I Used To Call You On My Cell Phone (My List of Dos and Don’ts for Sitting on Hold)

Anyone who knows me even on the most basic level can tell you that one of my greatest nemesis on this earth is the telephone. Essentially the only people who I will forego my “no telephone” rule for are my grandparents and my mom. Generally speaking, I have a difficult time navigating my way through conversations when I can’t see the person on the other side. How do you know when to cut off the conversation and say goodbye? What if you both start to talk at the same time, or even worse, what if neither of you have anything to say? What if the other person is secretly on the toilet during your conversation? It’s just too much to handle.

Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that my telephone-bia could actually reach heights that I never even imagined were possible. Any person who has ever found themselves on EI has felt my pain. Now, let me first say that we are very fortunate in Canada to have Employment Insurance to fall back on when we find ourselves out of work for maternity leave or any other reason. The process of getting it, however, is painful. So very painful. I think that it can best be described as the feeling you might get when trying to haggle over an incorrect charge on your phone bill while scrubbing a toilet in a men’s gas station rest stop with your teeth because you have two broken arms and a rabid squirrel is biting at your legs. If you have never found yourself in such a scenario, I suppose that makes you one of the lucky ones.

Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of (attempting to) speak to a Service Canada Representative twice in the span of three days. While listening to an instrumental version of “My Heart Will Go On” for the 17th time, I began to compile a list of Dos and Don’ts for anyone who might find themselves in my situation, or any other one where you are forced to wait on hold for an abhorrent amount of time.


  • DO make the call from a landline and not your cellular phone. Today might be a good day to pay a visit to your parents or your grandparents because I’m not really sure where else you can get away with making an hour long phone call on somebody’s telephone without being noticed. Although the number may be toll-free, this call is still going to eat up your precious cell phone minutes. If you don’t have a good talk plan (because you only text, like me) you will be paying about a million dollars each time you call.
  • DON’T drink a lot of coffee while you are waiting. It might seem like a nice way to pass the time, but you do not want to have to make the choice between leaving the phone for a bathroom run or taking it with you and having the representative pick up 30 seconds after you sit down on the toilet.
  • DO try to make the call while your child is having a nap. If you do not, I can absolutely, 100% guarantee that they will choose this time to have an explosion of either the temper or diaper variety and trying to navigate these circumstances with one hand is impossible, at best.
  • DON’T expect the nap you just put your baby down for to last the duration of your call. It doesn’t matter if they are usually a 2 hour napper. Today, the nap will last approximately 7.23 minutes.
  • DO consider shaving your head prior to placing your call. This will help to prevent bald patches associated with ripping out your hair with your bare hands out of frustration.
  • DON’T bother trying to find a secret, direct line to call instead of the 1-800 number. As far as I can tell, in much the same way as all drains lead to the ocean, all numbers lead to the 1-800 number you were dialling in the first place.
  • DO consider paying a personal visit to the nearest physical location of the number you are calling if you can actually find it. Make-up, clean hair and pants not constructed of spandex are discouraged – remember, you are angry and exhausted, so you need to look the bedraggled part. You will still be forced to sit in an uncomfortable chair and wait, but at least with this option you will be surrounded by human beings whose faces can now haunt your dreams instead of the disembodied voices and ringtones that were doing it before.
  • DON’T ever call between the hours of noon and one o’clock. The line is always  busy, no matter what time you call, but this block may actually be the worst. Your odds of speaking to someone increase from 0 to about 3% if you call when the first ray of morning sunshine smiles upon your tear-stained cheek.
  • DO find something else to occupy your time while waiting on hold. Perhaps you might like to get out your canvas and oils to paint a lovely ocean seascape, inspired by the tranquil hold music whose current selection includes the sounds of crashing waves and calling gulls.
  • DON’T get excited when the sound of a human voice interrupts the hold music. This is a recording that plays approximately every 5 minutes to restore your fading hopes.
  • DO know that as soon as you hang up the phone after finally getting to speak to someone, you will realize that you forgot to ask one of the most important things that you were calling about, so you will get to do this all again tomorrow.

Happy dialling!

xox k

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