The Plague-Ground – I am calm

I’m calling my bank now. They left a voicemail for me at 5:15 yesterday afternoon.  It sounded serious.  So I called them back right away and got a message saying they were open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It’s now 8:01 Friday morning, and I’m calling them again.

I’m calling from the deck because mobile phone coverage here at our cottage is what spots are to a leopard. Always there, but never sure where.

Some days here, phone coverage is 4-bars. Others, it’s “No service.” So I turn my phone off, then on again and……voila, 4-bars! It seems that solving technology issues these days demands an advanced degree in Magical Thinking.

This is why I’m standing on our deck outside our cottage because on some days (but not all), the satellite in the sky (or is it the tower far down the road?) sees my phone and grants me access to make a call. Just one call. No guarantees beyond.

I look up to the sky just to check if I can even see the satellite, and in achieving eye contact with it, make it wink in recognition and send me to the front of the line.

But all that happens when I look up is that something starts to fall down from the sky.


Let me sum up: I’ve been reduced to standing outside in the snow in late April desperately calling my bank about something serious, though I don’t know what, when …..a voice comes on the phone.

It’s not a human voice, of course. That would be too magical to hope for.

No, it’s a taped voice that asks me to key in my username and password. I know these by heart because I do all my banking online. I also know that the taped voice will reply: “Your username or password do not match those in our records. Please try again.”

In Ancient Times, that is to say last month, I would boil into a towering rage at this point.  I know my password. I know I’m right and the bank’s wrong!

But now, just for the fun of it, I punch in random usernames and passwords in order to get them to lock me out as quickly as possible.

I am calm.

I am hoping a human voice will then come on the line and ask: “How can I help you?”

Instead, a computer voice tells me that I can go online and change my username and password.

A single flake of snow lands on my neck, causing my serenity to melt instantly.


Jean calls out from inside our cottage: “Are you okay, dear?”

“I’m fine!”

“Why are you standing in the snow?”

“Because…..” I don’t weep, because I am strong. And calm.

So I hang up and come inside where I grab a scarf and a toque and bundle up to go outside on the porch again, where I repeat everything I did before, only this time, after the computer voice tells me I can go online, it also says: “Thank you for your patience. We appreciate your business. The expected wait time for an agent’s response is………”

I wait. This number will make my day.

……“Thirty minutes to sixty minutes.”

I hang up and go inside where it is warm and not snowing.

I am calm.

I am strong. I will wait to try again.

Maybe tomorrow.

Which is the day after today.  At least it was.

I have to go now. Zoom is calling me to a meeting.

I am not calm.

Share this post

37 thoughts on “The Plague-Ground – I am calm”

  1. I feel your frustration. Breathe deep, Bob! Join a yoga class online! Its the only way to stay calm or recover. May the life force be with you.

  2. Bob, you are channeling the zeitgeist of our times
    When this over, please compile all your Covid blogs into a book and we will have the largest party ever .
    Love to you and Jean

  3. Anita Blackwood

    Bob….seems we are all spending endless hours on the telephone attempting to complete formerly simple tasks. Don’t, for Gods sake, call VISA..they go through a 5 minute explanation about extended wait times due to, it seems, everyone not being able to pay their VISA bills. All I wanted to do was to report a scam phone call ‘from VISA’ …I did get through and felt better having cleared my mind about the call…because David, for once, answered the phone and then couldn’t quite recall what had been said. Martinis indeed…but not at 9 am…after all I hadn’t even had breakfast……

  4. Made me laugh, Bob. I spent 1 hour and 7mins. waiting for an agent at SHAW to tell me a family member’s internet would go up next month by 30% – promotion ending – no COVID promotion.
    I was calm. There’s no point being other. Today though, I am free! Finished the second – two week quarantine in my apt. the price to report ‘out there’ these days. So I’m getting all my missed steps in this weekend.
    I got a bank call too last week, ..wanting to know how much I would spend on my credit card in the next month? Are they worried? Consumerism all but shut down?
    ..never got to the bottom of that. Stay strong!

    1. Susan — Jean and I you are thrilled you’re out from under your double header of isolation.
      I can’t remember my bank ever calling asking me how much I planned to spend….oh well, we stay
      calm. Cheers from up north.

  5. What happened to good old fashioned phone answering? And who remembers ‘notre lignes sont occupe (pardon my spelling and the answer is Air Canada). No music and no guaranteed wait time…
    I am still trying to get a travel insurance refund fro. westJet from a cancelled ticket WAAAY back in December, 2020. Wait time for WestJet: 208.53 minutes.

  6. Bob,
    If you can locate 4 bars, go to App Store and download CALM.
    It’s free so you won’t need to call the bank.

  7. I have been trying to call LifeLabs to confirm what precautions they are taking. I do not want to sit in a waiting room full of people. You cannot call your local LifeLab: the number is hidden…hidden, way deep, somewhere. It’s a central number. I don’t even get to wait on line. Their message is “we are really busy. Please call back later”!!

