Now being published as a novel. Click the picture to find out more:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hello Sir

The shopping mall by the side of my office has hired a new trainer. And a really good one at that. Although, I don't know for sure but it seems like a fair deduction. For the past couple of months, the entire staff in that mall has been greeting all the visitors, including your humble narrator, with wide smiles and howdys. Actually, its more like Good mornings and Good afternoons than Howdys. Irrespective of the distance or whether you are looking at them, they will greet you as long as they can see you. They will greet you when you enter and they will greet you when you exit. Yesterday, I counted the number of times I was saluted. Seven times. At the entrance, at the escalator, at the ramp, at the rest-room and then back again. Like a clockwork orange.

To be frank, it did feel good in the beginning but now the effect is wearing off and is getting replaced by irritation. It is evident from their genuine smiles and eye-contact that they are expecting a response. You really don't want to be rude to them and try your best to accomodate but really, you are not getting paid to respond. They are. After the 3rd 'Hi', you are wishing to be invisible. You walk by the next attendant with your head down and looking furiously busy, probably plotting to overthrow the government, but promptly a 'Hello Sir' is uttered which forces you to, at a minimum, smile. And it is not a genuine smile, it is more like a little twitch of one corner of your pursed lips which may or may not be accompanied by a nod. Really, this is the best you can do and thus you feel guilty. Not a good feeling.

It doesnt matter if you happen to pass by the same attendant more than once, you can rest assured that he/she will greet you with the same enthusiasm as if you have met after a long time. It irritates the heck out of you. If I could behave like that with my friends, I could be famous. I am thinking of conducting an experiment of roaming around aimlessly, up and down, as if I am lost, just to see how many times one single attendant can tirelessly greet me. It may take an entire half a day so I will probably do it when my boss is back in office.

It reminds me of eager stewardesses in the business class section that you, sometimes, run into and who keep going 'Hello Mr. Beta - Would you like some dessert, Mr. Beta' etc. The first time she says your name, you feel good but not when it looks like an avalanche of your names with you standing at the bottom. Oh yes, you know she knows your name but how many times does she have to mention it. Perhaps, she needs a certificate of appreciation from you. It almost makes you feel embarassed of your own name. You really want to say 'No. Thats not me. But I would have the chocolate mousse anyway.'

Perhaps, there is something like overdoing when it comes to service, afterall.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Old Age and Superheroes

A friend forwarded these pictures to me and it prompted a line of uncomfortable thinking - what happens when Superheroes grow old? Do they continue to fight crime with the same zeal and more importantly the same agility as before? Or do they go 'Tick-Tick-Boom-Boom' and give in to the fact that whatever they could accomplish, they already have? Do they identify their successors and how? Read on...

For my life, I could not find a Superhero who is actually depicted old. The only examples that came to my mind are Phantom - the ghost who walks and Zorro. To be fair, they dont have any superpowers, so technically they are disqualified. But, we can potentially look at them to figure out what the superheroes would do if they are allowed to grow old. Phantom has been passing on his mantle to his offsprings for over four hundred years. Given that there have been over twenty generations of phantom, it can be safely said that the average life-span of a Phantom is probably in the mid-thirties. Hardly old enough. Same is the case with Zorro who teaches his legendary sword skills to specifically identified successor. Let's see if the three most popular superheroes are likely to follow this lead and pass on the mantle to next generations.

Can you imagine Batman teaching somebody else how to be invisible, how to be a legend and how to make batarangs? Yes. You are right. It is unimaginable. Make no mistakes, Batman is going to be one hell of a difficult senile bastard. He is going to sulk and possibly turn suicidal. I doubt if anybody would want to be his caretaker. Even Alfred is likely to put in his papers.

Spiderman can't possibly teach anybody how to spin webs unless the student is willing to be bitten by a radioactive spider and spend the rest of his life in the eternal struggle between love and responsibility. Yuck! The ostentatiousness of it! The pathetic movie rendition of Spiderman has made this hero truly a non-sought-after personality. An untouchable. Spiderman is unlikely to find a willing student, not after what Sam Raimi has done to him. They need to take a cue from Batman reinvention and relaunch him. Since that is unlikely to happen (given the huge success of the three movies so far), it is highly likely that Spiderman will get sufficiently embarassed and develop a low self-esteem by the time the fourth or the fifth movie comes out. My prediction is that he would find a widow spider, make passionate love to her and offer his head as a post-coital present.

That leaves Superman who doesn't age (Not sure) and cannot die, not under a yellow sun (except with kryptonite, of course). He will likely die when Earth's sun turns a red giant in about five billion years. He won't have any human beings to protect then. Chances, however, are good that he will die of extreme boredom much before that since it is almost unbelievable that anybody can pose a real challenge to him at all. Will he produce offsprings with superpowers? Well, he already has (if you see the latest movie in the series). I hope his son turns against him, so we could have a bit of a plausible story going.

All things considered, I think I would much prefer to live a short and exciting life at the top than a restless immortal life tapering off at the bottom. But then, we have to consider the royalties for the authors and the movie studios too!!! So, here is a list of adjustments that the Superheroes would have to make if they continue to fight crime in their old age:-
i) They would have to put on diapers each time they step out so as not to lose bladder control while beating up bad guys. The diaper will also help them boost up their otherwise sagging bottom and make sure that their costumes continue to hug them.
ii) If somebody with an attitude (like Batman) shuns diapers, he may be forced to take a viagra pill before he steps out to ensure that his costume continues to hug him at the right places and also to create a large size impression.
iii) In old age, they would have to comensate for their slow reflexes by anticipating the opposition moves. This would likely make them jumpy and nervous. A bad guy would be better advised not to shoot bullets at them but just go 'Ho' in an unexpected manner and as the Superhero climbs the nearby tree, he can then go, 'Ho Ho Ho'.
iv) Superheroes would have to amend their costumes to make room for the hairs growing out of their ears. Especially true for Batman and Spiderman.
v) They would have to wear glasses to compensate for weak eyesight. This would effectively ruin Superman's disguise.

PS - If you like this post, check out Occupational Hazards of being a Superhero I and II too.