“Okay everyone,” the tour guide said to the travelers on the bus. “I know that our itinerary says that we’re supposed to see the Lincoln Memorial today. But unfortunately the federal government is shut down and the Lincoln Memorial is closed.”
“What about the Jefferson Memorial?”
“Um, that’s closed too.”
“What about the Washington Monument?”
“Yes, that too.”
“What about the American Battle Monuments Commission?”
“Yes, that’s closed.”
“And the Library of Congress?”
“Yes. Everything is closed.”
“What about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial?”
“Yes, that too is closed. All the federal monuments are closed.”
“What about the mouse laboratory at the National Institutes of Health?”
“What did I just say? All of the major tourist sites are closed! The Smithsonian, the National Gallery, the Congressional Barbershop – everything! But I know you all paid for this trip to Washington, D.C., and, doggone it, we aren’t about to take your money and not give you a hanging-from-the-chandelier bus tour. We have two choices: Denny’s and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Who wants to go to Denny’s?”
Half the people on the bus raised their hands.
“And who wants to go to Five Guys?”
The other half of the people on the bus raised their hands.
“Well, we can’t go to both places. Half of you are going to have to switch your vote. Or, I guess since we’re in Washington, majority rules, right? Heh, heh.” No one joined his laughter. “Anyway, so let’s vote again.” But the vote was the same.
“Well folks, we appear to be at a stalemate. You’re going to have to come to some kind of an agreement.”
The talks between the tourists went on for the better part of the morning. At noon, the tourists who were in favor of Denny’s reported that while the talks had been productive, no deal had been reached. Then the tourists who were in favor of Five Guys reported that the Denny’s tourists weren’t willing to negotiate.
“What’s to negotiate?” the Denny’s tourists asked. “We want to go to Denny’s.”
The stalemate dragged on. Nothing else could happen on the trip. In the morning the tourists would leave the hotel and board the bus, sit there for eight hours, report that no progress had been made, and rush back into the hotel in time for the complimentary oatmeal cookies.
After a week the tourists were out of clean clothes. The Five Guys tourists asked the tour guide if the bus could make a short trip to the laundromat.
“Sorry,” the tour guide said. “Only if you can agree.”
The Five Guys tourists asked the Denny’s tourists if they wanted to go to do laundry. The Denny’s tourists certainly needed clean clothes, but after a brief closed meeting in the back of the bus, the Denny’s tourists reported that they wouldn’t go anywhere until the Five Guys tourists agreed to go to Denny’s. “Once you agree to go to Denny’s, we can go anywhere you want, including the laundromat.”
Then the Five Guys tourists squeezed past the Denny’s tourists in the narrow aisle of the bus and had their own closed meeting.
“We will not negotiate under the threat of Denny’s,” the Five Guys tourists concluded. “We will not stand for these ‘my way or the highway’ tactics.”
Halfway through the second week the bus tourists were all wearing dirty clothes, and although none of the other hotel guests wanted to be rude, the clothespins on their noses were hard to ignore.
The bus tourists would board the idle bus each morning with the results of polls they had taken of the hotel guests. The poll numbers conflicted, and both sides respectively declared, “We’re winning!”
By the end of the second week one of the Five Guys tourists could no longer stand wearing the same shirt, and ran away under stealth of night.
“We have the majority!” the Denny’s tourists shouted. “Tour guide, call the tourists for a vote.”
“Actually, I’ve just received word that the government shutdown is over. All the monuments are open again! So where does everyone want to go?”