“...To your right is the Chinese Theater, one of Hollywood’s most iconic landmarks, it opened in May of 1927 with the premiere of Cecil B. Demille’s KING OF KINGS-”
“We’ll take questions at the end of the tour. Now, as I was saying-”
“Who’s that man?”
“Standing on the corner of Hollywood and Highland. He seems frozen, like one of those living statue street performers. That man who’s just standing there, not moving, like he’s stuck in time.”
“Okay. We really should just add this to the tour, because he’s not going anywhere, and people always ask. As our eagle-eyed friend here pointed out, there is a man standing here at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, and as you can plainly see, he is standing stock-still, like he was hit with a freeze ray. Anyone want to wager a guess why?”
“Was he hit with a freeze ray?”
“Those don’t actually exist.”
“Is he one of those AWAKENINGS people, just waiting for s massive doses of L-Dopa so he can listen to 1960s music and teach audiences what it’s like to be truly, gloriously alive?”
“He is not, and that was a terrible movie.”
“Was he hit with a fr-”
“HE WAS NOT HIT WITH A FREEZE RAY. JESUS. So. This man, like every other sentient being in Los Angeles, was a screenwriter with a podcast.”
“Everyone on this double-decker tour bus is now speaking in unison, and we’re all telling you that we’re already bored.”
“First that’s really impressive that you were able to organize that efficiently. Secondly, I do not blame you for being bored. The details of his life are freaking EXHAUSTING. Until a year ago, that is. A year ago, he needed to get to Burbank for a meeting, and had to decide whether he should take the bus or the train.”
“This is the not boring part?”
“You can all stop talking in unison now, it’s really unsettling.”
“Thanks. Now. If he took the bus, it would take a longer time, but he wouldn’t have to transfer. But maybe they’d hit traffic. It was getting close to rush hour, and he wasn’t sure if he should chance it.”
“So, and this is just one person talking now, why didn’t he take the train?”
“If he took the train, he would have to transfer, and that would leave a lot of things to chance. Maybe the bus he had to transfer to would be late. Maybe he would get lost in the process. He never had a lot of faith in his sense of direction.
So there he stood, looking at the train station, and then the bus stop, and then the train station, and then the bus stop. He pictured himself getting on the train, getting lost during the transfer process, and then being trapped in Burbank for the rest of his natural life, wandering the streets talking to himself and smelling of pee.”
“Wait, seriously? This was his thought process?”
“It gets WAY better. So then, he pictured himself getting on the bus, and the bus getting stuck in a traffic jam. The kind of traffic jam that comes once every 20 years, where people abandon their cars, and wander off into the hills to begin a new society not dictated by the tyranny of the internal combustion engine. And were all this to happen, he would assuredly be late for his meeting.”
“Was this a very important meeting?”
“Maybe? It was just a general meeting with a producer. He went to hundreds of them, where he drank a bottle of water, talked about what he was working on, they talked about what they were working on, and at the end they would shake hands and make vague promises to stay in touch.”
“Oh, so even if he was late, it wouldn’t have been a big deal.”
“That’s what he thought at first. Then he thought that maybe this was a very important meeting. Maybe this was the most important meeting of his career. Maybe everything he’d done led up to this meeting, and so the choice he made between the bus and the train was maybe going to be the most important decision of his life.
He thought about all of the times he had made a decision, and it turned out poorly. He thought back through his entire existence, and just saw it as an infinite loop of ‘Maybe I should have’s,’ and ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have’s.’ Roads not traveled, that could have led to success and happiness, and paths traversed that led to gaping chasms and dead ends.
Buses came and went. Trains arrived and left on schedule. He went from being a little late to his meeting, to very late to his meeting, to missing his meeting entirely.
His inability to make the simplest of choices without going through a laundry list of ‘Maybes’ caused his neurons to go into vapor lock. His muscles contracted, never to expand again. If you look closely, the only sign of life you can see are his eyes darting back and forth between the bus stop and the train station.”
“Isn’t there anything anyone can do?”
“Well, as you can imagine, a lot of people have told him to ‘Move out of the goddamn way, you frozen weirdo.’ That obviously had no impact. His family and friends tried to move him, but he was all but physically rooted to the ground, by what scientists have theorized to be something akin to a magnetic force.
But they have noticed something else. Look at the position of his head. Do you notice how it’s tilted back, like he’s trying to look up at the sky? It turns out that he is very slowly bending backwards, at a rate of a few micrometers a week.
Now this is just a theory, and parents, you may want to cover your children’s ears for this one, it turns out that his head may be slowly bending toward his ass. And unless he comes to a decision sometime in the next few years, there is a chance that he will disappear up his own ass completely.
I wish I could tell you that he was the only one like this. That he was an extreme case, an anomaly. But it is happening around the world now, in alarming numbers. To people who have been asked things like ‘Hard or soft shell taco?’ ‘Paper or plastic?’ ‘Which sweater do you like better, the red or the green one?’
The more trivial the decision, the more intense the freeze. Maybe people don’t want to cope with the bigger decisions they have to make. Maybe people are afraid to take even the tiniest amount of responsibility for their own lives. Or maybe people are tired. Tired of thinking. Tired of trying. Tired of trying to make the right call day in and day out, and feeling like they’re damned if they do, or damned if they don’t.
Maybe, if you’re not careful, you’ll be going about your business one day, and you’ll have to make a very simple, basic decision. And maybe you’ll over-think it. Maybe you’ll get mad at yourself for over-thinking. Maybe you’ll get mad at yourself for getting mad at yourself. And maybe, before you know it, you’ll be stuck where you stand.”
“We’re all thoroughly depressed and talking in unison again as a means of protest.”
“Well, good news. I’ve been messing with you this whole time. Let me just take off this wig, these glasses, and this ugly tour guide’s jacket...”
“OH MY GOD IT’S THE EVIL PROFESSOR FREEZOPOLIS!”
“THAT’S RIGHT, SUCKERS! I ZIZZED THAT POOR SAP WITH MY FREEZE RAY, AND CAME UP WITH THAT WHOLE STORY TO LULL YOU ALL INTO A DEPRESSED LETHARGIC STATE! AND NOW, WITHOUT ANY FURTHER ADEIU...”
“Now to go through your wallets and purses. Oh, awesome. A gold 5s. Those are, like, IMPOSSIBLE to find.”