This week’s question is:
Okay, fine: I call flying. Flying is the obvious choice here, the human impulse to soar heavenwards uniting centuries of craftspeople, dreamers, and inventors. Now a century or so into our engagement with the skies, we have turned the act of flying into one of the most panic-inducing and unpleasant experiences imaginable, a humiliating, dehumanizing ordeal in which we are ordered by class and shuttled like cattle into our damp chairs, shuttled through the skies in a manner that is technically safe but nevertheless so deeply unnerving that the only proper response is pharmaceutical intervention. Look, my point is that I hate flying, and I want to be able to fly on my own simply so that I never have to walk onto a fucking airplane again. I’d also save lives or something, if that comes with the territory. Whatever it takes.
I’m going with invisibility, although I hereby pledge to resist the urge to abuse it for aims criminal or perverted, and use it solely for its greatest potential purpose: getting out of talking to people. Yes, whether it’s not having to feign being late for something just to avoid some clipboard-waving Greenpeace worker, being able to walk onto a department store floor without being immediately circled by sales clerks, or simply slipping onto elevators with loose-acquaintance co-workers without having to make forced small talk, I will move silently and non-confrontationally through all of these situations, never having to participate in polite society again unless I so choose. I guess I might also do that thing where I lift coffee cups and chairs to make people I don’t like think they’re being haunted by a ghost. Actually, I’d probably also steal some shit. Hmm, these hypothetical powers have corrupted me already. Maybe I shouldn’t get them after all.
I had to answer this question once in a job interview, and I think my reasoning may have been a factor in why I wasn’t hired. Still, though, I have to be honest: I would like to be able to shoot Spider-Man webs, but not because I have any aspirations to be a friendly neighborhood anything. I’m too afraid of heights to swing around Manhattan (and without the proportionate strength of a spider I’d probably just rip my arm off if I tried), so I’d just use my webs to fetch things from across the room without having to get off of the couch. Sure, I could accomplish the same thing with telekinesis, but there’s something about the tactile response of hitting a can of soda or an Xbox controller with a web and then whipping it back to my hand that seems much more satisfying. Plus, then I wouldn’t have to get off the couch, which is apparently the sort of pro-laziness attitude that you shouldn’t express in a job interview.
While I’m tempted to go with the most obvious choice, flight, it seems like super strength would be yield more practical dividends. What if I could fly and everyone I know couldn’t? That’d be kind of a bummer and probably make arranging group outings more of a hassle. Super strength, on the other hand, would be useful every day, presuming it was something I could control. (I don’t need to lift up my daughter, for instance, and accidentally throw her 10 stories in the air.) Imagine how much easier life would be without having to accommodate heavy things. Need to move in that new sofa? No problem. Pull the fridge out for a cleaning? Done and done. Lift a car off an injured child? Happy to help. And yes, it’d come in handy if I ever got into a fight, though this season of Twin Peaks showed how that could be a problem.
Feel free to alert the therapists, but I’ve always thought it would be rad to have the ability to generate Sue Storm-style force fields. As acknowledged in any number of Fantastic Four comics, Sue basically hit the superpower jackpot among her teammates: As long as she’s conscious, she’s invulnerable, capable of devastating physical attacks, and able to mock up a pretty good facsimile of flight, all of which seem like they’d be a big boon in my day-to-day life, sitting at my bedroom computer and typing up Newswire articles all day. (Honestly, I’d probably just use it to get out of traffic, and to avoid having to look both ways when I want to cross the street.) Also—and, really, I mention it only in passing—it would let me generate force fields inside people and then rapidly expand them to make them explode. I solemnly promise not to do that last part unless a reasonably good explanation presents itself, though. Pinkie swear!
As one of those horrible people who is chronically late, my most envied superpower is superspeed, like X-Man Quicksilver, Northstar and Aurora from Alpha Flight, and seemingly the entire cast of heroes and villains on The Flash. No longer would I pray that no one notices as I squeeze into the back aisle at a wedding, or miss previews (my favorite part) at the movies. Races to boarding gates, late fees for rescheduled doctor appointments, and annoyed friends who have already eaten the bread basket would all be remnants of my tardy past. Plus, I love to travel, so being able to jet off to New England for the weekend using my speedy 500 mph feet would be beneficial. But it would probably take me a while to master Barry Allen’s “running on water” trick for future European vacations.
I’m grateful that I don’t actually have my ideal super power, because it would surely make me a worse person. But to thine own self be true, and I’d probably choose the ability to stop time. I know it would make me a worse person, because the times I fantasize about the ability, it’s for petty, selfish reasons. One of my kids poking me in the face with a booger-crusted finger and demanding pancakes at six in the morning? Freeze time and sleep for a few more hours before obliging. Just started some laborious, extended video game mission a half hour after I should have gone to bed? Freeze time and collect as many wolf hides as the village magister demands. I’d probably steal stuff, too. Just petty larceny and sloth. The upside is I’d never be late for an appointment. And of course if I ever did come across a crime or accident about to happen, I’d for sure use my power to avert tragedy. But that’s not the kind of probability I can really bank on to prove my super heroic bona fides.
Well, all the classics have already been taken, so let’s go with something a little different: How about a Wolverine-style healing factor? The impossibility of serious, lasting bodily harm would push me to do some crazy shit I’d never even consider in this life—sky diving, cliff diving, other forms of diving. I’d never catch another cold (or anything more serious). I’d age with all the grace of Hugh Jackman, and heck, it might even help bring my hair back. Sure, that whole psuedo-immortality thing might turn out to be a bummer in the long run (I’ve seen Logan), but all the other benefits sound pretty swell.