Wednesday, November 16, 2016


I was at the damn office until midnight tonight, trying to finish up the manuscript for a new textbook we're putting out, so I'm pretty tired. Will hit the hay soon, but here's a half-assed meditation (well, more half-assed than usual).

It's pretty standard, in English-conversation classes, to ask your students what sort of superpower they'd like to have if they could have just one. An uncanny number of Korean students, at least in my experience, will inevitably pick teleportation (a word they have to be taught: when students try to explain teleportation, there's usually a lot of pantomiming and occasional referencing of "Nightcrawler," the teleporting X-man); others pick the usual suite of powers—flight, invisibility, super strength, etc. For the longest time, whenever I pondered my own answer to this question, I too thought the power I'd want was invisibility.

Lately, however, as I grow older and more crotchety, and ever more annoyed by how Koreans behave on the street and inside buildings, I've come to realize that the superpower I most crave is Jedi-style telekinesis. The ability to shove or fling inconsiderate people (and cars!) out of the way would make my life so, so much happier. Koreans often wander aimlessly on sidewalks, more often than not with their noses buried in their cell phones. They block building and stairwell entrances by inconsiderately congregating right on the thresholds; sometimes, all it takes is one lone idiot on his or her phone to stop walking and block the way for me and anyone behind me. I often think there's some sort of racial conspiracy going on, such that, no matter where I go, someone will inevitably get in my way, preventing me from making a beeline from Point A to Point B. So, yes: the ability to shove, drag, fling, and hurl people (or just body parts, really; I'm not choosy) would be a most welcome addition to my abilities. It would assuage the constant feeling of being thwarted.

If I could be so greedy as to have another ability, it would be mind-to-mind communication, but in a mental voice like that of Smaug the dragon—deep, resonant, and terrifying, a mighty basso rumble, like that of a planet-sized James Earl Jones, to be obeyed and never questioned. With my mind-voice, I'd shout a moral code that would sear itself painfully into the consciousness of any offender who crossed me:

• "Always walk on the RIGHT side!"
• "Never block entrances!"
• "Never block the tops and bottoms of stairwells!"
• "Never cut in line just because you're old and think you're privileged!"
• "Never cut in front of people when we're getting on subways and elevators!"
• "Never speak rudely about people's looks!"
• "Walk in a straight fucking line!"
• "Never stare at foreigners!"
• "Watch when you're rounding corners and stepping out of doors!"

—I can think of dozens of other commands I'd give, but I suspect it'd be hopeless work even if I did have such powers: Seoul alone has 10-12 million people, so unless I could somehow blast psionic energy throughout the entire city, not much would really change.

Of course, telekinetically flinging an obnoxious person in front of a subway and then turning invisible might be nice, too.


Charles said...

I think I'd like superhuman confidence, but I doubt I'd be able to pull it off.

Kevin Kim said...