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7 Ways to Survive Being on Hold

“Thank you for calling. Our operators are currently busy at the moment. Please hold. Your call will be answered shortly”. These words are sure to send a shiver down anyone’s spine. Inevitably, these sentences are followed by some inoffensive music – either soft jazz or a singer encouraging you to ‘let the sun shine’.

The phrase “you are currently 16th in our queue” also has the same outcome. Yes, welcome to being put on hold: an action that can send even the most patient saint into a state of mild insanity as they hear ‘Galway Girl’ for the 97th time.

In fact, it’s estimated that the average person will spend 1.2 years on hold throughout their lifetime. Fortunately, however, there are ways to survive being put on hold, especially when you resign yourself to the fact that you could be waiting for hours.

So, why should you just have to sit there and wait, silently plotting the downfall of Ed Sheeran? Surely there are more productive and even stress-reducing things that you can do to pass the time?

Simply pick a method from our list below and never fear being put on hold again…

Learn a new language

What could be more productive while on hold than learning a new language? It’s both something to add to your CV and help with deciding where to next go on holiday.

But which language should you learn first? According to the Foreign Service Institute, Afrikaans, Danish and French are the three easiest (and therefore quickest) languages for English speakers to learn.

You might want to stay clear of Japanese though, as this is apparently the most difficult language to learn and takes approximately 88 weeks. Although, if you feel that you are going to be on hold for 2200 hours, then why not start with ‘Kon’nichiwa’ and see how much you can learn before an operator picks up the phone?

Solve a famous riddle

For some people, problem solving is just as infuriating as being put on hold – why do you think we haven’t included ‘complete a Rubix cube’ on this list? But for others, solving a maths problem, completing a crossword or attempting a Sudoku puzzle brings a welcome distraction.

And while there are many head-scratching riddles out there, we thought we’d include one that we’re confident can’t be solved in a matter of seconds. The below riddle was created by one of the smartest men to have ever lived: Albert Einstein. And, it was alleged that he came up with it as a child.

Einstein also once famously declared that only 2% of the population would be able to solve it – although some argue that he meant only 2% could work out the answer in their head and that most people would have to work it out on paper.

We reckon that once you’ve figured this riddle out, you’d have jumped from 16th in the queue to number one.

The situation

There are five houses, with five occupants, each with a different colour house, different beverage of choice, different favourite brand of cigarette and a unique pet.

The question is: Who owns the fish?


  • The Englishman lives in the red house
  • The Swede keeps dogs
  • The Dane drinks tea
  • The green house is just to the left of the white one
  • The owner of the green house drinks coffee
  • The Pall Mall smoker keeps birds
  • The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhills
  • The man in the centre house drinks milk
  • The Norwegian lives in the first house
  • The Blend smoker has a neighbour who keeps cats
  • The man who smokes Blue Masters drinks bier
  • The man who keeps horses lives next to the Dunhill smoker
  • The German smokes Prince
  • The Norwegian lives next to the blue house
  • The Blend smoker has a neighbour who drinks water

If you’re stumped, scroll down to the bottom of our article for the answer.

Find your inner zen

If even just the thought of being put on hold makes your blood boil, then you can find ways to relax. And, what’s more stress-releasing than yoga? Whether you’re at your desk or at home you can quickly find your inner zen with a yoga practice.

Forget about the repetitive music, the fear that you might never actually get to speak to a human or how expensive your phone bill’s going to be if it’s a premium number. Instead, practise your downward dog, chaturanga or tree pose.

Some yoga styles such as Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga encourage you to hold your yoga pose for three to five minutes at a time, or sometimes even longer – perfect for clearing your mind and passing the time. Just make sure that you can get out of your yoga pose once someone answers the phone – talking through your latest phone bill while still in a headstand is bound to be challenging.

Watch an episode of a new TV show

If the average amount of time someone spends on hold during their lifetime is 1.2 years, then we’ve put together some TV shows that you could binge on to pass the time – and how long it would take to watch all seasons back-to-back. Of course, we’re not saying that you’ll be on hold for days at a time, but why not fire up Netflix and start with an episode (or a whole season) while you wait?

Discover more about the song you’re on hold to

If you’re having to listen to the same playlist three times before someone answers the phone, then you might as well start researching the origin of the songs you’re listening to.

Allegedly, some misguided GP surgery decided to choose ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ by Bob Dylan as their hold music, but did you know that it was originally written for the soundtrack to the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid? It’s also been covered by the likes of Eric Clapton (as a reggae version) and more famously by Guns N’ Roses, in which their studio version was used in the soundtrack to Days of Thunder.

However, chances are that you’ve been listening to a song called Opus No.1 when you’re on hold. You may have thought nothing of it, but did you know that it was first recorded in 1989 by Tim Carleton and Darrick Deel in their garage when they were teenagers? Years later and the song’s been heard by millions of people around the world and is arguably one of the most recognisable pieces of music to have never entered the Top 40. Do you recognise it?

Build something

If you prefer to pass the time by using your hands, rather than solving puzzles, then why not build something? After all, what better time is there to put together your flatpack furniture from Ikea? So, grab your tools and get building!

And who knows where the time will take you? Will you be on hold long enough to build a doll’s house, a conservatory, or maybe even a tree house? Plus, if you ever start worrying that you’re going to be on hold for years, then just remember that it took the ancient Egyptians 10-20 years to build the pyramids.

Make a cup of tea

If all else fails, go for the classic method. Yes, making a cup of tea is the British answer for surviving anything and everything. Feeling sad? Have a cup of tea. Facing an important life decision? Have a cup of tea. Bored of being on hold? Make a cup of tea.


Not able to complete something on this list first time around? Don’t worry – you’re bound to be on hold again at some point in life.

We think that it’s about time that people started seeing being put on hold as an opportunity to learn a new skill (there’s also juggling, fire breathing – the world’s your oyster). Plus, you might just be able to talk to your call operator in Afrikaans one day. So, do a little fist pump the next time you hear the phrase “Please hold” … or just go and stick the kettle on.


Riddle Answer: The German

About the author

Daniel Lee

Company Director

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