The music was still ringing in Marty’s ears as he headed from the ballroom towards the elevator and his room. He was riding a post-show high, having closed out a big night with the anthemic “The Future is Now!” jingle performed by members of Styx and Mötley Crüe, fronted by that guy from Sugar Ray. The audience, packed shoulder to shoulder in the massive ballroom, went wild as balloons and confetti rained down. Now, event producer Marty McFly needed a little rest before the early morning closing session.
He joined a bustling crowd of late-night revelers in the elevator lobby, jockeying to be near the next arriving car. Suddenly, and with a flash, the wall at the end of the bank opened wide to reveal Marty’s old boss and mentor from Caribiner, Doc Brown, emerging from a cloud of smoke and sparks.
“Marty, hop in!” he commanded, pulling Marty into his fantastical elevator car. He held the rest of the dumbfounded crowd at bay. “Stay back! This is, uh, it’s a science experiment!”
With eyes wide, Marty warily surveyed the space: strobing lights and exposed ducts of all kinds, a wall of colorful blinking dials where the floor numbers would be, and of course, the flux capacitor flickering overhead.
“Doc, I got an early morning, so if we can just…”
Doc cut him off grimly, “There won’t be an early morning session, Marty. In exactly one hour and forty-two minutes, the governor is shutting it all down.”
Marty swallowed hard. “Governor Goldie’s doing what?”
“It’s the pandemic, Marty!” Doc bellowed, “All events, public gatherings, schools, churches, malls, stadiums, theaters, they’re all closed until further notice!”
Still not fully grasping the depth of Doc’s pontificating, Marty wheezed out, “I mean, are we talking a few weeks?”
Doc began to synchronize the dials. “Marty, you can’t imagine what’s about to happen. No one can! Which reminds me, we need toilet paper.”
“Where are we going?” asked Marty.
Doc corrected him, “You mean, WHEN are we going.” He turned a final dial, and the car came alive, rattling and humming and blinking along. “We are going six months…into the future!”
The doors opened to the same elevator lobby, now deserted and silent. Marty followed Doc as they trekked past shuttered restaurants and shops towards the main entrance. Marty’s attention bounced in every direction; he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Up ahead, a security guard appeared in the distance.
“Damn! They’re onto us,” said Doc, as he steered Marty back towards the elevators. “Put this on,” he barked, foisting a surgical mask onto Marty’s face.
“We have to wear masks?” he asked, fumbling to figure out the mechanics of the thing.
“Everyone does. Except Biff Tannen,” Doc snapped.
“What a jerk.”
Back in the elevator, Doc whizzed the dials in every direction, propelling him and Marty onto various points and places along the pandemic’s space-time continuum. With each quick stop, Marty’s reactions grew more incredulous to what he was experiencing:
“Cardboard cutouts, seriously?”
“What’s a bubble?”
“Not Tom Hanks!”
“What the difference between PPE and PPP again?”
“Who canceled Christmas?”
“Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl?”
“Kids spend all day on computers and parents are okay with that?”
Doc had grown exasperated. “It’s called Zoom, Marty, and you had better get used to it.”
Marty finally got down to it. “What about events, Doc? Are they gone too?”
Doc sighed and searched for the right words. “They’re different, Marty. Ballrooms and venues are empty. Hardly anyone is willing to travel; some haven’t left their homes in months. Convention centers have been turned into hospitals…even morgues.”
“What about all the people, Doc? How bad is it?”
“Event people are resilient, Marty. They adapt, by nature.” Just then, Doc got an idea. “Let me show you something.” He started on the dials again. “I think you’ll like this. We are about to send events…back to the future!”
The flux capacitor hummed full-throttle, the ducts rattled and fritzed to life, and soon the doors opened again to blinding lights and a bouncy musical score. Marty looked out in amazement and disbelief. On a grand ballroom stage, Dinah Shore stood on a Chevy’s hood belting out “See the USA in Your Chevrolet.” In giant bejeweled letters behind her: Welcome to the 60s!
