Harold Zweckis was the world’s most accidental celebrity, and he didn’t even know it.
Harold was photographed by the Google Maps Streetview Van as he walked through Times Square, captured in full panoramic glory yelling at his business partner on his cell phone. Thing is, Harold wore one of those Bluetooth headsets, and it was on the side of his head away from the street, so it looked like he was just yelling at thin air.
Neither Harold nor anyone he knew was the type of person to waste time looking at Google Street View of a place they saw almost every day, so he never noticed he was there.
But the rest of the world did.
Times Square being a popular choice to look at using Street View, it didn’t take long for people to notice the yelling man in mid-step outside the Sbarro. Pretty soon “Angry Google Guy” was a full-fledged Internet phenomenon, photoshopped into hundreds of pictures (of weddings, crying babies, libraries, walking in on people having sex, etc.).
Tourists recognized Harold and ran up to him demanding his autograph. He shoved them out of the way and didn’t even listen. He was a busy man, he had places to go!
Stephen Colbert referenced “Angry Google Guy” on his show, as did Saturday Night Live (two months later). Again, Harold was a serious man, and he only knew serious people, so nobody ever saw it to mention to him, and he certainly never saw it himself.
Pretty soon people started selling bootleg T-Shirts of the “Angry Google Guy,” both in New York as well as online. Harold wasn’t the type to pay attention to the stupid T-Shirts people wore, though, so again he never noticed.
Eventually, the furor died down when someone discovered a YouTube video of a baby in a sailor suit playing “Chopsticks” on the piano, and Harold once again became just another guy, never even having realized he was anything else.
In Sunnyville, every day was exactly the same. Every family would wake up at 7:00 AM sharp. The parents prepared breakfast, took the kids to school, and headed to work. At 12:00 PM came lunch break. Everyone in the town stopped what they were doing to open their brown paper bags to remove their perfectly cut pastrami sandwich. At 3:00 PM the children got home from school, and at 5:00 PM the parents came home from work, in time for dinner at 6:00 PM, after which the children went right upstairs to do their homework. At 9:15 PM the children would be tucked into bed. The mother or father would read a simple story out of the book on the nightstand, each story taking exactly 15 minutes, so the lights could be off by 9:30 PM. Afterwards, the parents rejoined each other on the couch in the den to watch a sitcom before the 10 o’clock news came on. The news anchors would report that everything was perfect, that everything was going along exactly as it should, just as it had yesterday, the day before that, the day before that, and so on and so on as long as anyone could remember.
There was very little excitement in anyone’s life, but they were secure, and they were happy. Or at least content, which is, when it comes down to it, good enough.
One day, by chance, the Trickster happened to come to Sunnyville. He stood on the hill overlooking the city and watched the industrious citizens go about their daily lives. He sat on the hill for days, watching, waiting for something to change, but of course, nothing ever did.
“This is disgusting,” he said to himself, “I can’t bear to look at a land so orderly and controlled. I’ve got to do something.”
The Trickster sat and thought to himself, trying to figure out the best way to disrupt Sunnyville. He brooded and he pondered, he dreamed and he imagined, he schemed and he planned. Finally, he realized that sewing chaos here would be simple indeed, so simple that he laughed at himself for not realizing it earlier.
Early the next morning, the Trickster awoke at 7:00 AM, just like all the other inhabitants of the town. Unlike them, though, he did not fetch the morning paper, pour himself a cup of coffee, feed the dog or scramble eggs. Instead, he walked straight to the central square of the city and stood right in the middle of the intersection.
Soon, the cars began to pour out of the driveways of Sunnyville, and for the first time in their lives, the people experienced a traffic jam.
It wasn’t like any traffic jam you or I have ever seen, however. The pleasant people of Sunnyville had never in their lives been held up like this before. Rather than getting angry or frustrated, like those of us who don’t live in perfect worlds, they were simply confused.
The Trickster stood staring at the central clock for exactly ten minutes. And then, he simply stepped off the street and left Sunnyville forever.
The people, still confused, tried to salvage the rest of the day as much as they could. While nothing went seriously wrong, they felt as though their whole day was thrown off.
The next morning, though, they felt much better. Most of them woke up at 7:00 AM sharp, exactly like every other day.
But some of them woke up at 6:59. And some of them woke up at 7:01.
Angels poured out of the rip in the sky in a never-ending stream. The blinding white light shone down from the hole almost metaphorically, as if it were illuminating the spiritual darkness of the city below. And still the angels poured out of heaven, landing in heaps in the streets of Las Vegas.
And this had to happen on the day I’m assigned to take the new guy around, Officer Jarvis sighed to himself.
The kid stared at the sky, his fresh face glowing in wonder and fear.
“Has this ever happened before?” the rookie asked, gasping.
“New one on me,” Jarvis grunted.
By now people were beginning to notice the tear between heaven and earth. Some screamed, some sunk to their knees and cried, some tried to run away.
“But what does it mean?” the kid asked.
“What does it mean?” Jarvis said, surprised the kid didn’t get it. “It means I’m not going to make it home in time to watch Survivor tonight.”
The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. – Psalm 121:8
That was written in chalk on the sidewalk as I left my apartment. I didn’t think too much about it at the time. It’s really not that uncommon around here for some church group to write Bible verses on the sidewalk for passers-by to see, though they usually pick more well-known ones.
On the way to lunch I passed a few more. I noticed “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. – Psalms 119:35” on a small wall along the sidewalk and smiled at the irony of “Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it. – Proverbs 25:16” scrawled outside the McDonald’s I ate at. I was a little puzzled as to how they managed to write “But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. – Exodus 14:16” in the crosswalk of a busy intersection, but I had to admire their dedication. All these verses spread so wide, perhaps it was some sort of city-wide event all the churches had decided to do.
My amusement ended when I saw “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. – Matthew 6:19” spraypainted on the front of my office building.
“Hey, you guys see what those Jesus Freaks did?” I asked Jen and Paul as I came back to work. They looked at each other and shrugged.
“They spray painted a Bible verse on the front of the building. Strange that you didn’t see it, they must have just done it right before I got back.” We all shook our heads. The neighborhood sure was going to shit these days.
Seeing “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. – 2 Kings 2:11” painted on the hood of my car didn’t improve my mood any, especially given the heavy traffic I had to sit in on the way home and the strange looks I got.
But when I saw “And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. – Genesis 28:17” painted on my door, it was the last straw. Furious, I called the police. The bored attendant took my statement and said they’d send someone in the morning. Clicking on my E-mail, a message popped up — “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. – Psalms 37:8.” Unknown sender. I hit delete and went to bed, fuming.
The next morning I woke up to find that they had broken into my house overnight. Every possible surface was covered with Bible verses.
I began to go through all the rooms, marking down and noting all the verses I could find. Whoever did this was meticulous. All of the verses were there. Except one. The one that you’d most expect to find.
All the verses written except one. All the surfaces in the house written on…except one. My body.
It was clear now what had to be done. I went to the kitchen and grabbed a knife (“Jesus wept” carved in beautiful ornate script on one side, “- John 11:35” on the other).
Walking into the bathroom, I stood in front of the mirror, shirtless, and began to write.
“For God so loved the world…”