Queue Investment

A not unfamiliar scene: me, holding a telephone, waiting patiently in a call-queue.  There is background music and, intermittently, a repeated, recorded message.  This one is more encouraging than some:

“Thank you for your patience.  You are moving forward in the queue and will be answered shortly.”

Unlike some call-queues, though, this one gives no indication of my advancement through the queue; I could be the next caller to be answered or #5302; there is no way of knowing.

I have been waiting in this same position of doubt and expectation for fifteen minutes now.  What should I do?  Continue to wait on hold for who knows how long, or give up and call again later?  It is all a question of queue investment.  At some point, I have to make the mental calculation of how much of my life I have already wasted waiting in the call-queue over how much more I anticipate wasting until my call is answered.

It is not an easy sum, full of many variables and several unknowables.  And, of course, all the time that I ponder this seemingly intractable problem the clock is ticking.  My investment in the queue is growing; the futility of my endeavour increasing should I now decide to hang up without conclusion.  Fifteen minutes has turned to twenty minutes, and still I hang on.  Am I beyond the point of turning back?  Is my investment in the queue terminal?  Have I no choice but to see this through to the bitter end?

Now I start speculating about conditionals.  What if I had hung up after five minutes?  I wouldn’t have wasted so much time; wouldn’t be in this position now.  But there is no going back.  I can’t ever recover the amount of time that I have already invested in the queue.  Whatever happens, that has gone for good.  In all but one respect, I am powerless.  The only choice within my own control is to hang-on or to hang-up.  Twenty-five minutes.  What do I do?

I am nothing if not dogged.  I cling on to this dubious adjective as though it is something positive, whilst in my mind half-a-dozen other nouns flagellate me for my blind belief that this call will ever be answered: sucker; loser; fool; dupe; chump; mug.

But then again, is waiting in a call-queue not so very different from the rest of Life?  Investment, belief and waiting.  And, at the end?  What then?

Does the Great Hereafter arrive with a young Scottish voice saying:

“I’m sorry for your wait.  How can I help you today?”

© Simon Turner-Tree

Simon Turner-Tree is simply killing Time.

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