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Eric: For me, it's the Bruce Springsteen "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." I heard that seventeen times a day working at a bookstore in the eighties, and to this day it is burnt into my cerebral cortex.

Help Desk

(From Help Desk. Click on the thumbnail for full sized "your call is very important to us...")

For quite some time, people have been calling Help Desk the anti-User Friendly. Where a cornerstone of User Friendly is the concept that users are stupid and banal and deserve the righteous smacking that we the technical cognoscenti give them, the cornerstone of Help Desk has always been "technology companies are soulless, evil corporations and the technical staff who work for them, especially in technical support, have to balance ennui with corporate mandate, which resolve together into a casual disdain for people who call in with problems."

It must piss Chris Wright off when his strip is called the Anti-User Friendly, by the by, given that Help Desk is a year and a half older. That's right. Help Desk came first.

Now, here we are -- almost a full ten years later. And Wright still manages to breathe new life into that casual disdain.

This is a joke I've heard before, for the record. In fact, I think Friends did an episode where Phoebe was on hold for forty-eight straight hours. That I know that fact makes me want to go all Pi on my prefrontal lobe, but I digress. Obscurely.

However, Wright understands that sometimes it's not the freshness of the joke, but the approach. It's not just that the user has been on hold for a solid week. It's that the process has destroyed him -- it is almost a sociological construct. The user has been transfigured by the experience. And, of course, in the end the corniest joke in the world came out. (It's just a slight hop away from "what -- and give up show business?!?") But even that joke feeds into the overall theme. The user has bought into Ubersoft's system. He has been on hold. He persevered. And now, as he drinks his victory gin a tear comes to his eye. He has done it. He has won. He loves the hold system.

And... well, that's funny.

Or so I think, anyway.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at December 14, 2005 12:21 PM

Comments

Comment from: Lyndon W posted at December 14, 2005 12:38 PM

Better be toll free.

Comment from: Howard Tayler posted at December 14, 2005 12:39 PM

Pi on your frontal lobe indeed. Not obscure enough, sir!

I like Wright's Help Desk, and I just realized it's not on my "A Few Favorites" list on the front of my site. This will be rectified.

--Howard

Comment from: TheNintenGenius posted at December 14, 2005 12:45 PM

I like Pi :).

I also used to read Help Desk but stopped for some reason. Maybe I should start again since I always did like it.

Comment from: HydrogenGuy posted at December 14, 2005 12:58 PM

Plus, those two-tone glasses? Still awesome.

Comment from: Kirath posted at December 14, 2005 1:00 PM

I need to get caught up on Help Desk again.I used to be a daily reader, but I stopped checking some time last year. I seem to remember there was a rough patch where updates got really spotty, but that could just be my imagination, or me misremembering the artist going on vacation or something.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at December 14, 2005 1:04 PM

I have a habit of wandering away from my webcomic duties for months at a time. I'm really my own worst enemy as far as keeping an audience goes...

By the way, Eric, based on this bit of text:

It's not just that the user has been on hold for a solid week. It's that the process has destroyed him -- it is almost a sociological construct. The user has been transfigured by the experience . . . He loves the hold system.

I am officially naming the caller(s) "Winston Smith." :)

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at December 14, 2005 1:47 PM

Okay, I think we need a vote - who thought the Pi reference was too obscure? I certainly got it.

For the comic itself - we're just taking new themes for old jokes. It's all in the delivery.

Comment from: Abby L. posted at December 14, 2005 3:08 PM

I didn't get it. I enjoyed the 1985 reference, though it reminded me of the girl who stole my copy many moons ago in Freshman year of High School.

Comment from: quiller posted at December 14, 2005 3:08 PM

Well, I'm missing the reference on the Pi thing, though somehow my mind has been comparing this guy's on hold experience to the Hero's Journey described by Joseph Campbell, but knowing Ubersoft, I doubt he's going to be bringing much wisdom back to his people.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 14, 2005 3:14 PM

Not pi.

Pi.

For the record.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at December 14, 2005 3:22 PM

Yeah, YOU FEAR PI.

Comment from: Abby L. posted at December 14, 2005 3:30 PM

PIE DAMMIT.

PIE.

Comment from: Clint H posted at December 14, 2005 3:46 PM

Mmmm. Pie good.

Comment from: Psylence posted at December 14, 2005 4:01 PM

I would not be surprised to find that a great number of people fear Pi.

"Survival of the fittest Max . . ."

