Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Girl from Ipanema

I was sitting in my cubicle, in my standard-issue wanna-be-ergonomic office chair, listening to the forth round of "The Girl from Ipanema". I was very glad, at that point, I was wearing a headset instead of holding the receiver. No doubt the company big-wigs issue them with the understanding that even the most die-hard Sinatra fan can only take so much. The cost of handsets being thrown through the window could get a little pricey.

I'd been on hold for 27 minutes, last check, and was on my forth transfer. All four phone reps claimed I was in the wrong department, and thus began the "Tall, tan, young and lovely..." assault . I wonder, sometimes, if there's life on the other end of the line.

Finally, success! A human being answers the phone:

"Great-Big-Financial company, Jane Doe speaking. How may I assist you today?"

'You could drop the cheesy phone voice,' I think to myself.

"Hey there. This is Mouth from Another-Great-Big-Financial company, calling in regards to the requested transaction for our mutual client, Mr. Bigbucks."

"And is Mr. Bigbucks available for me to speak with?"

Damn. A strike-out. "No, he isn't, I'm afraid."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mouth," chirps Jane, dripping with vicious sarcasm. "I can't discuss the transaction with you unless Mr. Bigbucks is there to give his permission."

Jane and I both know her company has already spoken with me three times regarding this particular transaction. We're also both aware that she's going to do everything in her power to hold on to that particular quarter-mil for as long as possible, and that it's my job to get her to release it and send it to me.

I imagine Jane and I as two knights, squared off against one another in a jousting ring. We straddle our chairs, keyboards tucked snuggly under our arms, and stare intently into one another's monitor-reflecting eyes. Suddenly, the flag drops, and we lean forward at a charge. The keyboards collide in the center of the ring, Ps and Qs flying hither and yon. Jane is dazed, but not down. Swinging my mouse overhead like a mace, I deliver the death blow...I smile, batting my eyes. "Well, Jane, if you would be so kind as to review your notes, you'll see that John Smith and I conference-called Mr. Bigbucks just last week on such-and-such date at so-and-so time, and that he indeed has given his permission for you to discuss the transaction with me." I'm a meticulous note-taker. It's what makes me good at my job.

Choking on her final breath, pencil skirt and suit jacket smudged and torn from taking her spill into the dirt of the jousting ring, Jane resorts to her final tool in the financial world arsenal - the hold button. "It will take me just a moment to review the account, Mouth. Would you mind if I place you on hold?"

'YES!' my subconscious screams. "No, Jane, that would be fine. Take your time." My voice drips with honey-coated barbs as we start The Waiting Game. It's something like The Price is Right, except there's no smiling Bob Barker, no television cameras, and nobody goes home with a new bedroom suite.

Something inside me dies as Sinatra croons yet again, "... when she passes, each one she passes says, 'Ahhhh'."

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