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There are four spotlights on in the studio.

The audience taunts me behind my back.

No. They don't taunt me. They want me to chose.

A director negotiating three primary-colored neon wands, orchestrates the audience's shouting. 

He raises a red baton. Shouts in favor of Number One increase. 

A blue baton streaks across his face and the audience members in favor of Number Two pin the decible needle. 

A yellow baton quickly flourished in the air and Number Three is supported.

The decision is mine. And since the voices behind me are just conducted by an aesthetician paid huge sums by the network to create a whirling tumult of incitement, I let the individual voices fade into a flowing mass of ONETWOTHREE. The numbers mean nothing and they yell nothing besides numbers. It's pleasant: the way the hum of an airplane is. A nice backdrop for contemplation.

I still have fourteen minutes to make a decision.

I've decided to come on the show for a number of reasons: 

1. I want to be on television. 
2. They're filming in NYC, which is nearby. 
3. I have a horribly developed case of hesitancy and passivity.

I find it hard to make a decision. I'm OK when it's an insignificant decision. I appreciate all the meats of our cultural stew. I am a fan of almost everything except olives -- and even olives I've begun to like. But how can I make a decision when I want it all? When it's insignificant I just close my eyes and point. But this technique leaves too much to fate when it comes to what's really important. And so I've sought help from the outside.

I used to try to champion passivity. I still do in some cases. It's like the aggressive tactics of Judo. Using another's weight and momentum in your favor. I like that. I think there's nothing wrong with that. Once I almost caused a three-car accident just by standing and waiting for the bus. That's another story though. [scroll down to first triple asterick (***)]

I know that if left to my own devices, I won't make a decision. So that's why I've come on the show. To have all the benefits and drawbacks of each possibility laid out on the stage in front of me. 

To have exactly fifteen minutes slowly click-off a huge digital display. That's why I'm here. 

Deciding now.

I stare at my choices. There's madness behind me in the crowd. Audiences flock to the studio. It's one of the most popular live audience shows. The audience is so loud for so long trying to influence someone making a major life decision. So many people mob the studio doors that they've started charging a hefty cover charge to thin out the crowd. The players get a nice cut just for playing. They don't say anything about it. It's under the table. 

A real audience isn't really needed. Every show's the same. Some weenie in the spotlight scratching his chin and looking up on stage at three possibilites for his future. Or her future. The player doesn't matter here. The audience always shouts a blend of one, two, and three while the director raises and lowers his neon batons in the same fashion, playing every episodes' audience exactly the same.

It would be easy to video-edit one audience into every show, but they figured there's a demand for the seats, which would be empty anyway, and people are willing to pay a cover charge split-upable among all those working on the show and the player, the guy in the spotlight, in this case: me. 

It's amazing the trouble they go through to produce the show. 

It's specialized. They try to make it as dramatic as possible. They really try to present each possibility with the most alacrity and pizzazz they can muster. 

And each player's show is different. They make films.  They fly pivotal centerpiece characters to the studio and dress them elaborately, but never in a way that could possibly turn a player off. 

Crew members thanked me for being easy. Meaning: I'm not all that into huge productions presenting one's lover as the object of desire of a thousand Moorish gymnasts performing masterful handstands on the blades of scimitars strapped to the backs of venomous sidewinders. You get the picture. I'm easy. Although I would love all of that. And maybe that's exactly the kind of thing I need to make a decision. To place each significant player in an outlandish context to see how they'd react. Not just to see how she looks as the object d' amor of molten men with palms of steel but how she reacts to the fantasy. Because if one can deal with a bizarre explosion of reality, then surely the actual stripped-down, slow-paced united-front will be a cake walk.

But maybe in the midst of all the affected sneers and permasmiles, there's nothing to react to -- it's all production and so the sort of anti-production, or stripped-production, I chose is enough. There's no distraction. I don't have to worry about stray scimitars or wandering sidewinders. Just a few photos symbolizing each choice. A few sounds. A few sensations. A voice. The least thing to tip-off the memory and let all my associations battle it out until as my fifteen minutes of television time runs down to a few seconds I'll have to make a decision. 

1. Move to another city for a girl.
2. Travel to another continent and all that entails. 
3. Stay for awhile in my hometown enjoying the easy life. 

And if I fail to decide?  If the fifteen minutes run down and I'm silent?  If while the buzzers grate and the audience hushes, I stand in the spotlight silently watching the little polaroids of the girl, my car, and Machu Pichhu spin on fishing wire hung from the rafters -- what happens? 

No one in the history of the show has failed to chose. It's the reason I'm on the show. I don't need the show. I could live without it. But without it how would I know what I think?


Editor's Note: This "story" was deleted from an early vision of Incidents of Egotourism in the Temporary World. The original first draft was recently excavated from an old hard drive, and presumed-dead chapters will / have been appearing in the past / coming weeks. You may ask: "Why post parts of a book that were deleted from a first draft?" I would answer: "I thought they sucked. But sucking is subjective, and does not exclude such pieces from availablity, especially since they've been dead for over three years."

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