Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It Contains a Root Word for Death for a Reason

Warning: the following is true, right down to the names. It’s also very long because I actually took notes while I was on hold. I had to call my mortgage company because I had a question. It was a small question, really, but I needed to know the answer and couldn’t get it any other way.

After being passed through several voice mail options, I was routed back to the beginning. So I experimented with pressing different buttons until I got Hassad. Hassad’s entire job seemed to be to tell me that he would have to transfer me. So sorry! Please hold.

Unfortunately, the holding was more like being death-gripped, or being seized, maybe—by music that was recorded specifically to be a deterrent. A phone deterrent. I understand that handling phone calls is expensive and time consuming for companies, but sometimes you really must speak to a person.

This is not elevator music I’m talking about. I don’t mean “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” set to violin. It is aggressive, blood-pressure-pumping stuff that sounds like a really bad magic trick is about to be performed, one in which a lady might just get sawed in half, but what the heck, the audience really doesn’t care because her screams might drown out that music. Or maybe if Halloween were the kind of holiday that involved parades, this is what the band would play while floats of evil super heroes crash into buildings and mangle the mobs of onlookers. It involves random trumpets and organs and very windy wind instruments and lots and lots of cymbals. Doomp-doompa-doomp! Doompa-doompa-doompa-doomp! went the music, and then CLASH!! with the cymbals. Then a plaintive, somewhat nasally female recording came on and told me that if I would just go on their WEBSITE, I could get my answers much FASTER! Problem was, what I needed didn’t come from a website. I had to have a live human.

I would not let them win, so I pushed my phone headset away from my ears and waited. Except the sound was so obnoxious that it vibrated straight through my skull. Doomp-doompa-doomp!! REALLY, if I would just go on the WEBSITE!! …CLASH!!!

I played several games of computer Solitaire until I won. Finally I got Amy. Amy explained that the company has been sold (over a year ago) and still doesn’t have its information transferred over. Amy had no information whatsoever! So sorry! She’d put me through to someone who could answer my question, though! Hold please!

Doomp-doompa-doomp! Doompa-doompa-doompa-doomp!! …CLASH!!! The WEBSITE!…. Doompa-doompa-doomp!!!

I played—and won—a couple of games of Free Cell. By this point it was clear that the music was scientifically designed to give people headaches after prolonged exposure. Next was Manuel. Manuel sounded like he was struggling with depression. So sorry that he would have to transfer me again. Very very sorry. Was there anything else he could help me with?

I actually wondered if Manuel was forced to listen to that music. Maybe that was what was depressing him so. I figured he might be sympathetic and asked him if I could just be on hold without it. Pleeeease. I was not above begging at this point. Manuel sounded like he was almost in tears and explained that the next wait would be much shorter. So sorry.

Doomp-doompa-doomp! Doompa-doompa-doompa-doomp!!!! CLASH CLASH!!! My head throbbed. WEBSITE! More Doompa-doomp. Spider Solitaire. Won that one. Doompa-doomp some more.

After the longest wait yet, Kyle got on. Kyle couldn’t answer my question. Sorry!—I had been transferred in error! I needed to go back to the previous department, back to Manuel. Hold please!

Doomp-doompa-doomp! Doompa-doompa-doompa-doomp!!!... The WEBSITE!…. CLASH!!! CLASH!!! The pain in my head kept time with the beat.

Yet this time I did not get Manuel. I got Fay. Fay had a very distinct, high-pitched voice. Fay listened to my question and was certain I needed another department. She would transfer me.


Someone picked up a little quicker this time. It was…Fay again. Same Fay. Same accent…Philippines, maybe? Same high-pitched voice. Could she help me? Struggling between maniacal laughter and tears, I told her she had just transferred me and it must not have gone through. Fay had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. She did not remember me from 15 seconds earlier, but what was my problem? So I explained it all over again. That’s when she said it.

“Yes,” New-Old Fay said. “I believe I can answer that.”

Huh? And…HUH???

Amazingly, Fay-the-Second answered my question. It took less than a minute.

I am now convinced it’s a game, like a video game. I am writing this as living proof that it can, in fact, be beaten. If we hang on long enough and are determined enough, and if we press the right buttons and get through the various levels and battle repeated assaults from the evil music, ultimately Fay will link us to Twilight Zone Fay, Repeat-Fay, Warmed-Over Fay, Fay’s Clone Fay, the Ultimate Fay of Bizarro World, Keeper-of-the-Mortgage-Answers-Fay. The Wizard of Fay.

I imagine that somewhere at this mortgage company there is a tiny office in the Philippines where Fay sits behind a curtain, transferring people to herself, while people all over the world—Hassad and Amy and Kyle among them (but not Manuel because he’s just depressed by the whole thing)—snicker and giggle at the unsuspecting customers who attempt to make it to the Ultimate Level of Faydom without their heads exploding.

Well I made it. I did. I’d ask for a t-shirt to commemorate the occasion, but Fay would have to transfer me to sales.

If I have to pull up my big girl panties and deal with it one more time the elastic is going to break and I really will have to show my ass! ~Sign seen in Catalog Favorites


  1. OMG!! This is all so painfully true...with so many companies!! They must play that music so people WILL hate it and hang up! Reminded me of our conversation about the cable company!! After I talked to a few different people one exasperating afternoon, I hung up on the person and then yelled into the dead phone, "What number do I push to say #&*% you??!!" LOL

  2. Tammy,
    I don't know which is funnier, your quote or your post. And I can speak from experience. I used to work at an answering service when I was young. If someone was calling for a plumber, doctor etc. they would go down the phone book list, and EVERYtime they got a live operator, ME, and I said the exact same thing everytime, "Doctor so & so is out of the office, may I take a message?" Or, "May I have Mr. so & so return your call?" So yeah, there's probably one poser in India at a call center named Fay. I feel your pain. And NO, Fay doesn't hear or have control over the music. You write with emphasis and I feel like I am right there with ya.

  3. So funny but true! It reminds me of the time I had to claim misplaced luggage at the airport. My curse was a voice- recognition recorded message. It didn't seem to understand the plain English spelling of the four letters of my last name. When the voice repeatedly asked, "Is this correct?" I kept respelling and shouting, "NO!" into the telephone. People were staring. I'm not a violent person, but I actually wanted to hit a recorded message.

  4. How funny, in a sad sort of way.
    Maybe the mortgage company is using leftover music from what was used on prisoners as torture in Gitmo.
    On a happy note, you have a humorous and enlightening blog post and you used your time waiting well, too. Congratulations on winning at Solitaire.
    Donna V.

  5. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the hilarious quote at the end!! What catalog did you see that in?!

  6. It's sad that we've all had such horrible experiences with this! "What number do I push to say #&*% you??!!"--you said it, Bec!! And I put a link to the sign if you hover over "Catalog Favorites" in the quote.

    Linda, thanks for confirming how those places work. I too have handled phones, but I would think management would save more money if they paid people to answer questions rather than hiring so many to get rid of customers! It’s so unprofessional.

    Sad, Weedwacker, and I can vouch for the fact that you have an easy name!

    Donna, I'm going to have to look up torture in Gitmo, but I have a feeling you're right!! Too funny!


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