By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
I dialed the number and, after a few rings, a recorded voice answered.
Recording: “Thank you for calling ABC Clinic. Your call is very important to us.”
Me: Is it? If you really felt that way, wouldn’t I be talking to someone with a pulse right now? But I appreciate the sentiment. Go on.
Recording: “Please listen closely as our menu options have changed.”
Me: Wait a second. You said this same thing the last time I called. How often are you guys changing phone options? I’d bet good money it’s still Option 3, just like it was the last time I called. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Go ahead and outline the options.
Recording: “For billing, please press 1. For the nurse line, please press 2. For appointments, please press 3.”
Me: Ah ha! I knew it! Option 3, just like it was last time. Clearly, the menu options haven’t changed, no matter what you say.
Recording: “For Obstetrics, please press 1. For Ear, Nose, and Throat, please press 2. For Cardiology, please press 3. For the Sleep Clinic, please press 4. For Family Practice, please press 5.”
Me: Okay, Option 5. Those options didn’t change either, by the way.
Recording: “Please press 1 to enter a date of birth. Press 2 to enter a different phone number. To continue without entering a date of birth, please press pound.”
Me: I bet all the rule breakers press pound. I’m gonna press pound. I’m sick of taking orders from a phone robot.
Recording: “Please hold for the next available operator.”
Me: Hold, huh? Is this punishment for pressing pound?
(On-hold music begins playing.)
Me: You know, people say on-hold music is terrible, but this isn’t that bad. It’s pleasant enough. The pan flute doesn’t get enough credit.
(Music plays… and plays… and plays.)
Me: I take it back. This is bad. It’s really just the same two bars of the same instrumental song over and over. It’s beginning to burrow into my brain.
Me: Thank God! It’s finally over. They’re taking my call.
Recording: “Did you know that you can schedule appointments from the comfort of your own home when you use our website? Find it at www.medicalpeopleareus.com.”
Me: But I don’t want to visit the website right now. I want to talk to a real person. That’s why I’m calling…on a phone…the thing once used for humans to talk to each other but is now mostly used as a camera, a calculator or a way to get turn-by-turn directions to Denver. Can’t we just talk and work this thing out?
(Music plays again.)
Me: Oh no, not the music again. Please pick up. I wonder if they make prisoners in solitary confinement listen to this music.
Recording: “We appreciate your patience. Your call is very important to us.”
Me: I might have believed those words five minutes and three menu options ago. Not anymore, Recorded Lady. Not anymore.
(Music plays again.)
Me: Why doesn’t anyone there want to talk to me? I’m trying to give you real money. Shouldn’t that get me a real person on the phone?
Me: Hallelujah! Finally, my turn.
Recording: “Please continue to hold. A team member will be with you shortly. Your call is very important to us.”
Me: Liar. Do you talk to your recorded mother with that mouth?
(Music plays again.)
Real Human: Hello, this is the appointments desk. Can I help you?
Me: “Yes! Yes, please. I’d like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Whoozit.”
Real Human: “Can you please hold while I check his availability?”
Me: “Um… could you just hold the phone while you check? I don’t mind hearing the keyboard tapping or the sound of staplers. I just don’t want to go back on hold. I’ve been there before. I can’t listen to that music again. And what if we accidentally get disconnected? I’d have to start all over. And if I have to start all over again and wade through the recordings and the options and the music and the on-hold advertisements for your website, I’m going to need an appointment with a good psychiatrist, too. Because your pan flute will drive me right over the edge.”
Real Human: “Pan flute?”
Me: “I’m begging you. Please don’t put me back on hold.”
Real Human: “We can fit you in tomorrow at 9 a.m. Will that work?”
Me: “Yes, I’ll take it!”
Real Human: “Great, we’ll see you then. And thank you for calling ABC Clinic. Your call is…”
Me: “…very important to you. That’s what I’ve heard.”