Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Flight vs. Invisibility

I’ve wanted to be a superhero my whole life.  I’ve wanted it with that kind of creepy intensity you only see in guys who talk about killing the president to get Jodie Foster to notice them.

It turns out Hinckley and I have a lot in common.
Over many years I finally got the picture that I (a kid with incredibly poor eyesight, weak musculature, and no courage) was not the first person aliens were going to give magic powers to.  Gradually, I stopped looking for radioactive animals to bite me.  I stopped going to ancient druid burial mounds at midnight on the vernal equinox.  I started living a more realistic life.
Where I sat.  Honest.
Then along came John Hodgman.  You may know Hodgman as the priest in The Invention of Lying, the neurosurgeon on Battlestar Galactica, the problem solver on The Daily Show.  Although, you most likely know him as the embodiment of all that is a Microsoft PC in Apple Macintosh commercials.
As a big Hodgman fan, I instantly went out and bought a PC.
Long before his fame, Hodgman wrote pieces for This American Life.  He did a number of brilliant, hysterical pieces, but the one that got me thinking the most was his segment on flight vs. invisibility.

(Seriously.  Listen to it.  I'll wait.)

I went immediately with invisibility.  With flight, you can have fun, but what good could you do?  Save kittens from tree?  Snag the occasional woman from a burning building when the firefighters were late?  With invisibility, you could trip up robbers, free hostages, and find hidden corporate files.  Happy in my choice, I went on with my non-superhero existence.
Although flight gives you the power to make out with Gweneth Paltrow.
(Side Note: I wrote Hodgman an email about it and he responded nicely!)

Then came 9/11 and the flooding in Louisiana.  I watched people falling from the buildings, and standing on their houses waiting, hoping, to be rescued.  If someone could have just flown in and picked them up, everything would have been better, but it was too late.  I was an invisible man, sitting helplessly by the shore.
They wouldn't even be able to see me wave back.
“Invisibility sucks,” I thought.  “I should have picked flying.”

Then, a few years later, I realized that, even with a power like flight, there was only so much good I could have done.  Real heroes would have stopped these disasters from happening in the first place.  Real heroes would have made people in the West and the Middle East come to a solution that ended the conflict.  Real heroes would have made people maintain the levees and stop destroying the wetland buffers.
"You will stop being a dick to other people."
Real heroes have mind control.  Eat that Hodgman!

No comments: