The horror of the new on-hold music

Where I work we live on conference calls. When a company is spread across all possible time zones then the phone is the central nervous system of the corporation, the place you just spend a lot of time on, the original Second Life.

Certain forms of etiquette are practiced on these calls — one person more astute than I noticed the grateful practice of saying someone’s name clearly a few seconds before asking a question of them, eg. “I was speaking to Glen last week. We were going over the TPS reports. And Glen said the TPS reports were better than the TSP reports. Glen, what you think?”

If Glen was listening then the first mention of his name would snap him out of email, and give him time to go off mute. Everyone goes on mute when they aren’t talking. Mainly so they can furiously Instant Message the other people on the call like gossiping teen-agers. The fun part is when the question gets asked and the respondent talks to the mute button, popping on after a really pregnant pause, usually with the apology: “I was talking on mute.”

I live in terror of not being on mute and saying some career threatening statement in one of my quasi-Tourette moments. Sometimes people forget to hit mute and a call with thirty people in Asia, Europe and America will be treated to the sounds of someone pecking away on their keyboard. This leads to the call cops calling for everyone to go on mute. This makes everyone who has been writing email, instant messaging, or staring out the window, start accusing other people in Instant Messaging to cut it out. And then there is the echo call — the one where someone phones in on a tin can with string and everyone sounds like a reenactment of a bad Acid trip. The moderator has to either page the conference operator — who magically “isolates the bad line” — or, if they are like me, just ignore it and spend the next hour yodeling into the cavern.

My colleague who pointed out the etiquette of saying someone’s name before bushwhacking them with a question — who is annoyed with me because I named him once in a post and now finds that my blog is the first result returned on his name — is also fascinated by dog barks during conference calls. He tries to match the bark to the owner. After a while you get to know who has the basso profundo dogs and who has the yappers.
I think my brain has been altered by the on-hold music. McKinsey’s was pretty bad — this really annoying flute solo that made think of men in tutu’s doing ballet in a flower field. Seven, eight calls a day, and seven or eight flute solos. Always the same flute solo. Now, I don’t expect amusing on-hold music like ScissorFight’s Kancamangus Mangler, nor do I expect Schubert’s Trout Quintet as performed by Yo Yo Ma, but the worst, absolute worst is the new Lenovo on-hold music which sort of sounds like the guitar solo from Steely Dan’s Reelin’ in the Years, the Elliott Randall solo which Jimmy Page once called the best guitar solo of all time, only it’s not. It’s sort of the Muzak version and it’s fifteen seconds long and then recycles. Sort of the eternal bridge.

Someone needs to write a touch-tone song book — oops, they did — so I can while away the on-hold time playing my own tunes, on my ’07 Avaya-caster.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “The horror of the new on-hold music”

  1. Our Avaya phones in AR lit up a very nice light when mute is on, probably the best idea since the wheel. That has not prevented me from talking to an audience of 20 on mute, but it happens less than before (the “*6” combination drove everybody else on the call nuts…).

    As for on-hold music, it sucks, has always sucked, and will always suck, it’s just a fact of life. Worst on hold music ever? My old ISP’s; besides they had the worst menu ever designed by man, you always ended up begging for a human (ANY human) to pick the darn call.

  2. On hold right now on Lenovo’s conference call system…you are right this is horrid…your steeley dan remark is spot on, but throw in a pinch of the theme song from Greatest American Hero (believe it or not, I’m walking on air), and a tad of Chicago meets the doobie brothers

    Our system allows you to turn the music off….

  3. Krista Summitt – Research Triangle Park, North Carolina – Krista is the host of the hilarious and must-listen Wine and Popcorn podcast about ABC's Scandal, as well as Wine, Fashion, Music, and Social Media. By day, Krista is a Chief Storyteller (aka Content Marketing Strategist). She's currently taking guitar lessons again and hopes to run her first half-marathon within a year. She's also a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, a DJ, and NY Times Crossword fanatic.
    Kristasphere says:

    First ROFL and you are SO dead on!

    Secondly, as the owner of 2 of the yapper-variety dogs, nothing is more embarrassing than not knowing you AREN’T on mute and getting caught yelling at the dog to get off the ottoman “Get DOWN! NOW! Dammit did you HEAR me?” OR cutesy-talking to them “how’s my little sugar?”.

  4. I like yelling at my dog on a conference call. Things like:

    “You’re not too old to still be beaten.”

    “Cut it out or I’ll lock you in the bathroom again.”

    “Quiet before I get the duct tape.”

    It works better when people think I have a kid. Once they hear him bark, the jig is up until I explain how my 6 year old has “Labradoritis” as a consequence of being raised in a steel cage.

    Like Talia to Al in GodFather III: “Now they will fear you.”


  5. Unfortunately, I don’t know how it works on Lenovo’s provider but our call in system gives you the option to hit 1 to mute the music…tanks god…

    The other great conference call trick is the sprint to the restroom..sprint back, and then check your IM’s to see if there are a bunch of frantic “where are you???” messages posted…not that I have ever done that

  6. the best hold music is the Mormon “Tabernacle Choir Singing Led Zeplin’s greatest hits.
    feckleslly yours believing in:yours
    abocados and oranges and fast ATV’s flying over low fences.


  7. Best story I recall from when I worked at Reuters was an Executive Committee teleconference spanning London, New York and Hong-Kong. It was late evening in New York. To minimize the number of talking head windows the image transmission was voice-activated – so if you didn’t say anything, you weren’t seen. Now, the EVP for North America, dressed in a nice suit and tie, got up and knocked something over, the noise of which caused his camera to automatically go active and to reveal to all parties that below his tie he was dressed only in the most lurid boxer shorts.

  8. Came across this post in an attempt to figure out what in the hell that awful sound is while on hold with a Lenovo/ASUS customer service number….and shocked to see this original thread started in 2007 and here it is 2013 and they are evidently STILL playing this horrible piece! You mean NO ONE has complained enough by now?!

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