Sorry, Mr. Lucifer, but it just may be that the idea of a mass-produced, one-eternal-punishment-fits-all-Hell is passe. Over. After all, there are weirdos in every crowd–just check those tattoos– and what happens to the people who like being jabbed with pitchforks and fondued in lakes of bubbling brimstone? No fair.
Maybe that’s why clever writers from antiquity to the Twilight Zone to Jean-Paul Sartre have toyed with the idea of an individualized Hell in which the torments are fiendishly customized to you, Mr. Sin Guy.
I got my own little preview of the Worst Possible Afterlife today (www.myhades.aargh) sitting in a suburban auto dealer’s waiting room while my car got its oil changed.
Picture it: I’ve had a lousy cold for over a week. I’m sniffling, shivering, sipping bad, burned coffee doused with chemically altered Kreamer–and that’s the good part. I’ve brought along a book I’ve been trying to read for months now– that weighty 70’s chin-stroker The Culture of Narcissism. But (epitaph ahead) I Keep Getting Interrupted and by the time I get back to the book, I’m backtracking to pick up the thread in this sociological-psychological labyrinth.
All this is made even more hellishly hard because the room is, of course, made for TV watchers, not readers. Every other light is burned out and the trac lights are angled in a way that to see the print at all, you must sit on the edge of the chair and hold the book almost at arm’s length.
Which doesn’t matter, because I couldn’t read a Dick and Jane primer in this hellhole. The blaring TV is set at ear-splitting volume and, I quickly learn, cannot be turned down or turned off–no visible dials or buttons anywhere. And of course it’s set to a morning “news” program in which an ever-more-shallow parade of glossy-blonde, large-breasted anchor gals chirp out 30-second news reports followed by 4 minutes of commercials for toilet-bowl cleaners that get at the toughest stains and banks that promise they will not, like the other banks, invest your money with Bernie Madoff.
And then the orgy of torment reaches its zenith. After a quick blip on the Obama StimPlan (and the gloomy comments of a couple of overweight Men in the Street), it’s time for the OctuMom–and suddenly they’ve got five minutes to kill on this pathetic woman, the bizarre doctor, the angry feminists, the ex-publicist, the hacked taxpayers and talk-show screamers doing the Two-Minute Hate on her.
Again and again they run the sordid tape of the Mom being chased through her yard by media vampires (“Can your other kids count to 14?”) as she croaks, “I don’t like celebrities! I don’t like Angelina Jolie!” after which our vapid hosts mock her voice and her words, tartly adding, “Then whydja hire a publicist, chickie?”
An eternity of bad coffee and the Octumom? Nothing to read, never again? But my prayers were answered. After an hour of this punishment I was released and allowed to make my way back to the sunny, breeze-kissed world above, knowing now the fate that awaits me unless I repent. Abandon all hope, ye who enter there.