My first job after college was pretty typical, in that it was completely maddening. I worked for a small company that was outsourced by law firms to collect their records. I’ve collected everything from cell phone records, Social Security records, and, once on an extremely exciting* day, weather records for four years ago from a tiny stretch of land in bumblefuck New Jersey.
Mostly though I collected medical records. For four years I spent eight hours a day either doing data entry, being screamed at by nurses, or sitting on hold bored out of my mind. Most of my time was spent on hold actually.
So I did what any bored and frustrated twenty-something would do (maybe?). I compiled a list of all the hospitals’ hold music, and rated them in order of awesomeness.
It should be noted that I left private practices off this list because their hold music is always a crap shoot . Mostly they use generic beeping, the radio, or the Grease soundtrack. Occasionally it’s just dead silence. On minor holidays when only the intern is in the office catching up on the filing, it’s hardcore unedited rap music.
Anyway, here is my list of The Philadelphia Area’s major hospitals’ hold music:
8. Einstein – The background music was obviously stolen from a yogurt commerical (it’s an overly cheery woman singing “da-da-da-da-da”) while an extremely loud male announcer tells you all about rectal cancer and diabetes. The combination is…jarring.
7. Lehigh Valley Hospital – Sexy jazz. Like, pure sex. It sort of sounded like I called a porn set, and it disturbed me how much I enjoyed calling them. Let’s stop talking about Lehigh Valley.
6. Brandywine – Totally boring, making it an excellent place to call before your coffee kicks in in the morning. It use elevator-style piano music and a soothing female voice (that practically blends into the background) giving you various treatment options. I still have no idea what disease she’s talking about. That’s how soothing she is.
5. Rothman – Have you ever seen Bernd das Brot? He’s a German children’s TV puppet who Wikipedia describes as a “depressed, grumpy, curmudgeonly, constantly bad-tempered, surly, fatalistic, melancholic loaf of pullman bread speaking in a deep, gloomy baritone.” He’s basically the best thing ever, and probably deserves his own blog entry. My point is – if you ever have to call Rothman, please watch this video first.
Rothman has very distinct hold music that they clearly put a lot of thought into, which is why the result is so odd. It’s the kind of music I’d expect to hear during an acid trip (I mean that as a compliment). Meanwhile, a booming voice comes on every once in a while and welcomes you, sincerely thanking you for calling Rothman.
4. St. Luke’s Hospital – They just put a 1980s easy listening station on loop, and I love them for it. Smooth jazz, followed by gentle, yet upbeat, piano music. Everything about this hold music is happy. I feel like I’m calling a hairdresser, not a hospital. My one complaint is that every now and then a male voice comes on the line to talk to you about heart failure. He’s friendly sounding enough – but I wish he would shut up and let me enjoy the sweet saxophone solo.
3. Temple – Classical piano music. It’s soothing, at a low volume, the absolute perfect music to slip into a waking dream to. It does lose points for occasionally breaking the dream with the very loud “ALL LINES BUSY PLEASE HOLD” message that happens once every two minutes. I get it, I remember, I’m holding. That’s why I’m listening to Chopin.
Interestingly, if you call Temple’s Episcopal Campus you get the same hold music, but without the interruption.
2. Thomas Jefferson (billing dept, specifically) – All instruments, all the time. Your musical journey with the Jefferson’s billing dept will start with a gentle flute and playful harp. The combination practically lulls you into a slumber. No voices, no diabetes information, just the visual of a calm breeze, wafting over a soft meadow. Maybe there’s a lamb, grazing next to you as you watch the sunset, content with both your life and your choice of health care provider.
Then that song ends and turns into a weird piano jazz thing. The jazz thing kind of sucks.
1. The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania – I worked on this project for almost two months, and I called Penn pretty much everyday, and never was put on hold. It was eerie. I finally struck the Holy Grail, and it was worth the wait: Penn’s hold music is amazing. Soothing spanish guitar, gentle drum line, and occasional psychedelic interludes. Sure, it’s a bit elevator music-y, but sometimes that’s just what you need to get you through the day.
*I like learning how to do new things, ok? I mean, I didn’t even know you could do that!