Bruce Levine is a native Manhattanite who now lives in Florida with his wife and their dog Daisy. He’s spent his life as a writer and a music and theatre professional. His shows have been produced in New York and around the country and his works have been published in a variety of media, including Brimfield Publications, Heuer Publishing, Rodale Press and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine.
Three Pieces of Swiss Cheese
There were three pieces of Swiss cheese remaining and Mortimer Findley was trying to decide whether to put all three on his ham and cheese sandwich or only two, his usual number, and save the third for later. For the average mere mortal this decision wouldn’t even be a decision, but for Mortimer it presented a whole array of possibilities and Mortimer wasn’t good at making decisions.
If he used two slices now, then he’d have fewer for his normal number on his next sandwich. Of course, he could cut the three slices in half and have one-and-a-half now and one-and-a-half later. And then there was the possibility of using one now and saving his normal two for later, but then he’d have to decide as to whether or not to add an extra slice of ham to make up the deficiency in the usual thickness of the sandwich either now or later. There were too many variables for Mortimer to decide.
In the end, the Swiss cheese removed the need for Mortimer to make a decision by remaining stuck together and no matter how he tried to separate them, it was simply easier to put all three slices on the sandwich. The only decision remaining was to remove a slice of ham or leave it and eat a thicker than normal sandwich.
The need to resolve the dilemma would normally put Mortimer in a state of panic, but a chance phone call saved him by taking his mind off the problem. By the time he got back to the sandwich after the phone conversation, he’d forgotten his predicament and took his first bite without any further thought.
Once he’d finished the sandwich the problem for Mortimer was what to do next. He had several items listed on his To Do list for the day and now he was faced with choosing which item to do in what order.
Once again, fate intervened in the form of the doorbell.
Mayfield Jones was an old friend and they often got together to play chess, a game that taxed Mayfield’s patience to the extreme as he waited for Mortimer to make a decision about what piece to move.
Today, however, Mayfield’s visit had nothing to do with chess. Today he came to discuss his latest conspiracy theory which he thought the FBI was covering up.
Mortimer had no interest in conspiracy theories and spent the next ten minutes describing the problem of the Swiss cheese so, by the end of the discourse Mayfield had decided that, since Mortimer wasn’t interested in his problem he would remain ambivalent about Mortimer’s, and he had no desire to sit through an afternoon of anxiety over chess moves, so he simply made an excuse to leave and left.
Once Mayfield was gone and Mortimer was alone he returned to the To Do list. The first item was the paint store to choose a color for the living room which he wanted to repaint, but the thought of the hundreds of paint chips, each with several shades of color to choose from, was more than he wanted to deal with. Too many decisions to make, so he moved on.
The next item was to get the oil changed in his car. He thought about that for a long time. The problem was that once he’d gotten to the service department at the dealership he’d have to decide on whether to wait unit it was completed or call a friend to pick him up which presented the next decision; who to call? Or, could he get a loaner car? He’d then have to decide whether or not to ask.
Once again he was so overwhelmed by the variables involved and the decisions he would have to make, that he moved on to the next item and then the next and so on through the entire list, but got nothing done except to use up the whole afternoon without leaving the same chair.
At sunset it was hunger rather than a decision to eat dinner that propelled him out of the chair and into the kitchen. He had already removed the decision process of what to eat by taking whichever frozen dinner was at the top of the pile which, in turn, had been created by random selection as they came out of the newly purchased grocery bag; the decision to go to the grocery store and the choosing of the individual dinners had already caused him considerable time and effort the previous day.
Once heated in the microwave Mortimer took his dinner into the living room to sit in the same chair. The decision as to whether or not to watch television while he ate was made for him by the chance condition of him sitting on the remote control which turned the television on to a twenty-four hour news channel and another decision was averted.
Mortimer’s last decision of the day was whether to stay up and continue watching television or go to bed and read. Fortunately for Mortimer providence took an upper hand and he simply fell asleep in the chair where he’d been sitting while he was trying to make his decision.