Archived Opinion

So this is what hell feels like

So this is what hell feels like

Beware, gentle readers. This story is not for the faint of heart. It is a story of betrayal, corruption, and greed. If you have ever read Dante’s classic work, “The Inferno,’ you may still have nightmares remembering the Nine Circles of Hell. Since the poem was written in the 14th century, Dante could not have anticipated the 10th, and most vicious circle, the one you enter when you call a major corporation to request a change in service, as my wife tried to do a couple of weeks ago in a noble attempt to save us a few dollars per month by disconnecting our landline.

I will not reveal the identity of this particular corporation, though its name is comprised of three letters that rhyme with Slay Me and Thee. As one of the last handful of people who still have a landline — the only calls we get on it now are from telemarketers and scam artists — we simply wanted Slay Me and Thee to cancel the landline, while keeping our Internet service exactly as it is, or was.

My wife placed this call a couple of weeks ago, and excitedly shared the news with me when I got home from work. We are on one of our “frugality campaigns,” where we look for ways to make cuts in our budget until we have enough money saved to blow on Bruce Springsteen tickets or brunch at the Grove Park Inn or, you know, the children.

She called me a little while later, on the verge of tears.

 “I just wanted them to cancel the phone, and they canceled EVERYTHING!” she blurted. “We have NOTHING!”

 “I am sure it was a simple mistake,” I said, which in retrospect seems either touchingly naïve or mind-numbingly stupid. “We’ll just call them back in get it all sorted out.”

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I did not know that we had already entered the 10th Circle of Hell. It turns out that my wife had already been on the phone for several hours trying to “get it all sorted out,” to no avail. She talked to three different people, got three different stories, and received a solemn promise from the last representative — who did seem at least somewhat sympathetic to our plight (“my husband works online and HAS to have Internet service!”) — to call us back before 5 pm.

She did not call us back. The next morning, we took turns calling, spending several more hours explaining the situation to a variety of Slay Me and Thee representatives, starting from scratch each time we were “handed off” to other people in other departments. Among the other promises that had been made to us, one representative swore an oath on the previous day that our case would be “expedited” due to the compelling nature of our cause and the urgency of our situation. Unfortunately, no record of this conversation — which lasted about as long as an average major league baseball game — could be found anywhere “in the system” (aka “Circle of Hell”).

On the third day, a technician materialized at our door. It was all I could do to resist hugging him as if he were the Prodigal Son, a lost sheep returned to the fold.

“I’ve been checking your lines,” he said. “Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do until they restore your service. And even when they do, they have you set for the lowest possible speed. It will be so slow that you will pull your hair out. But, hey, they get a ‘new order’ out of it.”

“But it is NOT a new order,” I replied. “We’ve been here seven years.”

“I know,” he said. “Try telling that to them.”

“We have been, for nearly three days now.”

“Man, that is terrible.”

“It is the tenth Circle of Hell.”


 “Never mind.”

On day four, sometime around midday, my wife was able to get the Internet back on, and just as the tech had predicted, it was excruciatingly slow. We were trying to watch a show on Netflix, but the characters couldn’t get through a line of dialogue before the screen would freeze, and the little circle would spin and spin. 1 percent, 8 percent, 12 percent, 25 percent, 51 percent, 63 percent, 71 percent, 80 percent. Then another line or two of dialogue, and then the circle, another Circle of Hell. After about five minutes of that, we gave up.

We had already canceled our premium stations to save money, so without Netflix, we were down to a couple of home improvement shows, something about “ice road truckers,” whoever and whatever they are, or reruns of Family Feud.

“We could always read,” my wife suggested helpfully.

“As an American, I am entitled to spend a fair portion of my day indulging in activities that require absolutely nothing from me, and that means television or web surfing. I will read later. Now, I am going to sulk, if you don’t mind.”

Ten days later, we are still without even remotely acceptable Internet service, all because we wanted to save a few dollars by getting rid of our phone line. We’ve spent at least 30 hours talking with an astonishing number of the Slay Me and Thee workforce (maybe we’ll be invited to the company Christmas party). We’ve begged. We’ve pleaded. We’ve filed complaints online. And to-morrow we’ll do it all over again. 

Dante would understand.

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher who lives in Haywood County. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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