I’m Goin’ Down

I think I’m bound for hell.  No, really.  For example, I get perverse pleasure when I meet at a red light the person who zoomed past me just a mile back.  What did it get them?  A longer wait at the stoplight.  That’s when I feel perverse pleasure in seeing that their impatience didn’t pay off, while I, who was sticking to…well, all right, sticking closer to…the speed limit, reached the same intersection just in time to see the light go green.  I hardly had to take my foot off the accelerator.

That kind of perverse pleasure–what the Germans call schadenfreude, guilty pleasure–is probably going to land me in hell.  Well, okay schadenfreude isn’t quite the same, is it?  Guilty pleasure is getting pleasure out of seeing someone else’s pain.  And then feeling guilty for being so happy at someone else’s predicament, and yet feeling happy about being right.  Now, come on, admit it–you’ve been in the same situation, haven’t you?  Probably in that car on the other side of the crazy driver who passed both of us up a while back.

Admittedly, it’s not like I take pleasure in another’s real trauma.  I know there are crazies out there that do, but that far I don’t go.  So…maybe I won’t end up in hell.  Maybe just Purgatory.  Is there still a purgatory?  If there is, I hope God doesn’t feel guilty pleasure at having me sitting there thinking about what I’ve done, much like children banished to their rooms.  “You go right in there and think about what you said/did/thought about doing/will do….”  An exercise in futility, perhaps.  One of the perverse pleasures is…the guilty pleasure you get out of it.

Some things are rife with schadenfreude.  Election results often engender it, don’t they.  Even simple things, like seeing a grandchild’s chief rival come in second at a track meet, especially if said grandchild comes in first.  Every time we warn someone of an impending foolish or questionable choice, and it doesn’t work out, don’t you say, even if only to yourself, “See?  Told ya it wouldn’t work.”  Bite your tongue!  No, not now; before they try whatever they’re attempting.  Besides, sometimes things actually do work out the way they planned, not the way you perceived.

I think my one saving grace may be that I do try to remember that somewhere out there, someone is watching me zoom past them on the road, or try something that’s been practically proven to be foolish or impossible.  Luckily, I do avoid the stuff that’s dangerous.  Anyway.  Maybe because someone else is experiencing schadenfreude over my actions, I can avoid being sent to hell.  Or maybe, at least I won’t be the only one down there.  Misery loves company.  I’ll bet perverse pleasures do too.

Maybe I can reform.  So, if you see me wave you on into a parking place where we were both headed, don’t feel perverse pleasure at having beaten me out.  Just smile and remember that I’m trying to avoid the “perverse” part of the pleasure.