Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the local clergy, and the town council had been planning this concept for over a year. Finally they did it: Right in the town square, they installed a giant loudspeaker. From thenceforth, every two minutes, a booming voice would spread all over town, announcing “Are you sure?”

Foolhardy decisions, they had decreed, would soon be a thing of the past.

The locals seemed to adapt pretty readily. Sales of noise-cancelling headphones boomed for a bit, and people’s sleeping habits were surprisingly unaffected – who notices slightly inferior sleep? And drunk driving statistics were immediately better, which the local paper celebrated triumphantly.

The clergy were the first to notice the downsides. Weddings were being cancelled during the vows a full 25% of the time – brides and grooms would take back their “I do"s in response to the booming speaker of skepticism. Adult baptisms were fully cut in half. Divorces, on the other hand, were also cut in half – though some of the rescued marriages maybe shouldn’t have been.

At a town council meeting, one of the proponents of the loudspeaker said, confidently, this is a good idea, only to literally cringe when the timing worked out that the entire room boomed “Are you sure?” the next second.

No one was starting new relationships – and no one was exiting them either. New job postings weren’t filled, as both candidate and interviewer expressed their doubt. Slowly, but surely, the social and economic life of the town started to grind to a halt, as it became the norm to cancel even casual plans like going out for a drink (and certainly having another once there), or going to church on Sunday…or work or school on Monday.

The town developed a culture of its own. It wasn’t just the loudspeaker: people repeated its eternal mantra to each other, having had it etched into their dreams. “We should take down the loudspeaker,” said an occasional rebellious teen, only to hear all their friends in unison say back, “Are you sure?”

Eventually the loudspeaker broke. The mayor told his deputy to fix it, but all the deputy could do was respond, “Are you sure?” And as a result, slowly, but surely, the town returned to normal.