Hell Is Other People, And Other First World Miseries


Hell is other people, goes the saying. It’s actually a line from Jean-Paul Sartre and there is actually some evidence that he meant something rather different.

But the general sentiment is true. I’ll take it a step further: some of the worst things in the world are banal and ordinary and all around us. Consider it damnation by a thousand inconveniences instead of a ring of fire.

The saying is also incomplete. Because while people can be quite awful, there are plenty of other ordinary, petty tortures. Nor is fair to say “people” when it is much more clearly certain people, doing certain things.

For instance, I would deal with some terrible people before I ever willingly subjected myself, to say, inexplicable Los Angeles traffic that inevitably turns out to have been caused by a slight curve in the road or an enormous orange city bus with one person on it. I would let those people live in my house with me if it meant I could somehow guarantee that I would never have to bend down to pick anything up ever again in my life.

Below are, to me, the real hells (as compared to last week’s forgotten pleasures). Some are clearly caused by other people. Some we cause ourselves. All of them are first world problems.

-Trying to drive at dusk with the sun in your eyes

-Automated phone messages and telephone trees. Press one to shout your anger, now.

-Old men who think they know better

-The sound truck cargo makes on the bounce when drivers barrel down New York City streets

-Flat sparkling water

-Coming back and finding that your laptop didn’t go to sleep or shut down properly and now it’s all overheated and probably radiating cancer

-Seeing an animal that’s been abused. Whether its a photo online or spotting what are clearly neurotic symptoms in a bear or a giraffe at the zoo.

-Idle chatter

-Glasses that sweat and get everything all wet

-The sound of an iPhone text message at full volume

-When your gummy bears freeze in frozen yogurt

-Waking up from a nap that went too long–leaving you with two choices: blow your brains out or stay in bed and lose the night. Even worse if the nap was jet lag induced.

-Writing the item number on that tag when you buy food out of the bins at the grocery store

-Getting a drop of water (or worse, sweat) on your touchpad

-Radio DJs (x10 if it’s a morning DJ)

-Losing sunglasses

-The feeling after ingesting a bunch of carbohydrates

-Pulling your phone out of your pocket after just a few minutes and seeing “29 new emails” or any number in the double digits

-The group in front of you in line who are too cheap or dumb to pay together on a single ticket and prefer to be rung up as seven individuals instead

Loud ass restaurants and bars.

-IKEA furniture assembly

-When you say “What?” to someone and they just repeat the most recent part of their remark–the part you clearly heard–and do it at the exact same volume as before


-The second right before your body actually begins to perspire…where every pore feels like it’s blocked and overheating.

-The smell at the dog park

-Hotel key cards that get deactivated in your pocket (Did you keep it near your wallet? Near your phone? You mean…on my fucking person?!)

-Voicemails (leaving or receiving)

-When someone tells you a story that you yourself told them and now they are shamelessly stealing it…to you

-Canker sores

-Your shoes coming untied like 3-4 times in a row

-When the cuffs of your pants get soggy from rain or recent rain

All I know is that I would not wish all these things happening on the same day to my worst enemy (I’d prefer to dole it out slowly over time instead). And just one of them–if you let it–is enough to make you say “fuck it.”

I would say the solution is just endurance and tolerance and not taking things personally, but let’s be honest, that usually doesn’t make you feel any better in the moment–not when the pilot won’t shut up on the plane about your altitude and the windspeed and what he had for breakfast (yet was mysteriously silent about why you sat delayed on the runway for 30 minutes). Of course, one option, is to remember all the good stuff out there and indulge in an underappreciated pleasure. But it’s far more likely that you’ll just be upset–which is OK, because this stuff sucks.

Agree? Disagree? I suppose there is nothing to stop you from subjecting the world to the special kind of hell that is opinionated blog comments.

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image – Ikea