“Damn!” Doc snapped. “Somehow, these dials have gotten out of calibration. Let’s try this again.” The doors closed, the circuitry rattled and hummed, the doors opened again. Instantly, Marty was repulsed by what he saw and smelled. “It’s like a giant ashtray!”
“Precisely!” Doc roared, peering into the choking mist. He leaned back towards Marty’s face. “This is back when conventions were nothing but cigarettes and booze. Hey, look, it’s Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman!” After a moment of celebrity awe, Doc prepared the elevator car for its next trip. “We’d better get out of here before we get emphysema.”
“Where is all this going, Doc?” Marty caught himself. “Sorry, when is all this going?”
“Patience, Marty. You’ll see. The future of events a fantastic thing. Like nothing you’ve ever imagined.”
When the doors opened again, Marty gaped in wonder at the vast series of endless cylindrical towers in front of him, each ringed with tiers of dimly lit pods that pulsed like heartbeats. An unseen voice droned unintelligibly as dense infographic slides flickered in the murky distance.
“Hey Doc,” Marty gulped, “is this The Matrix?”
“Great Scott!” Doc thundered, “wrong franchise.” He scratched his head, inspected each of the dials, and finally solved his frustrating dilemma. “Of course, so obvious: I overshot by a century, duh.” He turned one dial just slightly. “If my calculations are correct, you’re gonna see some serious shit.”
The doors opened to a familiar sight: the “The Future is Now” stage from 2020, but bigger and brighter than before. Lasers, confetti and pyro rained down on a thousand revelers cheering a few feet apart; some danced in small groups. A full-throated Huey Lewis, backed by the duo of Chuck and Marvin Berry, unleashed the event anthem, updated for 2022. On screens and surfaces around the room were the faces of thousands of more celebrants, rocking out from around the world.
Doc prodded Marty into the scene, offering a mask. Marty accepted it for safekeeping. They soaked up the energy from the back of the room and then stepped into the corridor. So many conversations were happening at once, between in-person attendees and groups and communities streaming in from far-flung locales. It looked and sounded like the best kind of reunion.
Digital signage promoted activities like the Enchantment Under the C-Suite banquet; virtual breakouts hosted on biking tours of Tuscany and the rings of Saturn; keynotes from Governor Goldie Wilson, visionary Jules Verne and philosopher Lao Tzu; volleyball matches pitting an in-person team against a virtual one; and headliners Josephine Baker, Aretha Franklin and Adele. Dinner would be provided by DoorDash Fleet, serving thousands of personalized plates made to order, delivered simultaneously to the central meal hall and attendees’ homes.
Marty marveled at it all, like a kid in a Disneyland commercial.
“See, Marty? You’re part of a resilient bunch. Look around. Events are back and stronger than ever. Live and in-person meets the latest in virtual engagements.” Marty nodded, nearly in a trance. Doc went on, “Richer content, deeper connections, better insights than we could ever imagine. And we’re just getting started, Marty!”
“Hey Doc, how much does all this cost?”
Doc shook his head, amused. “That’s the best part, Marty, nobody knows yet!”
Just then, Biff Tannen passed by, sporting a Calvin Klein mask. He waved eagerly at Marty. Incredulous, Marty offered a lame two-finger wave in return.
“Let’s get a drink,” said Marty, turning back to Doc.
Doc had turned somber, ashen. “Marty, we can’t stay here.”
“C’mon, Doc, like you said, we’re just getting started.”
“I have to take you back to 2020, Marty. I’m sorry.”
Marty knew any objection would be met with a lesson in morality.
Back in Doc’s elevator car, Doc and Marty arrived at the moment when and where this began. As the car settled, Doc took Marty by the shoulders. “It won’t be easy, Marty, but you’ll learn your way through this, along with everybody else.”
The doors opened to the elevator lobby as before, bustling with the same astonished patrons still staring at this bizarre scene. Marty stepped out sheepishly.
Through the mist, Doc yelled after him. “Marty, listen! The future is what you make it! So make it a good one.” And with that, Doc was gone, and Marty’s life resumed.
Walking away, he pondered Doc’s advice, “’The future is what you make it.’ What the hell am I supposed to do with that?”