The 5 stages of hold music

Last week, I had to go into the office early because I had a 7 am meeting. It was to be a two-hour conference call in which I would be heavily involved in a presentation to the client, so there was no bowing out.

Dutifully, I called in to the conference line on time, even though I knew it probably wouldn’t start right at 7. The client had to get to our offices (in a different city than I’m stationed in), and there would undoubtedly be delays and chit chat and set up time.

But as time stretched on and I heard the same 45-second loop of nondescript tones that passes as our company’s hold music, I experienced a lot.

Here are the five stages of hold music I encountered. Learn from my experience.

Stage 1: Denial
This happens when you first call in and the music starts playing. “This won’t take long,” you think. “No big deal.” You poor, sweet, naive fool. This is the happiest stage of hold music hell.

Stage 2: Anger
“Holy crap. Where are they? Could someone at least send me an email to say when this is actually going to start? I got here early! I deserve better than this! I can’t even work on anything else because I don’t want to stop in the middle of something once the call suddenly starts. If I have to listen to this crap for another minute, I’m going to burn down the building and everyone in it!”

Stage 3: Bargaining
“Okay, it’s been 10 minutes, so I’ve listened to this same loop of music at least a dozen times. If the line picks up at the end of this loop, I’ll forget the whole thing. Look, I’ve already put out that little fire I started, see? We’re all friends here. Just let the call start, and I’ll be extra impressive on my part of the presentation. The client will be eating out of my hands. I won’t hold anything against anyone, and everything will be fine.”

Stage 4: Depression
“No one’s calling in. No one’s ever calling in. Why continue? What’s the point? I might as well just curl up under my desk and wait to be fired. I’m going to have to move into the mountains and live off the land. Do the Rockies have Sherpa guides? It doesn’t matter. I’m from Florida. I can’t be a mountain guide. I’ll die within a month. I’ll die, and this music will be playing in my head at the time. They’ll play this at my funeral. All my friends and family will hate me because of this music. This is it. This is my legacy. I can’t fight it.”

Stage 5: Understanding
“It’s okay. This music has become my life. It is me and I am it. My heart now beats in tune with the melody. I didn’t actually notice a melody existed before, but clearly I was mistaken. Everything is clear to me now. This is not just hold music; this is my theme music. Whenever I appear anywhere, this can play. It won’t just play in my brain when I go to bed, it will also tuck me in and watch over me while I sleep. No one understands it like I understand it. Even I didn’t understand it a short while ago. My mind is being opened up to so many possibilities. The universe was created to pass the time while God was listening to hold music. Inside it is the key to everything. I will discover these secrets. I will be unstoppable. All of time and space is mine to mold, to control, to conquer. There is nothing I can’t achieve!”

After playing for 20 minutes, the hold music cuts out and a voice says I’ve been waiting too long and the call needs to terminate. That hold music, which had become my whole life, is now gone. I try to remember the tones, but when they play in my head, they seem off. Is that a-tonal enough? It’s just not quite right.

I try calling other conference lines, but without a code to use for a conference, the hold music won’t play.

Dazed, I look out a window. The sun seems dazzlingly bright. It’s uncomfortable at first, but as my eyes adjust, I see so many possibilities.

A message pops up on my screen at 7:30, a note that they’re ready to start the presentation. But it’s too late. I’ve gone primal. The hold music is out there in this great big world, waiting for me, waiting for me to find it, to unlock all of its secrets. I will find it.

Before I know what’s happened, I’m outside, naked, running, in some direction, any direction. I’ll find the hold music. We’ll be together as one. There are limitless possibilities.

I hear the presentation went okay.

2 thoughts on “The 5 stages of hold music

  1. Would you please write up a post on how to survive hold music that has pre-recorded voices popping in all the time? That makes me crazy. Not as crazy as 20 minutes made you, mind, but still pretty crazy. 🙂 I hope you find it.


    • Oh, yeah, that’s always bad because you think someone is actually answering. I always wind up talking back to the recording, then yelling at it. I am obviously THE BEST at being on hold.


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