Things You Learn While Being Put on Hold by Southwest Airlines

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Bizarre as this sounds, I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon calling Southwest Airlines with the express intention of being put on hold. Normally, I despise having to wait on the phone and being held captive by Muzak and that creepy electronic voice that sweetly says, “We’ll be right with you,” even though it’s obvious they won’t.

The Southwest hold experience is different. It’s hokey. Strange. Kind of fun. Within a minute, the usual pre-recorded crap (“If you would like to purchase ticketless travel online, visit our Web site at www.southwest.com...”) gives way to this campy line: “Everyone knows Southwest for our peanuts -- peanuts, peanuts, peanuts, they keep our fares low, low, low ...” Say what?

Next comes a male voice that sounds like the ghost of Ward Cleaver: “Please remain calm and breathe deeply,” he says brightly. “And while you’re breathing deeply, think about this: Did you know that most people breath out of a different nostril every three to four hours? Just thought you’d like to know.”

Whoa -- isn’t that only possible if you do that alternate nostril breathing thing in yoga, which, from what I’ve been able to tell, merely results in a room full of people in desperate need of tissues? This strange little morsel of respiratory wisdom is interrupted by a nice ticket agent who helps me with my Thanksgiving plans.

The woman says she gets lots of comments about the airline’s unique recordings. When I tell her about the breathing bit, she laughs and says she hasn’t heard that one.

“People like them,” she says. “They say the messages are so funny and so interesting.”

Indeed. So interesting that I was compelled to call back. Here’s what I got: “The horizon has no limit, only possibility. But staring at it doesn’t help you get there. You have to fly.”

Who knew? Now you have someone to call for a little wisdom on a Thursday afternoon: 1-800-I-FLY-SWA. --Megan Feldman

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