Music on hold. Or, music-on-hold for emdash fans. This is the sound to which you are exposed by your telephone set while you cool your heels waiting for someone, anyone human (or tech support, nearly so) to pick up the call and talk to you. Typically, you've navigated a nasty phone tree to get where you 'are' and are loath to hang up lest you lose your place in 'line.' The callee's computer has typically informed you that your holding is much appreciated, they love you and your business and are willing to come groom your pet rat to keep you, or at least shave your cat, please don't hang up, be nice, we really really really really do like you, oh my it's just so busy right now unexpectedly (ignoring the fact that it's been busy the last fifteen times you called) and as soon as their horribly-overworked-but-cheerful phone droids can they'll connect to your little piece of telephonic limbo and your goal (which you've now forgotten anyway) will be closer to your grasp.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are some good points to music on hold. Heavens to Murgatroyd, if it wasn't for music on hold I would probably be severely deficient in my recommended daily allowance of classical music. Just today, I've heard: you can see, there is in fact a socially-redeeming component to music on hold. Some firms, such as Microsoft, even went so far as to hire dedicated Disc Jockeys (they called them Hold Jockeys) to spin tunes for you the listener while you waited. Said sides would be interspersed with commentary on how many callers were waiting in each calling queue; that way you could tell if you wanted to remain on line or risk losing your place.

Without such efforts, I would have been exposed to far less classical music than I receive now, and I do believe I would be a poorer man for it.

I called $LARGE_TELCO recently and I was surprised to hear:

"Your call has been placed in a queue. To listen to Classical music press 1, To listen to contemporary rock music, press 2."

I'm not sure how I feel about being able to choose music to listen to whilst I wait. On one hand, I have the quiet dissatisfaction of being made to wait and patronised with statements like "Your call is important to us", on the other hand at least I could choose "Music to get wound up by"

An option of "For German industrial heavy metal, press 3" might have been more fun. Imagine the state of mind you'd be in when you eventually get transferred to the complaints department after listening to Rammstein for 20 minutes!

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