On Hold

posted in: Poetry | 0

Phone purgatory, with poems by Judith Arcana and Dennis H. Lee.
5 minutes


Happy New Year! I hope your holiday season delivered to you what you hoped or what you needed. My holiday season included making a few doctors’ appointments, trying to get my new cellphone set up, and dealing with a credit card problem. They were all phone calls. And they all came with multiple choices and holds. In case you’re having trouble imagining that, here are two pieces to help.

Judith Arcana said, “I write from both instigation and inspiration; that is, sometimes I decide to write about a specific idea or experience, and sometimes an idea or experience shows up and starts turning itself into phrases and lines in my mind. Everybody who uses phones in the U.S. will know what inspired my poem ‘Thank You for Your Patience.’”

The old woman gathers her papers
sits down and puts her feet up.
She’s ready for it now.

Please stay on the line. Listen carefully.
Our menu (like everything else
you’ve ever known) has changed.

If you know the extension of the person
you want to reach, you may enter it now.
Or not. That’s up to you.

To reach the main office, press 2
To reach the satellite office, press 3
To reach the security guards’ cafeteria, press 4
To reach the psychoneurobiologist on duty, press 24/7
To reach the office where no one is ever available, press 5
To reach the office where only temps staff the phones, press 6
To reach the office in a country you have seen only in movies, press 8
To reach someone you knew in your freshman year of high school, press 9
To reach your sister, to whom you’ve not spoken in years, press the number of years

If you wish to speak to a representative, press the asterisk — which we call the star key because asterisk sounds like it might not be American.

Some of you — actually, all of you — will have to wait on hold. Your call will be answered after a very long time.

While you are on hold you have choices!
For Country music, press the letters C and W on your keypad.
For Classical, press the letter B three times.
To hear a marching band press T-U-B-A.
If you ever get the blues (and who doesn’t?), press B-E-S-S-I-E.
For talk radio, choose R-U-S-H or N-P-R.

Your call is very important to us!

Judith Arcana’s poem “Thank You for Your Patience” from Passager Issue 56.

Dennis Lee won the first Henry Morgenthau III Award for a First Book of Poetry by a Writer 70 or older. Not even that honor kept him from dealing with the phenomenon. Here’s Dennis’s poem “We’re sorry to keep you waiting.”

But all of our staff are helping others.
There are 3 callers ahead of you.
Bill had quite a weekend. His mother
has the flu and he needed to tend
to the needs of his aging father.

We’re sorry to keep you waiting.
Janet is traveling this week. She’s
in California helping her daughter Ethyl
get settled in school. Ethyl is a sophomore,
her first year was nearly terrible.

We’re sorry to keep you waiting.
There are 2 callers in front of you.
Our secretary had her hair colored yesterday
and she believes she’s having an allergic
reaction to the dye. Joan is applying
cold compresses to her forehead.

We’re sorry to keep you waiting.
The front door to our office was locked
this morning. Many of us had to wait
in the rain. Sam ran and got us all coffee.
He’s on the phone right now helping
another customer.

We’re sorry to keep you waiting.
There are 1 callers in front of you.
Mary is holding a ladder for Mabel
who is replacing a light bulb. Henson
is handing her a new bulb, John is guarding
the switch, and Louis is manning
the circuit breaker.

We’re sorry to keep you waiting.
But all of our staff are helping others.
There are 0 callers ahead of you.
We’re sorry to keep you waiting.
But all of our staff are helping others.
There are 0 callers ahead of you.

Dennis Lee’s poem “We’re sorry to keep you waiting.” from his book Tidal Wave.

To buy Tidal Wavesubscribe to or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to passagerbooks.com. You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts and various other podcast apps.

And this isn’t much notice, but for those of you in the Baltimore area, the Passager gang will be reading tomorrow, Wednesday January 10, at the Village Learning Place in Charles Village. Details are on the Passager web site.

For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.