I’ve been at home with the kids and not on the phone with customers or running a business, my perception of hold has changed. Now, I have plenty of time. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Isn’t watching the kids a full-time job. Well, not really the way I do it. For example, we’ve been blessed with kids who play independently (or we were blessed because we told them to just go play something, because I can’t always play with you). So, if the kids are playing and I need to deal with a cable problem, for instance, there’s a good chance that I may end up on hold. Now, hold seems zen like to me. It’s like I’m just waiting somewhere to meet a friend or I’m at a bus stop waiting for a ride home. I agreed to the hold and I’ve got nothing else going on. I’ve got a speaker phone and it can be carried with me. So I can be on hold for half an hour at a time. I carry my phone around waiting to meet my friend at the other end. Some days I can get a load of laundry done or load the dishwasher or break up two kid fights before my friend shows up on the other line.

The phone initially was another thing to make our lives easier. And everyone knows that a creature with no natural predators needs every luxury possible to get through its day. Early on a few teenage girls figured out that the phone could be used as a form of therapy by telling a friend – at almost any time of the day – what went on just hours before and possibly what will go on hours in advance in the tormented teen’s life.

Eventually this teen therapy caught on and everyone – even grown men – began yammering on like teenage girls. The cell phone let us go mobile with our therapy. I don’t know why real therapists don’t just let people phone it in. People would open up much quicker and no pesky grease stains on the arm of the couch. I can’t imagine how people used to hold in all the experiences that happened to them before cell phones and texting – having to wait an excruciating 3 or 4 days to tell a friend. Maybe it made us think more about what we wanted to say and not tell every little story.

I must admit that I’ve been guilty of phone overuse at times. At least I’m aware of my problem. Sometimes I like to pack as many stories as I can into a phone call to a friend. Some stories don’t really make the cut, but I tell them anyway. It’s a bit selfish. I may know the story isn’t that good, but I think I can make it better by saying it out loud on the phone. Can’t the phone help with that? In response to my phone story problem, I have acknowledged to friends that I have this problem and that they can go at any time -as soon as I finish this one last story.

Being at home I don’t have any tales of evil customers, or great lunches, or work problems that need to be shared or conferenced into. So when I have the opportunity to be on hold it seems like a nice way to stay connected and to test my previously top-notch multitasking tools. But, don’t ask me to answer a three question survey about how the service was. What, are you kidding me. I’m super busy here. I need to get off the phone right away. I’ve got to write a very important blog about how I like to be on hold. It’s super important. I need to tell people right away. This can’t wait.

Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

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