catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 6 :: 2013.03.15 — 2013.03.28



It’s an astonishing thing to discover you have a superpower.  Forget the Avengers, suspend Spiderman from your thoughts, and dismiss the phone-booth antics and building-leaping abilities of the Man of Steel from your mind. Those are only comic book creations. My superpower functions in the flesh and blood, concrete and steel, would-you-like-fries-with-that real world of the twenty-first century.  My superpower, and I disclaim self-aggrandizement in its mention, concerns my ability to alter time. It’s true that Einstein recognized its possibility (his hairstyle alone suggests the ability to time-travel), and sci-fi writers from H.G. Wells to Phillip K. Dick have explored its nuances, but they haven’t been able to exercise its power in real time like I have.

While it was only a suspicion in the halcyon days of my youth, I have since utterly come to know that I exist on the plane of a different time continuum than everyone else. I may present as plodding, perambulating, and perhaps even pedestrian to others who are bound, as it were, to the tyranny of the urgent. Tapping feet, soundless whistles, and glanced-at watches have all been observable characteristics of those whose orbit intersects with mine. An epiphany with respect to this power came to me one day at the conclusion of a weekly pick-up basketball game in which I had been involved for over a decade. I realized that despite numerous changes in personnel over time, I was singularly always (all other factors being equal) the last one out of the locker room. That could not have happened coincidentally for so long among so many disparate personalities; clearly, I had the ability to slow down time.

I gained insight into this power to alter time beyond my own realm of experience when I went to the grocery store. I discovered that if I went into the 16-item express line (even with fewer than 16 items), my insinuation into that line would immediately cause the following to occur to those in front of me: the cash register tape would run out (when such technology was still in play) and need replacement; a price check would be needed for an item that could only be found in the diametrically opposite corner of the store, and even then, it could only be verifiable by an employee who had recently undergone a leg amputation. There would also be stunning reversals from people wielding cash in hand who, suddenly and arbitrarily, decided to pay with their checkbooks despite knowing that they had only one of the two necessary pieces of identification needed to complete the transaction.

Coincidence, you might say. And perhaps on another day you might have me convinced, but even at those moments when I recognized that the woman ahead of me was pulling out rival store flyers to challenge the store’s guaranteed lowest price policy on everything from soy meatballs to inflatable water wings, I knew that I was altering time. For as soon as I would move to another check-out line, the missing ID was found, the UPC scanner could suddenly once again handle crinkled deli price tags, and a bag boy would appear from the netherworld to speed the former line along. All this was concurrent to my arrival in my new queue where the glint of braces on the cashier trainee would reflect directly into my eyes while she apologized profusely for her lack of discriminating knowledge between bananas and plantains.

The scope of my powers, however, is not limited to grocery stores. I live reasonably close to the Canada-U.S. border and will frequently cross over to take advantage of better prices for gas, groceries and such. Those border crossings inevitably involve choosing among multiple car line-ups in order to pass through customs. I can confidently assert that whichever line I choose will immediately grind down to a speed which has been officially labeled by geologists as continental drift. A shift change will occur exclusively for the booth personnel of the line I am in. On one occasion, there was only a single van in front of me. After a lengthy discussion with a customs agent, those inside the van were not waved forward for further inspection, but required to exit the vehicle immediately. What looked like a reunion from a medium-sized Mexican village spilled onto the pavement while the vehicle stood still. On yet another occasion, the lane that my wife and I were in was simply shut down and we were left to seek entry into a tightly bunched group of cars beside us. It was no great surprise that no one was willing to let us in. As if you needed any other proof, on the occasion that we pulled up to an empty crossing with literally no other cars on the bridge, we were told we’d have to wait because the Customs computer server was off-line.

One of the humbling responsibilities of being able to alter time is resisting the enticement to use that power for personal profit. I know without a doubt that I do not only slow down a line in which I wait, but that I can actually speed up another lane by simply vacating it. It would be tempting, though logistically difficult, to sell that accelerated pace to those behind me; however, as I’m reminded in “Superman’s Song” by the Crash Test Dummies, “Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy,” and he “kept a straight job even though he could have smashed through any bank in the United States.” I take the moral implications of such powers seriously, and I have pledged to never abuse my ability to slow down time or speed it up for others. If you come to recognize me after reading this, simply remain in the line-up in which I’m not waiting and enjoy your quick passage. A discreet nod of the head is all I need to feel like I’ve used my powers for good, and not for evil. Enough said, time’s a wastin’ — though that’s truer for some of us than others.

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