- Associated Press - Saturday, May 10, 2014

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) - Vic Berger IV just wanted access to his online E-ZPass account and ended up giving the online world access to something far more amusing.

The Bethlehem man called the customer service line of the electronic toll-collection company about two weeks ago after its website locked him out of his account. Like almost all customer service lines, he was put on hold and music started playing while he waited for the next available representative.

But it wasn’t Beethoven. It wasn’t The Beatles. It wasn’t even Beyonce.

“It was this weird clacking sound, like somebody hitting a pencil against their cheek over and over again,” says Berger, a local musician who works at Hunterdon Developmental Center in Clinton. “I thought it might be a glitch so I called back and it did it again.”

That’s when Berger decided to document what he was hearing. He recorded an audio clip of the “music” and married the audio to some visual images of E-ZPass signs and people in suits holding a telephone to their ear. He uploaded the 38-second video to YouTube.

Since then, nearly 150,000 people have watched Berger’s original video, comedians have invoked it, a British newspaper has written about it and pop culture websites, including E! Online, have snatched it up.

To be sure, the 150,000 number’s a lowball figure. People have copied the video and uploaded their own versions of it on YouTube. And then there are those who have done remixes using the audio from the original video.

All in all, the total audience is hard to pinpoint, but suffice it to say it’s at least flirting with the coveted “viral” designation.

Berger acknowledges nothing he’s ever done has gained such traction online. His own music hasn’t come close, and he sees the irony in that.

“I’ve spent weeks and months on songs to perfect them, but this is what I’m now known for,” Berger jokes. “It took under five minutes.”

Berger hesitates to call what he heard on the E-ZPass customer service line a song. His description of “somebody hitting a pencil against a cheek” is better than anything I could come up with to describe the sound. There’s definitely some kind of tempo in there so I wouldn’t go as far as to just call it noise.

Whatever it is, it makes me want to rip the E-ZPass transponder off my windshield and revert back to stashing a roll of quarters in my car’s ashtray.

Being forced to listen to this clamoring to resolve some sort of issue with an online account seems far more painful than waiting in line at a toll booth to make a good, old-fashioned monetary transaction with a toll collector.

E! Online shared my sentiments.

“This on-hold music is at least a step up from what they used to do when they put you on hold: drive to your house and pry off your nails with pliers,” the website quips.

The Independent, the British newspaper that apparently broke the story about the video, posted it under the headline, “Is this the worst on-hold music ever?”

As far as I know, the only ones to report about the video locally up to this point are comedian Steven Bost and Co., who host Steel Trap Trivia at Bethlehem Brew Works. They asked a trivia question about it last week, which is how I found out about it. They also took some digs at the “music.”

For Berger, it’s not that bad.

“I kind of like it, actually,” he says, comparing it to synthesizer-derived music.

As for the 15 minutes of fame, Berger, who’s 31 and who will become a father soon, says he’s not going to be packing up and moving to Hollywood anytime soon.

“I’m not really trying to make any money out of it,” he says. “I just did it for fun more than anything else.”


Online: https://bit.ly/1fXicFt


Information from: The (Easton, Pa.) Express-Times, https://www.lehighvalleylive.com

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