Deborah Ross: How much joy in others' misery can I take?

If you ask me...
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The Independent Online

If you ask me, and as the News International scandal persists, I think I need to ask my own self a question, and it is this: how many schadenfreugasms can I actually take? For example, on one day last week, there were so many resignations and I had so many schadenfreugasms that by the time it got to that funny little Paul fellow from the News of the World being flayed alive by Hugh on Hughsnight, I simply fell asleep.

I should have faked it, I suppose, as is only polite, and particularly as Hugh was putting his usual effort in, but I didn't even have the energy for that. If I should happen to see Hugh – should he wish to come to N4, say, and meet at Nando's – I will certainly apologise, explain it is nothing personal, and even buy him a quarter chicken with two regular sides. The thing is, I am no youngster and although, in the old days, I could have a schadenfreugasm and then get on with things, I now find I need a bit of lie down and time to recover.

The schadenfreugasm – which, I think, would be defined by the dictionary as "the physical and emotional sensation experienced on hearing, for example, that Piers Morgan may yet become embroiled" – is characterised, first, by an excited state of astonishment and is then quickly followed by a nerve-tingling exhilaration of the kind that probably does not reflect well on your character, but appears unstoppable all the same. It used to be, I confess, that my schadenfreugasms were few and far between and not of an especially high quality. Watching someone run for a bus and then miss it has, until recently, sometimes been the only thing to keep me going for a full year, maybe even two.

But now they are coming thick and fast and I am struggling. As it is, when I do the school run, I don't tune the car radio to the Today programme for fear of having a schadenfreugasm in front of the children, which may take some explaining, but such preventative measures are not, I have discovered, infallible as fantasies can take over. The other morning, for instance, I fantasised about Piers being bummed in prison and it set me off so fully I nearly drove into a tree.

So, how many schadenfreugasms can I actually take? I don't know. I know only that as today is the day when Murdoch and Co go in front of Parliament I shall have to pace myself, or I'll fall asleep on Hugh again tonight and you know what? I don't think that's something you can ever get away with twice.



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