IN THE CONTINUING EFFORT TO

chronicle the telephonic torturing of modern man, we offer the following report from Greg Kelly:

Those unfortunate enough to need help from Metro's Customer Information Section on New Year's Day were in for a wait -- and an unpleasant surprise.

A Jan. 1 phone call to the section brought the by-now-obligatory instruction, "If you hold, your call will be answered by the next available agent." Then there was a 30-second interlude of treacly Muzak.

The next voice heard was, alas, still the machine's: "Please have pencil and paper ready to write your information." And that wasn't all. There were also thanks for Metro usage during the past year and the message, "We hope we may continue to serve your transit needs and wish you a Happy New Year." Followed by an eternal 45 seconds more of Muzak.

Visions of an overworked, understaffed information section sprang to mind as the recording came back on: "The lines are still busy. If you will continue to hold, your call will be answered in turn." And then this vital piece of information: "Please remember, this section will be closed all day on New Year's Day."