Maxed Out 

A special place in Hell

< P>By G.D. Maxwell

I was pretty choked a few years ago when the Pope admitted there really wasn’t a Hell. At least not a Dantesque Hell full of unimaginable, eternal tortures.

I never really believed in Hell but I was comforted to at least think there may be such a place, a final destination for the truly despicable people of the world to spend forever nattering at each other. It provided solace, if not closure, since I believe in Karma enough to try and avoid doing things for which I’ll eventually pay but not enough to be satisfied the people who really deserve payback will ever take it in the teeth.

I always visualized Hell as something like the worst apartment building I ever lived in. A dreadful place that was always too hot, smelled like an indescribable mix of pee, excrement, curry, stale tobacco smoke and wet dog, where the rooms were too small, the music too loud and too dreadful – think Yoko Ono’s Fly CD with a skip – and the company too reminiscent of all your bad habits and annoying tics amplified to bigger-than-life scale.

Such a Hell had specialized rooms reserved for people who’d spent their life committing the same sins against humanity. There was the Packaging Engineer Room where people who’d inflicted modern packaging on us spent eternity trying to open potato chip bags, hermetically-sealed stay-fresh cereal bags, shrink-wrapped compact discs, child-proof medicine caps and lids to pickle jars that require hydraulic pressure to screw open. These wretched souls cried in agony as they watched their last fingernail being ripped from its supporting flesh, their last tooth break off at the gum and their scissors finally dull and break just as the next shipment of impossible-to-open things they’d invented was dumped at their feet.

Next door, in the Label Removal Room, retail clerks glazed over as infinity stretched out before them, an infinity they’d spend trying to peel price and barcode stickers off things they’d affixed them to. Their plaintive cries fill the room as they try solvent after solvent hoping to find one that will get the gum residue off the crystal vase meant as a special gift for someone and still leave some flesh on their fingers. Their only hope reduced to that special day each year or two when they’re rewarded for their efforts and allowed to simply peel those annoying stickers off apples and peppers and then figure out what the heck to do with them.

I can’t tell you how often the only thought that’s kept me going on a hot summer afternoon was imagining there was a very large, very smelly room where automotive designers and engineers spent forever busting their knuckles trying to change spark plugs on an engine where you damn near have to pull it off its mounts to accomplish such a mundane repair. Or watching in resigned disgust as a rivulet of water runs onto the seat they’re about to occupy every time they open the car door.

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