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Matt:

Today, knowing I would have to wait a while, I called two companies at the same time using two phones, one in each ear. When the hold music came on both phones, it was identical! I listened for five minutes, and the Muzak song changes were the same. It was no coincidence. These companies (Union Bank and Blue Cross of CA) don't seem connected in any way. I can't stop wondering...is there a radio station that broadcasts commercial-free Muzak hold music?

-- Keith Boudreau, Leucadia

You industrious multitasker, Keith. Whadda guy. The only thing worse than listening to 100 violins playing "Wind Beneath My Wings" is listening to it in both ears. I applaud your stamina. Of course, there are lots of ways to get tunes through your phone. (It's called MOH, music on hold. There's a whole tunes-through-your-phone industry, natch.) The fastest, cheapest, most illegal method is to jack your radio into a special MOH hookup in your phone system and pirate the tunes off the air. You'll probably be whistling along with the Carpenters when the guy shows up with the copyright-infringement lawsuit. Businesses can get software from their phone-system installer that will pull up melodies for the entertainment of waiters-on-line. Or have your own disc prepared by one of the MOH companies. These can include sales messages and other customized chatter spliced between Eagles hits or rehearsal tapes by your kid's garage band.

Union Bank and Blue Cross aren't so cheap or stupid that they'd pick option one. Options two and three are out of the question, based on the odds of the programming being identical. So that leaves us with number four, which we like to call the Big Mac option, or the Cantonese-food option: one central source with pipelines to various outlets, providing an identical experience, no matter where you are. Muzak is one of the sellers of such licensed programming. It's broadcast specifically for MOH use by subscribers (retail outlets, fitness centers, etc.). It's just one more reason why peace and quiet is such a rare commodity. That and the new gas-pump TV. What's next?

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