“What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? That’s easy. You’d be brave and true and reckless. You would love life and people with wild and new abandon. If you only had a day. What if you only had forty years? What would you do? If you’re like me, and— no offense, but— you probably are, you wouldn’t do anything. It’s sad, isn’t it? The dead horse of a life we beat, all the wilder, all the harder the deader it gets.” -Thom Pain. (based on nothing)
“Do you mind if I put you on a brief hold?”
I couldn’t place the music that was playing over speaker of the telephone. Something non-offensive. Something focus grouped and strategically tested to not provoke the person on hold.
That person being me.
I was at the Banana Republic in the Haywood Mall. The mall of my youth. Shopping at the mall of my youth as a forty year old man is something I could probably use some therapy for. Just add it to the list.
Jaimie could feel my anger rising. I had gone to the mall to return a shirt, and Jaimie had taken this opportunity to tell me I needed clothes. “Everything is 40% off! The more we buy the more we save!” Being a 7 on the enneagram scale, that last sentence sums up Jaimie perfectly.
Next thing I knew I was in the dressing room trying on white linen shirts and luxury touch polos. She also told me I needed to “step up my sock game” so, with three shirts and two pairs of funky socks we made our way to the check out. In addition to the 40% there was an additional 20% off if you used your Banana Republic Credit Card.
It shames me to say it, but I have a Banana Republic Credit Card.
Last month when I was buying some of the shirts I was now returning, I decided to sign up for the credit card to save the extra 30%. That’s a moment fraught with danger, is it not? You, standing there, having your credit judged in front of a total stranger.
I was approved, and I left the store that day with the satisfaction of knowing that at the very least my credit was partially in order. But there was a problem- the card never made it to my house. The only way to use the card that never arrived to get the extra discount on three shirts and two pairs of socks was to call their 1-800 number, which lead to my being placed on a brief hold while this corporation’s idea of Jazz music played over the land line.
I’ve always hated being placed on hold, but over the past two years it has become more of a serious existential question. I’m fighting cancer- should I waste any of my life on a hold, no matter how brief? One minute turned into two. Two turned to three. It had been that kind of week for me- I had been making and cancelling appointments. I had spent two days working on my taxes. All things that need to be done, but also things that take up a sizable portion of my precious time.
The woman came back on the line, asked me for my social security number, and placed me on hold again. I was staring at the floor, Jaimie was fumbling with the jewelry at the counter, and I’m sure the guy working there was like, “I should have quit this job months ago.”
Four minutes turned into five. Five turned into six. It was 70 degrees outside. It was Sunday. I could be any where in the world but instead I am here spending time trying to get an extra 20% off.
Turns out the problem wasn’t solvable. They were just going to mail me a new card. The nice guy behind the counter gave me the extra 20% off anyway, and Jaimie and I headed to the food court for mall Chinese Food.
What would I do if I had only one day to live? I would be brave and true and reckless. What if I had forty? I wouldn’t do anything.
But what if you’re like me and have no clue how much time you have. Six months? Two years? Twenty years? Oh wait- you are like me. Everybody is.
So I stay on hold. I show up to work. I do my taxes. Because I might have two years, or I might have twenty. And I've got to participate in the world. Which sometimes means being put on hold.
Here are my new socks- tell me what you think.