By Sean McVeigh
Much of what we imagine when we think of Hell today comes from Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” For those of you who don’t know, “Divine Comedy” is a poem (although not how we would think of a poem today) that chronicles Dante’s journey through the afterlife, taking the reader on a journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.
The first part of this epic poem is called Inferno, which is Italian for Hell. Dante begins his journey here, accompanied by his guide, the Roman poet Virgil. Together they explore Hell and, as described by Dante, it’s nine circles. The circles represent various levels of evil as seen by Dante and culminate at the center of the nine circles which is where Satan himself dwells. Within each circle, Dante encounters people who have committed a sin in their lives and now are receiving some form of poetic justice. For example, at one point, the pair comes across fortune-tellers who are forced to walk with their heads on backwards as punishment, unable to see what is before them.
He didn’t just write a list though on what he thought were the gravest of sins. Nope, he wrote a couple hundred-page POEMS on the matter. He went into excruciating detail about each sin, the type of person who commits that sin and then what exactly was going to happen to that person when they arrived in Hell. I am a big fan of his work…
Well, the other day I found myself in the ninth circle. In the deepest parts of Hell, faced with the greatest evil one can imagine: People using speaker phone in public.
When I take a phone call in public, the other end of the line will know very quickly. I answer in a hushed voice and immediately let them know I can’t talk too much because I am in public. I almost shame the caller for having the nerve to not know I was going to be in public when they called. Even if I am not in public, perhaps just with some friends and I get a call, I will have to leave the room to answer it. There is just something private and intimate about a phone call. To make matters worse, very rarely are these calls routine. The speaker phone conversations I am forced to overhear always seem to involve the airing of grievances with names and vivid details all included.
Right up there with the public speaker phone user is the playing music without headphones person. We all know this person. They are usually found sitting next to you while on the subway. I think this person is slightly different. Where the former is unaware that what they are doing is insane, I believe the latter is well aware. In this case, it is pure apathy. They know that what they are doing is uncomfortable for everyone else around them, they just do not care.
Personally, I think these people should be studied in a lab. They possess the perfect balance between lack of self-awareness and unabridged indifference. A little research and some well-deserved experimentation and we might be able to create the perfect monster.
It’s a real shame that Dante is not around to tell us his thoughts on the matter…