HUMOR – Five ways to spend 43 days of your life

I’ve been on hold for 37 minutes. A less patient person would have hung up by now, but this is important. I wouldn’t have waited this long to order a pizza, not when I could have made one by now.

I’ve spent my time pacing and talking back to the recorded message. “If my call is so important, why don’t you pick up? What did you do? Go to lunch—in another state?”

 I wonder how much time I’ve spent on hold in my life. Days? Months? Years? I put my phone on speaker and lay it on my desk. Then I sit down at my computer and type the question into my search bar.

I’m obviously not the first to wonder because there are 585 million results. I’m not making that up. I hope I don’t have time to read them all.

Those I do read agree that the average person will spend 43 days of their life listening to elevator music and a recorded message thanking them for their patience. Incidentally, I think that’s also how you spend all eternity if you die and go to hell.

Several articles suggest there are more productive ways to spend time on hold than arguing with recorded messages. Some of the following sanity-saving options won’t be available to you if you’re using a landline though. Unfortunately the only alternative for you may be to tear the phone out of the wall. But then you’ll lose your place in the queue.

1. March right into the company you’re calling while you’re on hold. It’s been done. A Canadian man laid his landline phone down and drove 15 minutes to the business he was holding for. When a customer service person asked him to wait, the man said, “You see that red, blinking light on the phone? That’s me holdin’ on from home.” I’d do that myself if I didn’t need an airplane ticket.

2. Tweet a complaint using the hashtag #onholdwith. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you should have time to sign up for one while you wait.

Your complaint may wind up on the website which was created by a company that manufactures callback technology. That’s the wonderful invention that allows you to leave your number and be called back in the order your call was received. I take a moment to tell the recorded message about it. It thanks me for my patience. features thousands of complaints from people who’ve tweeted about their hold experiences. At first, reading that other people have spent multiple hours on hold made me feel better. Then I started to realize how bad this could get before it’s over.

3. Put your cellphone on speaker and start preparing lunch while you’re on hold. You may have time to eat, do the dishes and paint the house too.  

4. Rehearse what you want to say when someone finally picks up. Oh wait. I misread that. Rehearse what you need to say, not what you want to say. It isn’t the customer service representative’s fault that their employer hasn’t invested in callback technology. And if the business is short staffed, you don’t want them quitting because you said what you wanted to say—even if it was well rehearsed.

But do practice what you need to say. You called for a reason, and it would be a shame if you forget what that was by the time your call is answered.

5. Keep quiet. Somewhere among the 585 million articles about being on hold, I read that when your call is being recorded for quality assurance purposes, it may be recorded from start to finish. Not only that, the representative may actually be able to hear what you’re saying while you’re on hold. Uh-oh.

Dorothy Rosby is the author of Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About, Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time and other books. Contact her at