My Descent Into Hell

My time in captivity was hell. It was a special kind of hell, the kind reserved for the evil, for felons, for those who do not pay their bill on time. I am none of these. Yet there I was, staring evil into its cold eyes, listening to it on the most uncomfortable of telephones.

It only takes one wrong turn to end up in a bad neighborhood. Sometimes during that turn, the scenery just ahead looks pleasant, but after a mile or so, the true nature of the surroundings appears. I followed the directions, navigating the route laid out for me. Yet I made that bad turn, and ended up in hell.

I knew there was a problem when I saw the sign that read “bill past due.” I’ve never had a bill past due, certainly not three weeks past due. I checked my bank statement. The money was withdrawn. I checked the account in question on line. The payment was posted two weeks before the due date. Despite that, in bold letters above the payment information the sign again appeared: “bill past due.”

I did what anyone would do when trying to sort reality from fiction: I went for help. I navigated to the contact information, picked up the phone and called customer service. When the line was answered, the odor of brimstone emanated from the handset. I heard the voice of the devil.

The devil has automated somewhat since I last tried to extract information from an entity of evil. Instead of rote directions telling me to press “one” for this and “two” for that, his automated presence now responds to keywords and sentences. “Tell me how I can help you,” he said. “Speak in complete sentences.” I told him I wanted help with billing. “I can help you with that,” he said. I heard the sound of pre-recorded keyboard typing, feigning actual inquiry. The artificial key tapping made me ponder, “Does Satan think people have become stupider?” Maybe they have.

The devil transferred me to a pleasant-sounding minion who asked a few questions regarding my account and bill. I clicked to view my bill on line. I smelled another puff of brimstone as the website crashed. I heard the background wailing of tortured souls over the phone as the minion’s website also crashed. Flames shot through the phone line as he began to hard-sell me on the company’s TV service while he attempted to re-log in to his system. “I don’t watch TV,” I responded. This must have short circuited his brain; he asked if I don’t watch TV, what do I watch? Netflix? Streaming? He persisted, despite my insistences he was trying to sell pixie-stix to a diabetic. “No, NO!” I screamed after continued pummeling. “Please, anything. I’ll sell my soul. And my grandmother’s. Anything, ANYTHING if you stop the hard-sell!”

Twenty minutes later, I realized the minion was only toying with me, holding me in captivity as the forces of evil tried to recruit me for their nefarious purposes. When it became clear my will was too strong, that I would not submit, I was transferred to the seventh level of hell: accounting.

I felt sympathy for the poor soul who helped me out. He fixed my billing problem within a few seconds. I knew from his tone he was the mop-up guy for the messes the customer service minions spilled. I knew he would catch the Devil’s wrath for providing help so expeditiously.

Then I was released. I navigated back to some semblance of sanity. But I still smelled the brimstone in the air, and felt the torment of the tortured souls that I knew still lurked in the background, waiting. Waiting for the next opportunity. Waiting for the next chance to hold someone like me in captivity. Waiting for the next wrong turn into hell.