The Muzak Man

The only reason I even knew we had mood music at our office was that, every few months, some random octogenarian caller would come off hold and bark,  “It’s too loud, dammit!”

So I asked my Boss about it, and yeah, it turned out that we had hold music and waiting room music.  Both were played from the same multi-CD player in the server room, which was only being turned on when somebody remembered to do it, which was close to never.

Even then, the employees were leaving it at full volume, which was fine for the quiet speakers in our waiting room, but over the louder phone lines, had the effect of furthering deafness.

* * *

Predictably, fixing this became my mission.

For one, I’m a music freak, especially when it comes to mood music and mixes.  Ask anyone.  It took me actual weeks to concoct the playlist for my 30th birthday party–from choosing the mingle tracks, to selecting the right karaoke tunes, to developing two CDs of pop for the dance-off, sequenced so that they would gradually increase in tempo from beginning to end, thereby urging to the revelers to boogie by subliminal means.

But another reason the hold music mattered was my firm belief that, if you paid good money for something useful, you should use it.  And hold music is useful in our office, because it indicates to the patient that they have not been hung up on.  This not only prevents nasty callbacks, but enables you to interrupt ramblers without losing the call, even if they’re mid-sentence.

Q: “I was wondering if I could get an appointment this afternoon, well not this afternoon specifically, but I would like to maybe come in on a Friday, but not this Friday, and if you could make sure that…”


Waiting room music is even more useful, since it creates much-needed white noise, and guarantees that conversational post-scripts like “it’s not my fault you waited until four in the afternoon on a Friday to realize you’re out of Oxycodone, douchebag” won’t drift into the ears of patients one room over.

* * *

It took longer than I thought to get it right.

I thought all I’d need to do was fix the volume on the CD player, then adjust the speakers accordingly.  What I had not realized was how little attention had been given to the actual music selection, back when the sound system was purchased.  Oh sure, all the CDs in our server room claimed to be relaxing.  One of them was a string quartet.  But look closer and you’d notice the composer: Igor Stravinsky.

“This is going to give me a heart attack,” was how one patient at the front desk put it, the first week that I had the sound system up again.  He wasn’t kidding, either.  When I poked my head out to listen, it sounded like Orcs playing Hockey.  So I brought some blank CDs home and tried to use Bob’s and my extensive collection of frilly soundtrack music and Greatest Hits of the Celts to get a listenable mix going.  Some of it worked fine, other tracks continued to grate.  Finally, one of the front-office employees explained her issues:  “You can’t pick music that stands out.  Otherwise you’re going to recognize when it comes back around.  After eight hours, it’ll drive you crazy.”  I knew what she was talking about, too.  I used to do data entry back when Jill Scott’s “A Long Walk” was in tri-hourly radio rotation.  I blew two hours of my wages on a Donny Hathaway CD just to block it out.

So one weekend, armed with the motto “Nondescript or Die” and some dollar-store relaxation CDs, I returned to the trailer determined to make a go of it.  The result is the amazing muzak mix that plays in our speakers, and on our telephones, today.  The muzak that I can’t really tell you anything about, because I can’t even remember hearing it.  In the world of instrumentals, these tracks are ninjas.

I’m not finished, either.  I’m determined to expand our collection, so that nobody in the front office will ever know when a track repeats.  All morning, I while away the time between calls by browsing the Lifescapes product catalog online, with collections called things like “Celtic Soul”.

Just you wait:  This is going to be the most unmemorable mix ever.


1 Comment

Filed under Diary

One response to “The Muzak Man

  1. This sounds…what’s the exact opposite of stimulating? You’re a brave man to subject yourself to this task.

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