I don’t think about ‘hell’ that much. For better or for worse, I don’t while away the hours pondering the battle between good and evil and the eternal struggle for redemption. I probably should, but it’s hard to find the time. Between sorting the recycling and opening the mail, I barely have a moment to scratch myself, even though it’s one of my absolute favourite pastimes. Hell remains something of an abstract concept. I don’t wonder what it looks like, how it’s decorated or whether they use VHS or Betamax. I don’t think about how it feels and whether Uber Eats delivers there. I do, however, know how hell sounds.
Whatever you’re thinking, you’re totally wrong. When invited to consider the aural atmosphere of the underworld, doubtless most of you are instantly thinking about thrash metal or hard-core techno music. Put that out of your mind right now. All that’s saying is that hell sounds like the music you, personally, don’t like. For me, hell would sound like Ed Sheeran. Nothing against Ed; it’s just that I find his music as inspiring as a jar of olives that’s been sitting in the back of my fridge for eight months. Which is to say I could do without it.
But whether you think hell sounds like the thrashiest thrash band to ever tumble down from the summit of Thrash Mountain (there’s bound to be such a place. In Finland. Probably) or the plinkiest plonkiest bleepiest electronic vomit in all of techno music history (and there’s lots of competition), you’re entirely mistaken. Even my belief that Ed Sheeran is in league with the Dark Lord and is a supernatural portal to eternal hellfire is mildly off the mark. That’s because hell doesn’t sound like any of these things. It sounds like Vivaldi.
Now I like Vivaldi as much as the next person, unless the next person is glowing red, smells of sulphur and has a pair or horns sticking out of their head. Broadly speaking, Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ is a masterpiece. Evidence, were it required, of the artistic heights to which a single human being can soar. Unless, of course, the ‘Four Seasons’ is used as ‘hold’ music. In which case it’s enough to make you want to rip your ears off with your own hands.
I had to call a company and was put on hold. Immediately, Vivaldi kicked off. It was ‘Spring’, I think. I can’t be entirely sure because I may have fallen unconscious after half and hour or so. As I waited for someone to take my call, the first ten seconds of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ kept playing and playing until I began to weigh up whether it was better to be patient in the hope that my call might one day be answered or to hang up now to preserve what was left of my sanity. That I chose the former suggests that my sanity was something of a lost cause.
They say ‘hope springs eternal’. When on hold, ‘Spring’ by Vivaldi has a similar running time whilst simultaneously ravaging whatever hope you might have had when you first dialed the number. Worse still, every twenty seconds a voice (possibly Satan) interrupted to tell me that if I wanted to update certain kinds of details, I was totally out of luck because a member of the service team would be unable to assist. I assume service team members were, instead, instructed to laugh in the faces of those unfortunate enough to try and update their details.
The voice then went on to extol the virtues of doing everything ‘on-line’ instead of over the phone. Clearly they were seeking to discourage anyone from attempting to ring them. Fittingly, their ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ customer satisfaction guarantee wasn’t enough to put me off. That’s because I had no choice. The reason I was enduring Vivaldi in ten-second segments even though I suspected that the longer it went on, the more my soul was attempting to escape my body, is that I couldn’t log in to the website. Here’s where it gets tricky.
The reason I wanted to log into to the website was to change my mailing address, which had been misspelled. However, to log in to the website, the company send you and authentication code. Through the mail. Which, if your address is wrong, is tantamount to a parachute made of barbed wire. Thus, there was no choice for me but to grit my teeth, gird my loins and generally brace myself for inanity on a loop. After ten minutes I was annoyed. After twenty minutes I’d forgotten why I’d called in the first place and after forty minutes, I was reduced to rocking back and forth with my clasped hands raised to the skies as I begged it to stop. Then it did.
A pleasant person asked how they could help. ‘By magically dislodging Vivaldi’s Four Seasons from my mind’, was the obvious answer, but I didn’t say it. My issue, ultimately, was resolved but there are still nightmares. I can’t even look at a phone without hearing a bright burst of strings. I’ll probably have to listen to some heavy-duty thrash metal or obnoxious techno music just to get it out of my system. But not Ed Sheeran. Despite the physical and mental anguish caused by Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, there are still limits. Sorry Ed.