Hold that call: I don’t really need a cell phone


I’d been on hold with my cell phone company for about 29 minutes. The music was an instrumental version of “Tequila.” It was pretty much the same as the original version of the song, except that it left out the one-word vocal part: “Tequila.”

I guess the cell phone company thought it would send the wrong message to their younger phone customers.

Then, just as a Celine Dion song was starting up – one of those that gets neighborhood dogs howling – a live human voice came on the line: “Hello, this is Gretchen. How may I help you?” She sounded kind of cranky, and not at all sincere about the “help you” part.

Me: “Hi, Gretchen. I’m calling because I need to cancel my cell phone coverage with your company. “

Gretchen: “Oh. Well, you can’t do that with me, sir. I’ll need to transfer you. Hold on.”

Me: “OK. Thanks, Gret – .” But before I could get the “-chen” part out, I was back on hold. Celine was really soaring. Her heart, she proclaimed, would go on. That was mighty good news – and sounded more inspiring than “My spleen will go on.”

Before long, another voice came on the line. “This is Nanette,” said a woman named Nanette. She was much friendlier. “Is there a problem?” she asked cheerfully.

Me: “No, no Nanette.” (I waited to hear if she would chuckle. She didn’t.) “I just want to cancel my cell service.” There was a long silence.

Me: “Nanette?”

Nanette: “What?”

Me: “I need to cancel my cell service. ”

Nanette: “First you said you wanted to cancel. Now you’re saying you need to cancel. Which is it, sir?” She had chilled about 20 degrees on the cheerful meter.

Me: “I … want to.”

Nanette: “You want to.”

Me: “Yeah.” She was quiet for another 10 seconds before replying.

Nanette: “If I seem confused, sir, I’m just trying to figure out why you’d want to do a thing like that? Have you been unhappy with us?”

Me: “No. I’d just like to cancel.”

Nanette: “Oh! So now you’d like to cancel?” There was an even longer silence before she spoke again.

Nanette: “May I ask you the name of the company you’re switching to?”

Me: “Who said anything about another company?”

Nanette: “There always is, sir. There always is.” Then, I was back on hold again. Neil Diamond was doing “Cracklin’ Rosie.” As many times as I’ve heard that song, I have never figured out why Rosie was crackling. Was Rosie a woman or a fire log? Nanette came back on.

Nanette: “Sir?”

Me: “Yes, Nanette.”

Nanette: “In order to retain you as our valued customer, we would like to offer you 1,000 minutes a month for the next six months, plus 100 bonus anytime minutes and unlimited night and weekend minutes.”

Me: “Well, that’s nice, but – .”

Nanette: “Wait! Hear me out.”

Me: “Okay.”

Nanette: “We also will give you our latest phone, free – plus accessories and $100 back, plus $300 in mail-in rebates.”

Me: “Look, I appreciate everything you’re offering, but I still would like to cancel now.” Nanette began sobbing softly.

Nanette: “It’s not like I haven’t tried with you, sir. I just don’t get it.”

Me: “Nanette, please. Don’t make this any harder on me than it already is.”

Nanette: “Right. We sure wouldn’t want you to be inconvenienced, would we?” She had begun to cry real hard. Blubbering, actually. Then she said, “I’ve gotta go now,” and hung up. About an hour later, she called back.

Nanette: “I’m sorry about hanging up like that. If you really want to cancel, that’s your right.”

Me: “I appreciate that.”

Nanette: “All I can say is that you are making the biggest mistake of your life.

Me: “I understand.”

Nanette: “Then, as of this moment, consider your account … CANCELED!” She hung up again. That was that. It was finally over.

Three weeks later, after doing much due diligence and careful research, I called a new cell phone company to sign up. After making my way through the usual maze of pre-recorded options, I was suddenly greeted by a live voice, one that was unmistakable.

Me: “Nanette?”

Nanette: “Oh, it’s you.”

Me: “You left your other job?”

Nanette: “You know how sometimes they say ‘Your call may be monitored to assure better service’”?

Me: “Right.”

Nanette: “Well, they did – and I got fired.”

Me: “I’m sorry.”

Nanette: “Sure you are. So why are you calling?”

Me: “Well, I wanted to sign up for service with your new company.”

Nanette: “Hang on.” She put me on hold. But after just seconds, a new and husky voice came on: “I’m Nanette’s boyfriend. How’d you like to pick on someone your own size this time, big man?”

I’ve decided I don’t really need a cell phone.

Pat Cashman is a writer, actor and public speaker. He can be reached at pat@patcashman.com