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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Day the Music Died: Man Who Selects 311 Hold Muzak Listens to Decent Stuff at Home

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge Random dude, possibly subjected to 311 hold music
  • Random dude, possibly subjected to 311 hold music
Yesterday in this space, we wondered how a city that bills itself as "world-class" -- which we do, a lot -- could possibly subject people to string quartet versions of "Love Me Tender" when placing them on hold.

On Sunday, when we asked the operator at the 311 information service who was responsible for the positively evil smooth jazz playing on 311, she was unaware.

Yesterday, when we called the number listed on the city's Web page for the Committee on Information Technology, it did not go through -- a dire and ironic development.

And when we asked the Mayor's Office of Communications who picks the city's hold music, we were referred to -- you guessed it -- 311.

Since calling 311 seems to be the modern-day answer to a medieval barber's prescriptions for bleedings, we called again. And this time, some of our questions were answered.

The good folks at 311 put 10,000 to 12,000 callers on hold daily -- but, for the most part, are blissfully unaware of what they're subjecting us to. And while they are still unsure who is responsible for the hold music at city departments, 311 call center manager Kevin Dyer confirmed that he is the man who selects the service's hold music.

Now, it isn't as though Dyer went out and invested scads of the city's money in Mantovani, Dave Koz, or the anti-Christ himself, Kenny G. He simply signed 311 up for a hold music service with settings such as "classical" or "soft jazz" (and not "suck" or "nauseate," though it may feel that way).

Dyer, ever the good sport, chuckled that SF Weekly was the first caller to ever quiz 311 operators about the music or ask detailed enough questions that the manager had to get involved. When asked what was on his iPod at home, he confessed he doesn't have one -- but the most recent CDs he'd played were by the Eagles, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, and the Rolling Stones.

Fair enough. So, Kevin Dyer, if we ever hear the Muzak version of "Satisfaction," "Get Up, Stand Up," or "I Walk the Line" on 311 -- we're going to call you on it.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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