At precisely 2 pm on February 16 the fabric of space-time disintegrated at the Eaton Centre.
For an unknown reason, the usual Saturday crowd seemed trapped in a time warp. They stood, immobile, petrified mid-step, mid-kiss, mid-conversation. And I was one of those caught in this perversion of the laws of physics. In reality, I just stood still for five minutes.
It all began a week earlier when I received a Facebook post from a friend inviting me to Freeze at the Eaton Centre.
Organized by Kyra Williams and Grant Sturgeon, the event mimicked a stunt originally pulled by Improv Everywhere, when 200 people froze in place at Grand Central Station in New York last month.
The instructions were simple: sync your watch to CP24 and be ready to pose in a realistic position at 2 pm on the first level of the mall, between the Queen subway station and Shoppers Drug Mart.
“If you feel these instructions are unclear and that you need someone to explain to you in person how to stand still for five minutes, perhaps you should not participate in this event,” the posting read.
I figured I could handle that, so on Saturday afternoon three friends and I donned our snow boots and jackets and headed downtown. We arrived five minutes before the event was to start, so we strolled down the concourse and gawked at the crowd.
Everywhere we looked people were leaning against pillars, standing awkwardly in silent groups or checking their cellphones obsessively. A particularly large crowd had gathered around the fountain.
I noticed three people to our left were already frozen – one was tying her shoe, another was taking off his corduroy jacket and the third was folding his hoodie over his arm. “We’ve still got 15 seconds,”my friend said, counting down. I managed a “crap” before I froze.
Simply pausing mid-action is an awkward and interesting exercise. Rarely do we realize our body language and the effect we have on those around us. The first thing I noticed was that my leg was itchy. The second, that my hands were in an odd position. I had them linked together, in the style of the Olympic rings.
Wanting to act as professionally as possible, I tried to ignore the confused onlookers and focus my eyes ahead and into the crowd. I realized that I was stuck staring at a couple kissing. I could only see the back of the man’s head, while his girlfriend’s hands artfully grabbed his hair.
Unimpressed with the view, I turned my attention to what people around me were saying. “They’re blinking,” said a disembodied voice behind me. People pulled out their cellphones and began to snap photos. Random silver flashes exploded in the blank greyness of my peripheral vision. Shoppers kept bumping into me, as they tried to wind their way through the congestion. “This is annoying,” a male voice muttered.
And before I knew it, the five minutes was up. As we started to move again and the crowd dissolved, there was a spontaneous round of applause. And with a bang, not a whimper, time resumed.