“Thank you for calling. All of our representatives are assisting other callers at this time. Please hold for the next available care representative. Your current wait time is between ten minutes and twelve hours.”


It was annoying, this endless loop of recorded reassurance exaggerating my self-importance and promising future assistance. I was tired of waiting; my neck ached from holding the phone while I loaded the dishwasher and tidied the kitchen. I set the phone on the counter and put the polite recording on speakerphone as I banged breakfast plates around to the beat of Pachelbel’s Cannon in D grumbling about how valuable my time was. I didn’t want to wait for assistance, I wanted answers and help with my problem, NOW!

“Thank you for continuing to hold. Your call is very important to us; however, we are experiencing an usually high call volume at this time. If you would like to receive a return call within 24 hours, please press “1”. You will not lose your place in line. If you would like to continue to hold, please press “2”. “

I pressed “2”; there was no way I was hanging up. I didn’t trust that automated secretary despite the sincerity dripping from her circuitry to actually hold my place in line. No, I would wait it out; I’m used to perpetually waiting, I have chronic pain.

We live in a fast-paced society that provides access to the information highway where there are no posted speed limits 24-7-365. Need to do banking, no need to drive to the bank and have a chat with the teller while filling out a deposited slip. Just take a photo of the check with your cell phone, hit enter and BOOM DONE, the money is in your account. Need to pay a bill? No problem, hop on line, access your bank account, hit enter, BOOM DONE: no postage; no mail carrier, no waiting. We have become a society conditioned to receive instant gratification and when we don’t, things can get hostile!

The display on my phone indicated that I had been waiting for 29 minutes and 18 seconds; nearly a L.I.F.E.T.I.M.E. at least a half an hour can feel that long when you have chronic pain or illness. Endless minutes ticking by while you wait for medications to provide relief; or for sleep to come, for the phone to ring with test results, or to see the doctor. Suddenly the M.U.S.A.K. stopped and I heard a human voice.

“Hello! Thank you for holding this is Sally. How can I help you?” I hurried to grab the phone nearly tripping over a cat in the process.

“Hi Sally, I need to speak with someone regarding my account; the number is 123456789.”

“I’d be happy to help you with that.” I could hear the click, click, click of her fingers hitting the keyboard as she typed. I grabbed a pencil to make notes about how Sally was going to resolve my problem.

“I’m sorry, but you will need to speak with a Conflict Resolution Specialist. May I put you on a brief hold while I transfer the call?”

“Ah, sure.” I said, struggling to sound sweet as pushed my lunch aside and reached for the pencil sharpener. Somehow, the point of my pencil had broken.


Life with chronic pain and illness is like being placed on an endless hold and listening to the nice cyber-secretary give you options to choose.

So that we can connect you with the most appropriate department, please choose from the following options:

Press “1” for pain sitting

Press “2” for insomnia

Press “3” for nausea

Press “4” for dysesthesia

Press “5” to cancel your plans for the day

Press “6” to wallow in self-pity

Press “7” to scream at a stranger

Press “8” for discouragement

Press “9” for an emotional break down

Press”0” to hear these options again”


The minutes ticked by like a metronome and tension was mounting as I continued to hold for the Conflict Resolution Specialist. I had started to prepare dinner when a familiar voice interrupted the M.U.S.A.K.

“Thank you for holding, your patience is appreciated. Our highly qualified staff is dedicated to giving you the personalized care you need! Please stay on the line. Customers like you make our job a pleasure! If you would like to take a brief survey after this call, please press “1”; if not, then press “2”.”

Fresh out of patience I dropped the vegetable peeler to reach for the phone. You want me to tell you what I think I screeched at the receiver. I was about to press “1” to unleash my venomous thoughts when I realized that I can choose how I wait while pain puts my life on hold. I decided to opt out of the survey and instead, wrote down my own list of directory options while I continued to wait on hold for the Conflict Resolution Specialist.

Press “1” for happiness

Press “2” for a positive attitude

Press “3” to call a friend

Press “4” to listen to soothing music

Press “5” to read a book

Press “6” to view personal growth opportunities

Press “7” to be an encouragement to others suffering

Press “8” to spend time in prayer and meditation

Press “9” to hear a list of things to be grateful for

Press “zero” for a directory of life’s small joys

I was humming softly to the M.U.S.A.K. version of Brahms Lullaby while I bushed my teeth and put on my pajamas when I heard a perky voice say, “You have reached the Conflict Resolution Team. This call may be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes. My name is Georgia, how may I help you?”

“Hi Georgia” I said sleepily, “I would love your help, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what my problem is!”