  8. Madeline Thompson

    Love this one Bob, it’s right up there with Leacock’s “…. banks rattle me….”
    It really is. I was howling with laughter and pent-up rage (Thailand has
    banned all alcohol sales – mentioned that before I think). Chiang Mai
    is slowly opening up anyway though the government decree is not quite
    over yet. Yaaay! Keep the posts coming!

  9. joseph rosenthal

    Bob if you are going to have a party please be good enough to put me on the list, i see Ms Julia Foster will be there and i know it will be your usual wonderful blowout. i do believe that Diane will also come back and be there as she would not miss one of your unique blowouts.

  10. Bob – spot on and we all know the feeling. My “stay calm” self admonishment came today as I – the designated shopper – had to go to 5 places for 5 households. It took more than 5 hours and I lost my car keys in the middle of it. On top of that, has anyone noticed there are NO bathrooms open anywhere.

  11. Bob, I think there is a book in the making! It will be nice one day to read all your posts knowing (hopefully) we all made it through this Pandemic unscathed. Reading your blog is always a highlight of my day. Thank you!

  12. Bob, Your story made me laugh until the snow shook off the roof! Have you tried perfecting smoke signalling? Only cash works as kindling not plastic. And you might hear from the bank.

    1. Betty-Lou — How great to hear from you!! I agree: those who say cash is king got it all wrong. Plastic is. I trust you are high and dry. Cheers. Bob

      1. Back to basic resources. Wishing you & Jean sunny days!
        Thanks for sharing It’s what’s inside that counts !
        Hugs down the road ; virtual for now.

    2. Norine — Wow, you ARE ambitious shopping for five households. I couldn’t keep track of all the math, let alone buy the groceries.
      I also take your point about washrooms. They’re there; they’re just not open. Cheers and thanks for connecting. Bob

    3. Joe — Here’s to unique blowouts…..and yeas, maybe Diane WILL also come back for this one. We miss her. Cheers. Bob

  13. Re life labs: not all the clinics are open (Bathurst and Bloor for one which is good because it was small and didn’t feel clean) however getting an appointment on line is a snap and I was in and out of a very clean clinic on College last week! Their reputation is in tact as far as I can see.

  14. Dear Bob,
    I am an avid reader of your COVID-19 chronicles.They are insightful and witty, as always! While I don’t have any wisdom to share, try this little trick the next time you wish to reach a human being at the Bank. Over the years, I have found that the trick works not only with banks, but alsomwith insurance companies, telephone giants and others. In Ontario, or anywhere else in Canada, select “French” when prompted to choose your preferred language. The wait is likely to be much shorter. When a human responds in French, just start to converse in English. Most customer agrents assigned to the French section are Anglophones who somehow managed to qualify for a bilingual position. The agent will be thrilled to speak to you in English. If and when you are in Quebec, do the opposite. Select “English” to get your wish!
    Stay safe, My Friend, and give my best to Jean!

  15. Hi Bob,
    Now this is funny – I was sitting on hold to report a lost debit card to my bank when I decided to pass the time by looking at emails and this was the first one I opened. Waited 30 minutes listening to their elevator music and helpful hints only for the line to ring once and then go silent. Am now on minute 18 of my second attempt. Will now go on to read your previous posts in the hope of maintaining some level of civility once I finally reach a human!

    1. Thanks for checking in, Jan. I think the most a human (or at least a Canadian) could be asked to endure is calling their bank and their phone company on the same day! Cheers. Bob

    2. Guy — So great to hear from you, especially with such precious secret information. I will try it for sure, and I know I will succeed.
      I trust you are all high and dry in Montreal? Jean and I are up north where she is practising telemedicine and I’m in charge of feeding and watering. All our best, Bob

      1. Good morning Bob,
        all is well! I’m glad to hear that you are safe. Laurie is still working at the veterinary hospital with strict sanitary measures and teams which do not interact with the others. Clients are not allowed in the hospital, animals are picked up from the parking lot by a fully gowned technician. I’ve been working from home for 6 weeks. Labour and employment lawyers have remained busy through the confinement period, contrary to other fields of practice which are in hibernation. I won’t complain, there is nothing worse for a lawyer than agonizing over empty time sheets. Patrick and Ellen are doing COVID related volunteer work. The big winners of the sanitary crisis are our 3 dogs. They are in paradise! They’ll find it tough when I start going back to the office!
        All the best!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Subscribe to my Free Weekly Omnium-Gatherum Blog:

  • Every Saturday the Omnium-Gatherum blog is delivered straight to your InBox
  • Full archive
  • Posting comments and joining the community
  • First to hear about other Ramsay events and activities

Get posts directly to your inbox

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Sign Up for Updates!

Get news from Ramsay Inc. in your inbox.

Email Lists
Email Lists(Required)