Please Hold for the Next Available Annoyance

March 24, 2011 | By | Comments (1)
Answer me! Now!

The phone rang the other night as we were getting ready to sit down to dinner.

The caller ID screen said: 800 number.


Phone 2 Weeks go by when nobody but my mother calls our home phone. But then we land on some tele-marketer’s “call list,” and the robots and computers start pestering us mercilessly.

This time, a toll-free campaign of harassment has been underway for days. On Monday, I made the mistake of answering and had a conversation with a tinny, machine voice. It went:

Computer: Please hold for the next avail–

Me: [click]

Since then, we've avoided all calls— until an hour ago when my husband barely escaped after talking for 10 minutes to a prescription-refill computer that refused to believe we don't need any pills.

Answer me! Now!

Was the druggist's computer calling again so soon?

I set down the platter I was carrying. (It was my favorite chicken, the kind you marinate in soy sauce and ginger, and then roast until the skin puffs up and turns a crispy, lacquered color, and it’s especially good when it’s hot from the oven.) I picked up the receiver.

“Yes?” I said, not necessarily sounding like a person who makes a living writing about good manners.

“I have an important business call for Michaela For-a-tell-a,” a voice asked.

At least it was a human.

“I'm sorry, but you're interrupting dinner,” I said. "Please don't call again."

As I started to hang up, I heard a plaintive, “Wait, I’m calling about a late payment on your-”

I stopped.


It turned out to be true; I realized I had misplaced a statement that came in the mail.

“Are you the person that the machine voice has been telling me to ‘hold for’ all week?” I asked.

She was.

“I’m sorry for sounding rude,” I said. “But I thought you were a computer.”

She laughed.

I paid the bill.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “we won’t call again.”

As I headed back to the table, I thought about a recent article I’d read, which described how an unexpected phone call feels intrusive nowadays, compared to email and Facebook messages and texts that we can answer when it suits our schedule. We're headed back to the attitude of a century ago, when we resented the new-fangled phone thingies for their shrill insistence that we drop everything to pay attention to an interruption.

Then the phone rang again.

I looked at caller ID: it was a different 800 number.

I glanced at the chicken: so crispy.

Answer me! Now!

Should I?  What would you do?


(image courtesy of

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