Please, Stay on the Line

December 2005 - So, here we are. Just a few weeks until the end of 2005, and you may be expecting some kind of meaningful insights about the holiday season. If that's true, then you obviously haven't been reading this column for the past several months!

But, seeing as it is the most wonderful time of the year, let me say this: It would be even more wonderful if we waited until the holidays are actually here to start thinking about them. The way things are going, it won't be long until we really will have Christmas in July. If I wanted warm, sunny weather for the holidays, I'd move to Australia. I mean, really.

You know what else bothers me? The fact that, as far as I can tell, the phone company does not want to answer the phone. When I called with a question about a recent bill, I was first asked to press 2 for Spanish. No, thanks. Then, I had to punch in my phone number, and then I actually had to say a word that described my problem. For the record, that's BILLING. After all that, I expected to be put on hold and entertained by soothing music, occasionally interrupted by a voice telling me that my call is important and someone will be with me shortly. Instead, I got a voice telling me that they were very busy and I should call back later. And go through all that again? No way!

So, I tried the e-mail approach. Seemed easy enough. Soon, I had a reply saying that they had received my inquiry, but warning me that they were very busy and it might take a while to get back to me. That was Monday. You know when they got back to me? Tuesday – of the next week! I waited so long for an answer that I just went ahead and paid the bill. I mean, really.

Lately, I've had to navigate quite a few phone systems, pressing this number or that, just to leave a message or, on a good day, actually get to talk to someone. It's all made me think about my own answering machine. Years ago, before the wonderful invention of the do-not-call list, I received a lot of unsolicited phone calls. I would get home from work and see the answering machine light blinking only to be rewarded with someone asking me for money. It got so bad that I eventually recorded a message that went something like this: "If you're selling something, I don't want it. If you're looking for a donation, I gave at the office. Otherwise, leave a message." Not quite as effective as the do-not-call list, but close.

These days, I've shortened it to a more manageable "Hi, this is Jennifer. Please leave a message after the beep." But, I think I can do better. How about: "Jennifer. Message. Leave one." I mean, really.