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Friday, 29 August 2014

That's what I call a superpower

The ability to tell if someone is gay is one of those senses - like sixth and common - that I would like to possess but never have. 

Although come to think of it, that's not quite true. When I was young I used to reckon I could tell the orientation of any woman I was chatting to. If she didn't fancy me she was a lesbian, for sure. That kind of thinking teaches you a valuable lesson, as you get older and more sensible. There's loads more lesbians than you thought.

So when the particle physicist Brian and I, just back from CERN, get chatting at the airport taxi rank, and sharing a little personal info for a change, his look of incredulity, when I ask about his wife and kids, puzzles me at the time. Only later, when a colleague tells me he's gay and living with a guy, do I understand it.

But how was I to know? He's not camp, which in any case is quite weakly associated these days with being gay, and he has never chatted to me about his partner.

So a bit of gaydar would be useful, I think. If only to reduce the number of times a day I make a twat of myself. But if someone were to offer me a power I don't possess, there's another I'd choose first.

It's none of the usual stuff like telepathy or super-strength, because there are too many stories where the hero gets one of those and it goes horribly wrong. Take The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, a film I went to see with my boyhood pal Ronnie, and I'm sure you can guess what two 14-year-old lads were hoping for from a title like that. 

Well we were disappointed, I can tell you. As a budding scientist I should have known X-rays pass through skin as well as clothes. Skeletons all around the hero was bad enough, but at the climax of the film he sees an evil eye watching us all from the centre of the universe, reckons it's the devil and blinds himself to stop the visions. It wasn't a load of laughs.

The only good thing about the evening was that Ronnie and I saw nothing to encourage us to do stuff that would make us go blind ourselves.

So none of that for me, thanks. No, the superpower I'd really like is the ability to hear, five minutes ahead, what someone's going to say. That would be great in lots of ways. You could Google a new topic and gain a reputation for being super-smart. Better still you could use it to think up good come-backs for situations like this that happened yesterday.

I'm stopped at the lights and the car at the head of the line gets impatient and goes through on red. The next three follow him like sheep but I wait. So the guy behind me sits on his horn. I see him going demented in the mirror, waving his arms around, turning puce and shouting rude words at me, but I refuse to budge.

Eventually we get the green light and I go. Next set of lights the apoplectic one, close to a major vascular episode, rolls down his window and screams, "It's not green! It's not green! What colour is your handbag, pussy?"

Five minutes later a reply pops into my head, "Same as your wife's pyjamas this morning, dog-breath." 

A third benefit of five-minute-warning ears, and the clincher for me, is that they'd stop me saying the first thing that comes into my head. This gets me into trouble every day and it's getting worse.  

I'm pretty sure if I don't get this new superpower, then one day soon I'll be rubbing a lamp and a genie will pop out and tell me I have three wishes. 

And I'll go "Bugger me".

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