The water streaming out of the faucet whooshed as I washed a cutting board, then a fry pan, in the sink. Sitting nearby on a stool, Grace tapped her fingers against the kitchen countertop. Through the open window above the countertop, an afternoon breeze drifted in.
Every couple of minutes, a robotic female voice interspersed these sounds of water, rhythm and wind to say, “Thank you for continuing to hold. All of our agents are still assisting other callers. Please remain on the line, and your call will be answered in the order it was received.”
Two hours earlier, I had called Gap Customer Service. After the first few minutes on hold, I set my phone down, on speaker, while I put away laundry, played outside with the girls and now washed dishes back inside.
“Mom,” Grace groaned as I reached for the ice cream scoop, “that is so annoying.”
I shrugged. At this point, the automated message had become background noise.
“And,” Grace added, “I don’t think anyone is ever going to answer.”
If you call Customer Service, someone has to answer, eventually…right?
“No, I don’t think anyone will,” Grace said.
Huh. The eternal optimist in me paused for a moment of doubt.
…someone has to answer, eventually…right?
A month ago, I ordered some things for the girls: swimsuits, socks and face masks. The most important things were the face masks. And the only things that hadn’t yet arrived from the order were, yes, the face masks.
Two hours (and a few minutes) previously, I had checked the online tracking for the last remaining package, the face masks. The tracking noted “Shipment Acceptance at Post Office” in our town on July 7. Now it was July 15, Wednesday. The post office is 1 mile from our house. Where was the package?
I called the post office. A gentleman named Jack answered. I explained the situation, read off the tracking number. Over the phone, I heard Jack typing.
“Uh-huh,” he finally said, “the package was here. But it fell off the pallet, probably.”
“So is it, like, there on the floor?” I wondered. “Could you look for it?”
Jack laughed. “No, it’s not here anymore.”
“OK, ha, ha,” I said, trying to laugh too, “where could it be, then?”
Jack recommended I call Gap, which I did…two hours ago.
“Mom,” Grace said again, “just hang up. You’ve been waiting forever.”
Two hours in, though, friends, I was committed. I was committed to this call. Idris Elba himself could have been trying to reach me, and I would have clicked “Decline” just to keep my open line to Gap Customer Service.
(Next time, Idris.)
There is, however, a fine line between committed and crazy. With my phone registering 2:07:14 for length of the call, I…hung…up.
“Anna and I already have face masks,” Grace said, trying to reassure me.
But it would be helpful to have backup pairs, right?
During the past four months, I’ve bought things I never thought about before—hello, face masks!—and done things equally out of the ordinary for myself. For example…gardening.
We have a flower bed in our front yard. In early summer, Stanton and the girls planted flowers here. It was a dad-and-daughters project.
First, Stanton went to Lowe’s and bought seeds and seedling starter trays. He and the girls planted the seeds in the trays, watered them regularly. They even transplanted them into egg cartons for reasons I didn’t pay attention to—a tip they’d read somewhere.
At last, The Three Musketeers transferred the meticulously-cared-for, starting-to-sprout flowers into the flower bed…and watered, but never weeded, them.
This past weekend, I realized how wild the flower bed looked. I also thought about how lovely many of our neighbors’ gardens’ looked. Thus, in a moment of Keeping Up With the Joneses Syndrome, I bent down and tore out bunches of weeds. The flower bed still looked wild, but less so.
The next few evenings, I returned to our front flower bed, gardening gloves on, and continued to pull out weeds. As of last night, you could see almost all the dirt in the flower bed. No longer was it one horizontal plot of alternating shades of green—stems and weeds.
I enjoyed the peace that weeding the garden provided, and seeing the result of my work, but long term, I’m probably not going to be much of a gardener. Also long term, I’ll encourage Stanton and the girls to do their own weeding. 😉
But I did totally appreciate the opportunity to try gardening. I can understand why people love it. Working with the earth; dirt, seed and water; creating something beautiful.
It’s a beautiful thing to hold something in your hand, nurture it, watch it grow.
There is, however, a fine line between committed and crazy.
The pandemic has compelled lots of handiwork that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Gardening, for one. DIY home-improvement projects.
(On that subject, let me just say I am officially done rearranging furniture in my house. I simply don’t have it in me to move one more bookshelf from one side of the room to the other in the name of optimal feng shui.)
Puzzles. I have jumped on the puzzles bandwagon, friends.
In the past few months, Stanton, the girls and I finished a 1,000-piece doughnuts puzzle; 500-piece three-toed sloth puzzle (the girls chose this one—thank you, National Geographic); 100-piece butterflies and Dog Man puzzles (also the girls); and 500-piece Nancy Drew Mystery Stories puzzle (my pick!). Currently, we have a 500-piece “Crazy Quilts” puzzle that’s nearing the finish line on our dining room table, plus a 200-piece “Frozen” puzzle that Anna just started.
Never before in my life have I spent this much discretionary income on puzzles.
Cooking and baking. My Facebook News Feed is full of pictures of friends’ and family members’ latest stovetop, oven and grill creations, as well as backyard summer harvest successes. Everything looks fantastic…and makes me feel a little sorry for my own family.
Since March 13, I have not made one new recipe. We’ve just been eating the same old same old. The cooking and baking bug simply didn’t bite this girl.
One new food thing I did is start buying these Hatfield pork loin filets. We like the Savory Brown Sugar and Texas Smokehouse BBQ flavors.
Sewing projects. And the most popular DIY sewing projects? Mm-hmm, I’d guess face masks too.
So, about my face masks…
The pandemic has compelled lots of handiwork that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
Yesterday morning, I called Gap Customer Service again. Again, I was on hold. And again, I set my phone down on speaker while I made breakfast, drank multiple cups of coffee, cleaned up breakfast.
“Thank you for continuing to hold…”
About 40 minutes into the call, a human voice—a real person—broke through the automated messaging. “Hi, this is Kiana, how can I help you?”
I grabbed my phone. “Hello, hello, yes, thank you so much!” A real person!
“Yes, how can I help you?” Kiana repeated.
I explained about my order, the last remaining package and Jack’s guess that “it fell off the pallet.” “Do you have any idea where it might be?”
On the other end of the line, Kiana figured out, in approximately 30 seconds, that the package was en route. “You’ll get it in the next day or two.”
“OK, now I just want to make sure—because I’ve been on hold a lot, and I understand it’s a crazy time, no worries, but since I have you on the line—you’re telling me my package will be here, for sure, sometime soon?”
“Yes, it’s on the way,” Kiana assured me.
I breathed a sigh of…I really think it was joy, friends. Joy not because the girls’ face masks were actually coming, but because I was no longer on hold.
I thanked Kiana, and we hung up. I told the girls about the call.
“Wow,” Grace said. “Gap answered the phone.”
Two tries and a total of nearly two hours and 50 minutes later…yes, yes, they did. They answered the phone.
As the day went on, I thought about the many acts of holding. Being on hold, whether with a customer service call or the current situation worldwide. Holding out hope, holding down the fort, holding it together.
Life happens in the holding, I realized.
When we’re young, we learn to hold hands—our parents’, our siblings’, our friends’. “Hold hands and stick together,” we hear. We get our first bike, and we hold on. Then we go out into the world—college, work, whatever—and we do our best to hold our own.
When we’re old, or maybe not old but not well, and unable to do all the things we usually do…we can still hold the hands of the ones we love, the ones who have always been there.
Whether it’s exciting or boring or once-in-a-lifetime beautiful…life happens in the holding.
Thank you for continuing to hold.
Photo credit: Pixabay
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