These are two hours I can never get back in my life. Ever. Two hours of “communicating” with my “communication” company.

“Our billing systems aren’t integrated.” This is an IQ test more than a phone call.

Mistakes happen. I lived in a city that always credited my taxes to the wrong accounts. One year, I couldn’t register my car. “You didn’t pay your taxes.” I always pay taxes, plenty of them. I dug deep, discovering I was a year and a half ahead on my sewer taxes and equally behind in motor vehicle tax. Clerical error. Paying in person or writing CAR TAX in red on the memo line didn’t work, and God help me the time I used online banking. That resulted in a six-month research debacle.

And now, I’m trying to sort out why my communications company has two distinct divisions that don’t communicate. I’m faxing them receipts, papers, bank records and notices. It seems odd to be faxing anything to my 21st century email provider, but I obey.

“See?” I say after a lengthy time on hold, “I sent it to the right division of you.”

“That rep’s not in right now. I left her a note to call you.”

I inform the call center girl every time I call again I re-explain the situation a person who reads the notes again and is mystified. All I want to do is pay my bill if, indeed, I owe anything.

“Let me take a quick look.” “Quick” is relative. “Those payments have been applied to the other account, too.” I’m having sewer flashbacks. Recently, I’ve reverted to showing up in person to deal with these accounts. In a normal world I simply cancel and find someone with customer service I could understand without Google translate. Unfortunately, this is a quasi-monopoly and a service I need to do my job. I’m going to have to suffer through.

The idea of sitting by a pond with no internet sounds better with every phone call.

She asks me why I don’t just use the website. I say I get kicked off and “that feature is not available.” My students are coming back, I’m at school. My allocated time on task is gone.

She resets my account and sends me an email. I go home and try again. I get kicked off. I call three layers of customer service. I must be being recorded for a reality show. The prospect of fame lifts my spirits.

I’m on the phone for an hour. I assure the rep she’s trying hard. She probably gets a ton of angry phone calls. No need to ruin her day. I remember why I started driving into the physical store, something so 1995.

Even in the store they ask, “Do you have your twenty-seven digit account number and the two-thousandth digit of pi?” If I guess I’ll get locked out of the account until leap year.

I get into the site, one step closer to figuring this out. I’ve decided to pay again and let this sort itself out later.  I feel like I won Jeopardy.

The I-won-Jeopardy feeling evaporates. There’s no credit card button. I can only pay by paper check. Who uses paper checks? My communications company is very close to achieving something a room full of students can’t accomplish, even on a bad day, annoying me.

I scrounge for, and find, a paper check. The last one I used was for dress-down day at school last year, where cash is no longer king.

“We have your last check on file for your convenience.” I want to use this account not that one. I look for the “use another account” link. Up pops a box. “For changes to your payment method please call 1-888–…. ” I look at my notes. It’s number I’ve been calling all afternoon.

I take a deep yoga breath. Challenges in life make us better. Dealing with taxes, idiots, saboteurs, mean people, inefficiencies, it’s what makes the world go round. We do our mental push ups and learn to let things roll off our backs. Then, when we are in a position to help others, build systems, or just go through daily living, we remember that pain and try to cause joy to others.

What’s the worst that can happen if I give up? My internet gets canceled and I call people on my phone? Hashtag Firstworldproblems. I take another deep breath. I need internet to do my job, so I resolve to make one more call and push through to the end. Besides, there’s still a chance this is my error. I just need to navigate the Witness Protection Program to find the right person to resolve it.

I call the number. “Our hours are from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time…” It’s now 6:03.

Two hours. I haven’t accomplished a thing.  What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Is there a lesson here? I’m not sure.

I said a quick prayer but I got an autoresponder–the Lord can’t answer because he’s trying to pay his cable bill. I suspect he’d tell me to simplify–that if I can’t figure it out in one or two clicks, it’s probably something don’t need anyway. He’d say take the boy on a hike in the woods and enjoy the beauty he created for me instead. I obey.

Perhaps these past two hours were a reminder not to let life get to complex.

If so, it wasn’t that big of a waste after all.