Comment from: kirabug posted at December 14, 2005 4:14 PM

Since I have no idea what the heck y'all are talking about, I'll just say that it's Frank Sinatra's "It's the most wonderful time of the year" that drives me over the edge. 5 years at Waldenbooks and that song came on every 4 hours from November 1 until January 2. Arrgh!!

freakin' sinatra.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at December 14, 2005 4:39 PM

I wish the radio station I listen to would play Guaraldi's Oh Christmas Tree.

Comment from: Abby L. posted at December 14, 2005 4:55 PM

If we're talking about songs we hate hearing around Christmas, I don't know why no one's yet mentioned FUCKING CHRISTMAS SHOES. Which I can't write without getting angry about it. That GOD DAMNED SONG makes me cry every time. Jeez.

Comment from: larksilver posted at December 14, 2005 5:13 PM

That movie was completely freakish, and I'm scarred forever. I fear Pi.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at December 14, 2005 5:16 PM

I'm not familiar with songs about christmas shoes, be they chaste or sexually active.

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at December 14, 2005 5:22 PM

I, for one, canNOT stand "Grown-up Christmas list". I really can't say why. I don't know why. I just HATE that song.

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at December 14, 2005 5:23 PM

Also, I am SO getting a pair of two-toned glasses.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at December 14, 2005 5:59 PM

Between doing my shopping at crafts fairs and the Internet, I hear shockingly few Christmas carols. It's almost eerie, given how much my mom shoved them down my throat when I was younger. I think the last time I really listened to Christmas carols at all, the Mariah Carey one had debuted.

And Eric, c'mon, haven't you figured out by now that I refuse to use HTML except in very limited circumstances? I capitalized the movie name, isn't that enough?

Though I will give the movie credit. Someone spoiled the ending for me, and it still made me jump and yell "Holy shit!" when I saw it. Really well done.

Comment from: kellandros posted at December 14, 2005 6:02 PM

I've had the joy of calling the IRS help desk frequently for work this month.

Its not the hold music(which is thankfully generic classical and not holiday); instead the music is interrupted every 15 seconds with a recorded announcement. They only have 3 of these messages, and they constantly cycle.

I could probably quote them verbatim at this point.

Comment from: Sean Conner posted at December 15, 2005 12:51 AM

I thought the name of the film was π …

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at December 15, 2005 1:01 AM

Well, the name of the film is the actual Greek letter. But my computer always mangles characters not found in Romance or Germanic languages - I'd probably end up accidentally calling the movie Rho or something.

Comment from: larksilver posted at December 15, 2005 1:23 AM

When I was a young girl, we lived nearly an hour out of town, and drove in every day. Thus, my 3 sisters, my mom and dad, and I were in the car together.. a lot. Most of the year, this meant "did you grab a book, DK?" and "you girls stop squabbling!" But not in November and December.

Some of my fondest memories of those years - no, of my childhood - involved riding in the car as it got dark around us, singing Christmas carols together. We weren't a terribly religious family (spiritual would be more accurate), but as a unit, we loved Christmas. Daddy has a nice rich baritone, and Momma has always had a pretty, if a bit thin, soprano. Sharon's soprano is strong and powerful, but she always mangles the words, while Angela and Vivian never mangle the words, but they sometimes lose the melody. And I.. well, I don't really remember what my voice sounded like. I was only 8 or 9 at the time, and it never occurred to me to think about it, then.

Sometimes, still, when the family gets together from across a couple of states for Christmas or Thanksgiving, we'll all sing for old times' sake. Feels like home.

Comment from: Psylence posted at December 15, 2005 2:00 AM

Now, I try to spend a minimal amount of time in retail areas during December, so maybe it is just random chance, but why do I so seldom hear songs like "Carol of the Bells" and "What Child is This?" or even "We Three Kings"? There is a lot of good Christmas music out there, so why do they play so much of the crap.

Then, come January when winter is starting to loose it's annual novelty and one could use a bit of a cheery song, you never here things like "Winter Wonderland" or "Let it Snow" or even "Jingle Bells".

And while on the subject of music, my actuall first exposure to Pi was the soundtrack which I picked up pretty much just because of the title. Good music too.

Comment from: larksilver posted at December 15, 2005 8:43 PM

Too often, people forget that much of what is considered "Christmas music" isn't, but in fact is more winter music. And, all too often, the people picking the music for the retail areas seem to have a yen to pick the most obnoxious versions of all of the Christmas music they do play.

If I never hear "It's a marshmallow world" (if that's it's real name) again, it'll be too soon. yuuck.

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