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The Waiting is the Hardest Part


By Eric Pulier

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES reinforce our standing among the laughably inferior forms of life. Compared to the sniveling beasts of the jungle, Man's intelligence--not to mention his table manners--is unparalleled. Man is the absolute undisputed master of all he surveys. Yes, progress has served him well. That is, until now.

A recent "innovation" developed by Bell Lab's Department for Creative Sadism currently is attempting to doom the human race to extinction by exposing the public to fatal doses of irritation. The project--code named "Call Waiting"--promises to be to humanity what massive and ubiquitous mud pits were to the dinosaurs.

To avoid instances in which conversations come perilously close to an unhindered completion, the company has hired thousands of professionals to carefully listen to our telephone conversations. Their job is to make disruptive clicky sounds at key moments indicating that there is another "call waiting." Ideally, this will cause us inadvertantly to hang-up on the people to whom we already were speaking. The people at Bell Labs find this very funny. The technique is most enjoyable during important conversations...

"Listen to me, and listen quick...the money is hidden in the CLICKITY-CLICK--"

"What? What?"

"Listen, damn you! The cops are at the door...the money is in the--CLICKITY-CLICK--Uh, is that you or me?"

"I'll try it..."


"Hello? Hello?

Dial tone

"I guess it was him."

WHEN PEOPLE really do call on the other line, the next round of aggravation is built right into the system. The first problem is the natural human aversion to clicking down the hangerup thingy in the middle of a conversation. We have been indoctrin ated from birth to associate such behavior with rudeness--tantamount to blowing your nose in the hand of a person trying to make a point during an argument.

Now, suddenly, we are expected to abandon our notions of civilized decorum and run amok like some base creature of the wild. Abandoning basic norms of human behavior is no problem for most, but even if this initial obstacle can be overcome, the road to a successful, "call waiting" experience remains fraught with danger.

The next dilemma is "whose click is it?" Naturally both people try clicking the receiver, disconnecting one of them entirely. Attempts to ignore the other call are fruitless, as the phone company has taken the precaution of brain-washing the American people in childhood to allow an inordinate number of rings before hanging-up in order to "be polite." As if I am going to thank the fool who politely infests my home with a grating bell for 10 uninterrupted minutes--"Thank you so much for waiting...I really couldn't decide whether or not to answer, and you gave me the time to make up my mind. I'll never forget you." You simply cannot ignore the clicks in the hope that they will go away.

In the rare event that only the right person tries for the incoming call--and then he or she actually gets through to the other caller--it is inevitable that the person left `on hold' will be plagued with the nagging certainty that they are begin talked about. As you sit in silence, a cold sweat slowly envelopes your nervous frame and your imagination runs free.

"I'm on the other line now with that Bozo Pulier. HA HA! What a moron he is! Hey, let's say bad things about him while he waits, the unwitting dupe!"

YOU MEANWHILE, have the reciever jammed tightly into your temples--creating a permanent indentation in your already unsightly skull--trying desperately to pick-up faint traces of the conversation on the other line. When you are reconnected, your formerly friendly conversation then degenerates.

"So, uh, who was that?"

"Oh, just a friend (tee hee)...anyway,"

"Why are you laughing? What did you say about me, you insufferable swine?"

What we need is a device to enable the person on hold to silently monitor the other caller's conversation.

"No, Mary, I don't mind if you take the other call, but I'm afraid that I am going to have to monitor the line. In this dangerous age, the practice of `Safe Phone' is imperative to mental health. I simply cannot afford the risk of ridicule in this stage of my emotional development."

In the off chance that your call somehow avoids the insidious traps of the "Call Waiting" conspiracy, when you are finally connected to the other line you will probably just ask them if they can call back later. This is the same as a busy signal--but with one difference: the phone company makes money with the connection.

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