Twenty or 30 years ago, I saw an episode of The Twilight Zone television show that still sticks with me.
In the show, which I’ve only seen that one time, a couple of rowdy, bandana-clad, shaggy-haired motorcyclists rev their bikes, terrorize those around them, and basically act like plain old jerks.
Then, according to my recollection of the show, the bikers crash, and the television turns gray and shifts to another scene. Inside what appears to be a small, one-room home, an older couple watches tray after tray of slides from one of their many trips to nowhere in particular, speaking in the studied monotone of people who enjoy talking about themselves and not much else.
Into this endlessly unhappy room drop the bikers, who don’t know where they are and why they’re there. It takes a few moments, some yelling from the bikers at the elderly couple (who never even notice the bikers are in the room), and finally the episode becomes clear: The bikers are in Hell. But not the typical version of Hell, all hot, humid and horrible. Instead, the bikers have been transported to what turns out to be their own personal Hell, trapped forever in the absolute last place they would ever go on their own.
And they realize that for the rest of eternity, they’re going to be confined in a one-room house watching slides from vacations they’ve never taken and listening to people who don’t know or care they’re in the room.
I love the vision: an individual, private hell – truthfully, the worst kind of place imaginable.
I like to think there’s another message in this episode: that dying isn’t a necessary prerequisite for the “Hell on Earth” experience. How many times do those of us who are perfectly healthy find ourselves doing things we don’t enjoy in places we don’t like with people we can’t stand?
Now all of us, occasionally, must meet obligations to make kids, spouse, parents, friends or employers happy. But there are plenty of other times when the tides of the day push our drifting boat whichever way the wind is blowing, and days or weeks later, we finally realize we’ve wasted our time – my own personal definition of “Hell on Earth.”
And therein lies the great gift of summer: Time.
Time to relax a bit, lounge by the pool or read a book or watch a Rangers game or take a family vacation. Time to give some thought to how we’re using the rest of the time we have, and whether we can do better with it.