SUNDAY LIFE!, 8 February 1998

Dial M for Murderous

A holiday soothes the mind, lifts the spirit, rejuvanates the body. Booking a holiday is utter hell. PAUL McDERMOTT gets caught in the holding pattern

I was recently trying to book some tickets for a small trip overseas. Sixteen hours of sheer hell...not the trip, the phone calls. In the time I spent on the phone I could have travelled to America, and come back. I was so tense I needed a holiday just to get the memory of the phone calls out of my system.

"If you want to confirm your tickets-press one". What do I press to speak to a human? I want to hear a human voice.(Of course when I speak to a human being I want the machine back.)

"If you want information about other arrangements- press two"

Can these people speak any more slowly? If timed local calls happen in this country, within hours we'll have the economy of Albania. And never get stuck on a call with your mobile. That's the fast track to poverty. You may as well burn your money.At least it'd keep you warm.

"I'll be with you in a minute sir"

When did the meaning of the word "minute" change? Surely a minute still comprimises 60 seconds. These seconds folow each other, one after another, in quick succession, with no gaps. Or has the term minute a different meaning when you're on the phone ? Is that a "real" minute or a "phone" minute?

In a phone minute the seasons change, the years come and go, your children grow up and move out. The phone minute can be used to denote any length of time, as in, God created the world in a phone minute.

Most of the time I was alone in Hold World-limbo for the living. A comforting recorded voice told me what a great service I was getting. That voice, always so gosh darn happy so infuriatingly understanding, offering me wonderful incentives and leeting me know what a clever chap I was for choosing this buisness.

Spaced evenly through the incentives were the apologies.

" Your call is important to us " If it's so important speak to me.

" All our operators are busy " So employ some more.

" We'll be with you shortly " LIAR(will that be in a minute?)

" Thankyou for calling and now some music specially designed to torture your brains." Is it a coincedence that most offensive tunes humanity has to offer are played every time your on hold?

My ears suffered the indignity of Roxette as I waited for my six-didgit code. I-for Inefficient, M-for Mistake, W-for Wait, L-for Long Wait, E-for Exta Long Wait, P for Pay Us NOW. The six-digit makes everything more efficient, things really move once those magic numbers are quoted. But to quote them you have to spend time in the Hold World, and speak to Mr I-don't-really-care-if-you-live-or-die Recorded voice.

I discovered the person I had a problem with was also the person I should complain to if I had a problem. I told her something wasn't quite right, she said nothing was wrong, and thats were it ended. Thank God Kafta didn't live to see this.

After the ordeal, I had to speak with someone to get it all of my cheast. I called a busy friend. Have you ever tried to tell a deeply personal and traumatic story to someone who has'call waiting'? It's embarrassingly cruel. There's that tell-tale buzz. Your host expresses concern and promises to get rid of the annoying caller. You nervously wait while they see who the other person is.

When they come back, you know instantly how important you are to them. If the continue the conversation with you it's O.K(although you are a caring person you worry about the caller who has been rejected). If they say, sorry, I have another call, you don't mind, do you, we'll talk later, this is're wretched.

So I am going to have a holiday. I think I need one, but please, don't expect a phone call.

Typed up by from the MOSH!!! page.