When people tell me that we as a society are getting too technologically advanced for our own good, that maybe we’re already wired unknowingly into feeding pods to power a vast machine empire like in The Matrix, I’m inclined to think they are crazy. Or old, engaged in a death-struggle with their answering machine or trying to unpack the fax machine they got as a present in 1992.

But then I have to go and fall into the steaming, festering marsh of digital hell that is my cable and Internet company. The quest? Get back the $5.88 that they’ve overcharged me on my last bill. How to do so? Trap their online customer service rep into admitting they’ve made a mistake. It will be an impossible task.

User joseph has entered room.

joseph> I’m being billed for $5.88 as a “previous balance” despite the fact that I paid this charge last month, and have the online check receipt to prove it.

Analyst Annalie has entered room.

Annalie> Hello Joseph, Thank you for contacting us. My name is Annalie. Please give me one moment to review your information.

I haven’t given her any information. What is she reviewing? Spy satellite photos? My body heat signature inside the walls of my house? And why didn’t the j in my name get capitalized? Am I nothing?

Annalie> How are you today?

This is obviously a ploy to get more information out of me. “How am I doing?” Please. What she’s really trying to say is, “What is your social security number?” “Who did you vote for in the last election?” “Do you keep your doors locked at all hours of the day?” I don’t fall for her games.

Joseph> Good thanks.

Annalie> Glad to know you are doing good.

Ahah! I have revealed an error in her grammatical programming! I’m doing “well,” robot Annalie, not “doing good.” I am good, or I am doing well. This mistake clearly indicates that I am surging through her outer humanoid shell to the mechanical gears underneath.

Annalie> About your cocnern, I am sorry that you are having issues with bill balance.

What is a cocnern, Annalie? What in the hell is a cocnern? I have her now; she’s reeling on the robot ropes.

Annalie> Let me check and help you on that.

Then what have you been doing this whole time? At this point, I glance out my window to see if I can see the telltale glinting of a satellite or Army drone orbiting high above me. Nothing. It’s cloudy. Damn.

Annalie> Before I can proceed, I need to have the following: 1) Accountholder’s Name 2) Complete service address 3) Account Number or the last four digits of the SSN registered on the account.

Ahah! Now we’re to the good stuff. In order to help me, you need to know who I am? Seems a bit fishy, don’t you think? Hasn’t your satellite told you everything you need to know? Fine, robot Annalie, fine. I give her some information, but no social security number.

Annalie> Thank you for that information. I will now pull up your account using the information you provided. Please give me a minute.

Now it’s time to drop a truth-bomb on her. See how she reacts.

Joseph> My online banking says you all cashed this $5.88 check on the 9th of the month. And the bill I just received said it was prepared on the 8th. So maybe this check was received one day after the bill was prepared?

Annalie> Yes, that is possible, Joseph. That is why it is not rflected on your billing statement yet. Let me confirm that. Yes. Yes, now you can opt to pay the entire balance due and the $5.88 will be credited on your next billing statement.

Oh, it wasn’t rflected? Does the typing of e’s cost more? Are you sitting in your robot-office, having to buy vowels like on “Wheel of Fortune?”

Joseph> Gotcha. I appreciate the help.

Something tells me I will be opting to pay $5.88 less this time around. It’s not that I don’t trust you, robot Annalie, it’s not that I don’t think you have my very best interests at heart, your proton accelerator core, but I think I’ll take my victory and run with it.

Annalie> I am happy to hear that. You are most welcome. I am glad to have assisted you today.

OK, so maybe every once in a while, things do work out.