How I Spent My Morning Yesterday


Yes, this is exactly how I felt yesterday morning at work; my second call of the day was from a client flying on Continental Airlines, who had let a ticketing deadline expire. I had to call the airline to get a waiver code, and although I was confident I’d be given the okay to issue at Thursday’s rate, I groaned as I dialled their number. Why? Because due to Hurricane Ike’s merry romp towards Houston, CO had announced that they were closing down operations for a couple of days. Which meant that their reservations lines would be jammed with calls as travelers and agents scrambled to rebook people who’d been routed via CO’s hub at Houston Intercontinental (I try to avoid calling it “George Bush International, it will always be IAH to me).

Even though my client was going nowhere near Houston and was flying internationally, meaning I was callling an international res line, I knew the hold times would be long, as all their agents would be handling a huge amount of extra call volume.

Sure enough, when I got through, there was a warning announcement about “unusually high wait time” and then an automated voice said, “Your approximate hold time will be…[BLANK]”

Yeah, that’s a good sign when the hold time exceeds the announcement’s capability to relay it.

40 minutes later, I got through to a surprisingly cheerful agent named Diane, who was happy to help with my problem, as it required very little effort on her part and did not involve being sworn at or cried by a traveler whose plans had been ruined by Continental’s stupid insistence on caution in the face of a little old rainstorm.

It took all of five minutes for Diane to get the code generated for me, and my record was soon stored with the special formats that put the previous day’s price in so the ticket could be issued. It was easy for Diane to give the waiver, because it was a business class fare, on a corporate client of Continental’s with their own internal “hey, it’s me, I’m important” ticket designator code. No problem.

But those 40 minutes, although productively spent working on other tasks while I listened to Continental’s very short loop of “please hold” mood music. It was so short that it must have repeated dozens of times. After finishing up with “stuff I can do while on hold,” my brain slowly went on hold, too. Just like in the picture.

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