Flight vs. Invisibility

You've already decided, haven't you?

My high school friends used to play a game we loosely called "Vs." (not to be confused with the short-lived Greg Proops show on Comedy Central).  I think it started as a mockery of the phrase "there are two kinds of people in this world...," because we realized that when forced to answer a binary question, of COURSE there are two kinds of people in this world.  We had a long list of "___ vs. ___" that varied from the personality-defining to the punny. 

The most memorable (by virtue of me still remembering it) was "Epstein from Welcome Back Kotter vs. Epstein-Barr Syndrome." (The credit for that gem goes to my friend Matt Sailor, whom I'd call a genius if I didn't think he'd like it so much.)  Not all of the "vs." were that esoteric, but they did spawn some great debates, usually on small pieces of notebook paper in Mr. Pemble's chemistry class.

So, of course we debated the most fundamental "vs." question after "Ninjas vs. Pirates" and "Vampires vs. Zombies:" Flight vs. Invisibility.  My gut instinct for years was invisibility.  But I've changed my mind.

John Hodgeman
Last night I was listening to a This American Life episode about superpowers. (I know what you're thinking: best Saturday night ever!)  John Hodgeman, author, Daily Show contributor, and the guy who plays the "P.C." in those Mac. vs. P.C. commercials, polled a group of people about their preferred superpower. 

Their answers were largely gender-divided, with men picking flight and women picking invisibility.  But his radio piece went further than that.  Hodgeman and his interviewees began to consider how the potential uses of the superpowers reflected on the personality of the picker (say that three times fast).  Invisibility is a sneaky power, used to hear what your friends say behind your back, steal sweaters, and spy on naked ladies.  It's potentially alienating, and, if your friends are anything like the Real Housewives, depressing.

Flight, on the other hand, is heroic, unabashed, egotistical.  It can get you to your destination faster, and it can also get you noticed. One interviewee commented that he picked flight because "there would definitely be flight groupies...So there's gonna be just like, 'oh yeah, I just slept with a flying dude.'"  No comment on how flight would effect the walk of shame.

Even before the episode delved into a Freudian analysis of what your superpower says about your shame and ego and your Daddy issues, I started to consider how deceitful and unsatisfying invisibility would be.  Sure there are perks sneaking into movies and onto airplanes but everyone would eventually use it to spy on people they love, and it's easy to see how your superpower could be super-bad for your relationships (see what I did there?).

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
On the other hand, I say now I'd pick flight, but I can't even make myself walk .2 miles to the Marta station by my house, so I don't know what makes me think I'd strap a flight helmet on my blow-dried hair and fly myself to work.  Especially in the rain.  And where do I put my coffee?  And Morning Edition is on... I think I'm just gonna drive today.  So, listen to the episode for free here (it's only 13 minutes, starts exactly at 6:00), and weigh in in the comments.
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September 10, 2010 at 1:10 PM delete

I am a teleportation man, myself.


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