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Column: Spending our lives (and possibly our deaths) on hold

“Please hold for the next available operator/clerk/account-administrator/technician/helpfulpersonwhoknowseverythingbuttellsnothing.”

Life on hold, that’s what we’re living now. As if being placed on temporary leave from our lives by a nonhuman recording isn’t bad enough, then another synthetic being comes on and says: “This call will be recorded for educational/administrative/otherreasonsregaradinglawsuit purposes.”

In other words, they’re not quite certain what you want, but just in case the you-know-what hits the fan, don’t get any litigious ideas, bud/lady.

The problem with cell phones is that they’re too small to hold in a shoulder-shrug grip against your ear, like we could do with Ma Bell’s phone receivers. But the good thing is, we can put the various clicks, buzzes, and background music on speaker phone and walk off, as long as we stay within hearing. See? Life goes on. Hold.

So we can go wash dishes, fold underwear, clean up cat yuck, and forget all about the 15 minutes we have invested in this call that are subtracted from our monthly minutes, because we just found something else totally engaging. Which leaves the electronic recordings singing their vacant songs to nobody.

I wonder how a call to various other organizations less available on a daily basis would go. For example, if you dialed heaven…

“Hello, this is St. Peter’s answering service. He’s pretty busy right now trying to decide whether a truck driver should be given preference over a dentist because the truck driver was trying to deliver a load of baby diapers while the dentist was really just drilling for enough money to buy new tires for his Jag. Please hold….”

“Hello, this is St. Peter’s technical Interheaven web design service. All techs are currently busy because St. Peter is having trouble choosing between a Web page featuring winged angels versus a Web page featuring flying cherubs. Please hold for the next unemployed tech even though all the really experienced ones who have been here a long time are busy and you’ll probably get Some New Person who doesn’t know his/her Bible stuff enough to tell St. Peter from a giraffe’s back end. Good luck. Thank you for choosing heaven and someone will be with you in an eon or two.” (We get to choose? That takes some pressure off and gives you something to think about while you’re on hold for the next half of eternity. It also explains how St. Pete is handling a planet with a lot more people on it, some of whom we must presume will need extra help with all that pearly gate stuff.)

“Hello, this is The Recording Angel at St. Peter’s Applications Department. Thank you for calling. I am currently out of the office but I want your call. The Computer recognizes your number, but apparently we have lost your application somewhere between the ending of your earthly ashes-to-ashes stage and the beginning of your dust-to-dust-at-the-gate stage. Please hold. Your wait is currently 300 centuries.”

And finally, being placed on hold for this guy may be the best thing that has ever happened to you…

“Hello. This is Satan’s Help Desk at The Hellfire Emporium. We are currently experiencing a heavy call volume, due to some guy in a place called North Korea and a bunch of bearded fellows who have upset the staff here with some wild tale about not getting their promised virgins. Not only that, but our main Fire and Brimstone boiler has broken down, and we’re waiting for parts from Sodom and Gomorrah or an alternate inferno. Your current wait time is somewhere between 12 eons and 20 eternities. Although you don’t have a chance in Hell of any other outcome, we appreciate your wait.”