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.