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a modern horror*

I tried for four days to get a person on the phone to cancel my service. To cancel the service, I was told, I had to talk a real person in a special department - but I couldn't access the speical department without first calling general support, answering my security questions and sitting on hold for 3 hours (which i did all 4 days in a row). The hold line echoes. I wonder how music can simultaneously Echo and sound like it's being played inside a coke can. Eventually I collected enough hold time. On the phone with a real person I had to answer security questions - the same ones I had to answer to be put on hold. All the other times I had been disconnected before getting to this step.

Once I answer the questions, I'm allowed to make my request. I tell the woman on the line I want to cancel. she says "why" but the word is like a breath and inside of it is defeat and sadness, why she says. And I find myself being reassuring. I tell her that I'm moving out of the province and they do not offer the service in that location. her voice gets cold and she says that she's going to have to transfer me to another department, but first she has to make sure she does the paperwork correctly. she puts down the phone. I am not on hold, I can hear her breathing... We breathe silently together on the line, my cancellation and her cold sadness feeling the silence for about 7 minutes.

Then she tells me that she needs to ask me a question before she can pass on the call. I say please ask the question and she says: "would you like service - the exact same service - for $20 less a month"

And I say "No." Less reassuring this time. "No, I don't even live in the house to which the service is being provided anymore. I am leaving."

She transfers me to the special department. I have paid whatever cryptic price this step required. I sit on hold, collecting more time. The only breath on this call is my own but I am certain someone is listening.

They answer the phone in the special department. I picture one man in a room, a phone that is never supposed to ring is ringing (the phone is, of course, red). he breaks out in a sweat.

I have have to answer the security questions. The same questions I answered to be transferred to this department, the same questions I answered in order to be put on hold in order to have the opportunity to request to be transferred to this department. Perhaps this is not really happening. perhaps I am simply an echo caught in a telephone wire.

I once again have to discover the special method of telling him I want to cancel. I remember this time that I need to say that I can not take the service to a new province. That according to their own website that service isn't offered there, I struggle to be reassuring but I remember to apologize.

There is a long silence on the line. I think I faintly hear the sound of a phone ringing - perhaps he is not alone or perhaps that is me calling, echoing.

He says he needs to ask me a question before he can process my cancellation. I say 'please ask the question' but I choke back a scream. He asks the question. And as though compelled by some force, like gravity, I find I need to tell him that no, I don't want the same service at a slightly lower price. "I need to cancel." I say.

He says he needs to ask me, they make him, he says. His voice is almost a whisper, and still down the line it echos. "Some people say they are moving where the service ins't offered just to get the cancelation. People will say anything. They make me ask about the deal."

There is a long silence. Nothing fills it.

I said "The coercive nature of this relationship makes me uncomfortable."


*based on a true story

** photo taken by


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