I’m a decent enough student, but in a philosophy class I took last semester I was barely scraping by. Right before finals, my professor sent me an email telling me about a study group in the library. I figured I’d better go, maybe just showing some effort would be enough to get me through the end of the semester.
I arrived on my own at around 11 p.m. the night before the final exam, empty notebook in hand, to find two other students waiting for me, barely acknowledging each other. They were both girls I recognized from class, but no where else. One was named Estelle and the other Ines. I sat down and asked what they covered so far, but I didn’t get a straight answer from either of them.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” said Estelle. “ There’s so much to cover. Maybe I could just get a copy of your notes and we can work off of them together?”
I tightened the grip on my notebook. “My handwriting is no good, you’d never be able to read it.”
I could already tell I’d be better off out on my own, but it was too late to leave.
“He doesn’t even have notes,” Ines snapped, acknowledging the rest of us for the first time.
“Of course I do! And I don’t see you offering yours up.”
That’s when Ines cracked. “Can’t you see why we’re all here?! The professor put us all together because none of us do any work. We don’t even have class notes.”
Estelle started to panic. “This is a mistake! I shouldn’t be here, I always do the readings and show up to class every day.”
Ines was ready for Estelle as well. “I didn’t even know you were in our class. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in there.”
Estelle snapped right back. “I’m there enough to see that you spend all class on your laptop going through tumblr.”
The two of them continued like this for nearly twenty-minutes. It turns out Estelle was part of another study group, but spent the entire time mooching off of other people’s notes and never contributing until they finally kicked her out. Ines spent all class blogging. None of us had done any work all year.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to do something or I’d never pass this exam.
“I don’t take notes either!” I yelled. They both went silent. “I should just go. There’s no point in any of us being here anyway.”
I moved for the door, but Estelle stopped me. “No! Nobody leaves until we’re ready for this exam.”
We all needed to read. That was all there was to it. “Then we need to sit here and ignore each other. We need to read.”
I started where the syllabus ended, Sartre’s “No Exit.” I pulled my personal copy out of my backpack and sat in the corner, but they never stopped arguing. That’s when I realized it was too late for all of us. This wasn’t a study group, it was our punishment. We we’re stuck in that room together for the entire night and made no progress. We could’ve been there for eternity; it wouldn’t have mattered. I never finished “No Exit,” but I did realize one very important lesson. Hell is other people. Study groups can’t save your soul for a semester of sins.
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