Brain Freeze

I thought at first that it was just another credit card application. It said I had been “pre-approved.” But then I saw the word ‘brain’ somewhere in the letter, just as I was throwing it in the shredder, and so I read it. Now I can’t quite forget it.
“You have been pre-approved to have your brain permanently frozen.” That’s what it said, and I had to read on. The “Beneficence Group,” it seems, had randomly selected me from some unnamed list for inclusion in the Brain Freeze Endeavor, which would put us, the “select few,” into a permanent, deep, dreamless sleep. My brain, they said, would live forever. Of course, there was a toll-free number.
“Jimmy” at the other end of the line was very courteous and almost seemed excited that I called. It might have been the same kid that last week told me I had “won” a free trip to Orlando or Las Vegas (my choice!), as the result of some contest I had entered. In that case, I’m sure I didn’t enter any contest; but in the Brain Freeze Endeavor there was no mention of some pretended contest. I had simply been “pre-selected.”
“So what’s the story here?” I asked Jimmy, and he very eagerly launched into a description of the Brain Freeze Process – clearly a scripted speech. “Your brain,” he said, “will be frozen in a Quick Freeze Process, keeping all its functions intact forever. You yourself experience no pain, no discomfort, but only a deep and dreamless sleep, virtually forever.”
“Forever?” I asked. “Forever!” he repeated. “Well,” I jumped back at him with some clear skepticism in my voice, “at least until the generators wear out.” I’m certainly not the kind of guy who buys anything without asking some tough questions first.
“Well, in fact,” he said, moving on to what seemed another page of the speech, “the freeze maintenance process is actually done in space, at our own Beneficence Group Orbital Platform, using solar energy to maintain the proper conditions. Your brain will last as long as the sun itself!” Jimmy sure seemed impressed; I guess I was too. I mean, that is a long time.
For a moment, I was kind of intrigued. How fascinating, I thought, to have been selected to have this deep sleep, let time rush itself on by while I am “frozen” in time (kind of a pun, I thought), maybe to see the future centuries from now. “So then do I get to choose when you wake me up?” I asked. I admit, I was naive.
“Er,” Jimmy stammered, “there actually isn’t any waking up, sir. I mean, I think it’s just sleep…” He kind of trailed off, then seemed to find his script again, “… a deep and dreamless sleep, virtually forever.”
“You read that part,” I said. “But this doesn’t make any sense. I mean, if I don’t get to wake up and see the future, or something, what’s the point?”
“The point?”
“Yeah, the point? What’s the point?” I might have been letting a little too much impatience, even anger, into my voice.
For a few seconds Jimmy seemed to be flipping through his script. I could hear the laminated pages slapping as he mumbled some rehearsed lines that really didn’t say anything about a point. Finally, he seemed almost to shrug audibly and say, “Well, there really isn’t any point, sir.” Then he added, “…but you’ve been pre-selected…”
“Oh, to hell with ‘pre-selected’,” I interrupted. “This is just stupid, like I’m supposed to be thrilled that someone takes out my brain when I die and freezes it like so much hamburger… “
“Well,” this time Jimmy interrupted me, “there really isn’t anything here about waiting till you die, sir.” Jimmy’s voice seemed strangely shy.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Well, there really isn’t any waiting, at least not for any specified event, sir.” I heard the pages flap again; Jimmy seemed to find his place. “So that there’s nothing to fear,” he was reading, “we will just take your brain at any time: while driving your car, while eating a hotdog, or while asleep in your bed. It’s all completely safe and painless; an easy way to have your brain kept frozen forever.”
Well, that was obviously the last straw, the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard, and I literally laughed out loud. “Ridiculous!” I yelled at Jimmy. “Just ridiculous! You can sure as hell bet that I’m not signing up for such a pointless, pitiful intrusion into my life as your stupid Brain Freeze Endeavor. Jesus!”
“But sir,” Jimmy responded sheepishly, “you already have signed up. Didn’t you read the letter?”
“Signed up for what?” I almost yelled back. “I didn’t sign up for nothing.”
“But sir,” he came back, “the letter clearly says that upon calling this toll-free number you are automatically signed into the program.”
“I’m sure as hell not signed up for any pointless, unconscious ‘dreamless sleep’ crap that can just take me at any moment,” I yelled.
“But sir, you are,” Jimmy said, and proceeded to give my name and address.
“Well unsign me, damn it!” I screamed into the phone, interrupting his listing of my personal data. “I don’t want any part of your stupid program.”
“Well, there actually isn’t any provision for unsigning, sir,” Jimmy said. “You see…”
“I said unsign me, damn it! Unsign me from this damn program or I’ll sue your ass of! You hear me?” I don’t quite know why I was being so vulgar. But it was all so damned absurd.
“Er,” the stammering and flipping of pages started again. Then Jimmy finally seemed to get to the end of his script. “Uh, … so be on the lookout for our blue and white panel vans. We might be in your neighborhood today! And thanks for signing up with the Brain Freeze Endeavor.”
And then Jimmy was gone. I slammed the phone down on the cradle and looked at the letter. There it was, just like Jimmy said: “By picking up the phone and calling today, you become one of thousands who know Brain Freeze Endeavor is on its way to your house. Maybe not today,” it said, “and maybe not tomorrow, but sooner or later…”
I haven’t slept well since “signing up.” I keep looking for the blue and white van. “Sooner or later…”

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