Daze of My Life: Time to Wait - or Not

Daze of My Life
Time to Wait - or Not

Over the last few days I've had to make calls to the Social Security Administration, The Department of Veterans Affairs, Verizon, Cavalier Telephone and Comcast Cable. Can you guess how many hours I've spent on hold? Don't answer that; my nerves are still raw from the experience and hearing how long I actually hung on, for what seemed like dear life, would only eviscerate what sliver of patience I still have left as I prepare to get back on that horse come Monday when presumably all hands - and their supervisors - will be on deck. Because the various problems that I need to address, though not life threatening, thank God, are still problems that unfortunately for me, will not take care of themselves. Nor are they problems likely to generate a call back with a resolution thanks to the due diligence and pursuit of truth, justice and the American Way by some over-achieving customer server.
In all fairness, the difficulties to which I refer have nothing even to do with the customer servers per se, it has to do with the process one has to endure, and the length of time one has to commit, before one even gets the opportunity to speak with an actual living and breathing, honest-to-goodness, fully interactive, wanting-to-help (in most cases), customer server.
Never in my life have I pressed so many buttons on a telephone. Never in my life have I listened to the same recycled, automated attendant-type message of appreciation for my business and gratitude for my patience for so long while hearing how committed to their callers/customers they are. And never before have I been so "muzaked" to death as I was on this particular Friday afternoon.
Since I made these calls on a corded landline, I have no one to blame but myself. Other than leaning back in my chair, standing up and stretching or putting the call on speakerphone, I wasn't able to maneuver. Certainly I wasn't able to walk outside, go to the bathroom, get anything to eat and most definitely I wasn't able to answer any other incoming phone calls for fear of losing my spot in their interminable queue; the all-too-familiar "calls will be answered in the order in which they are received."
So I sat and squirmed and fidgeted and simmered and stewed and stressed until finally I came to a boil: muttering, swearing, kicking, gesturing until the piece-de-resistance; with one final expletive deleted, I slammed the telephone down on the receiver without ever resolving anything, other than being resolute enough to sit for hours and accomplish nothing, what a country!
And to tell you the truth, the private sector calls were worse than the public sector, neither of which have anything to boast about, however. But what am I supposed to do? Write my Congressman? Write the companies' ombudsman? Call "Seven On Your Side?" No, realistically speaking, there's nothing I can do except call again on Monday. I need the service, I need the answers, and I need some assistance. Nothing will be resolved until I speak to an actual person, the very occurrence the process seems to want to avoid (I didn't say prevent, it just feels that way).
I realize it's a new world (technologically speaking) - and a new millennium - and the sooner I become accustomed to the "new math," so to speak, the better off I'll be. Still, for me, the numbers just don't add up. And though I understand that time waits for no man - or woman - there has to be a better system for customers and beneficiaries so that waiting is not how we spend all our time.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.