When I was 13, I once spent an entire afternoon staring at clouds and trying to force them to rain because Mrs. Wheeler was wearing a thin white shirt on our class field trip to a dairy farm. Whatever anonymous person said, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure" clearly never anticipated how badly I wanted to see boobs in eighth grade. And while not everyone had a Mrs. Wheeler in their life, we all at some point tested the boundaries of our minds just to make sure we weren't secretly superhuman. That's because kids who grow up hearing that they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to don't waste their time dreaming about becoming president someday, they dream about discovering their telekinetic ability and abusing it to make other people's clothes fall off.
"That storm came out of nowhere, and can you believe that cow ate my skirt?!"
Even as adults, we still believe in a toned-down version of the supernatural. Most of us have begrudgingly accepted that we don't have atmokinesis and psychokinetics, but we still privately suspect that we have special gifts that defy all science and reason. These mediocre powers may not be suitable for a superhero, but they're perfect for helping us achieve tiny selfish gains every single day, and ultimately, isn't that all we really want from a superpower anyway?
To be a fan of any sports franchise is to want something with all your heart while simultaneously being powerless to make it happen. Your brain hates that sort of scenario and will choose to believe anything, regardless of how absurd, if it assures you some semblance of control. That's why fans can watch their team win on a tiny screen in some anonymous bar hundreds of miles from the game and still believe, "Oh my God, I'm pretty sure I did this with my mind." Other variations include "I did this with my shirt/the table I chose at the bar/the position of my chair/the food I ordered/my sock."
"Now let's see, I think it was when I ordered the 27 shots. That was the moment."
As you can imagine, it's an unwieldy superpower because fans can only guess at which of their rituals was the ultimate decider in locking up the victory or, far more tragic, which deviation cursed the entire franchise. When you see people openly weeping after big losses, they are crying not just because one team scored more points than another team in a nonsense game, but because they feel personally responsible for letting an entire city down. For instance, the poor woman in this video knows for certain that the Green Bay Packers can win with nothing more than her power of intention, but only if she wears the right nail polish:
Though she may, at first glance, seem like a drunken mess with a hunk of cheese on her head sobbing over something completely asinine, she is actually the physical embodiment of the adage by which every superhuman must live: "With great power comes great responsibility." This video is a warning to every other sports fan, reminding them that no matter how good of an idea it may seem, don't ever wear the fucking sparkles.
You are a machine whisperer. You have cooed at and caressed the dash of a car that won't start, made promises to a computer if it downloads faster, and, in dire circumstances, threatened a cellphone with obliteration if it drops another call. They all listen to you because they admire you. You are different from all the other humans who only see a collection of wires and circuit boards. You're like Aquaman, if all his dolphin friends were replaced with Chrysler LeBarons.
"You, there! Quickly, I need a ride to a work interview. The fate of the world depends on it!"
Everyone believes that they have a special relationship with at least one inanimate object. (Please write all your sex toy jokes on a piece of paper, fold it up, and keep it. Keep it in your pocket forever, you glimmering genius.) The machines in our lives are so sophisticated now that they are more like pets than possessions, and like pets, we want them to respect us. So when a camera, or a phone, or a camera phone doesn't heed our commands, we scream and point at it like it's a puppy that peed on the rug. We treat it like something that understands shame or remorse, and while that should never actually work, shockingly, sometimes it does. Electronics will suddenly whir to life, working properly after you utilize your secret ability to belittle them. I've even seen people who insist that their televisions or vehicles require a special touch that only they know, a touch that usually turns out to be a pretty substantial punch or kick, which I guess makes their superpower physical abuse? I was mistaken earlier when I said that none of these would be suitable for a superhero.
Each one of us is equipped with the ability to recognize potential threats long before our lives are in jeopardy. Our ancestors survived as a species because they could differentiate between the sound of a party and the sound of a pack of wolves. Even today, our intuition keeps us from climbing into windowless vans with strangers, helping Nigerian princes move bank accounts, and hanging out in trash compactors aboard Death Stars. I mention all these examples because I want to be perfectly clear that premonition is a very real faculty we can employ when we are surrounded by red flags, but it is not the same thing as seeing two cats screwing in an alley and assuming that's a sign that you shouldn't go to work today.
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"I knew it, another sick day."
We have a hard time telling the difference between intuition and divination, and we frequently mistake hurdles in our lives for a tingling spider sense trying to warn us that we're on the wrong path. It's a superpower we all privately believe we possess, like we've added fate to our RSS feed and we get warnings before anyone else. Unfortunately, trying to interpret omens usually ends up as a convenient excuse to never do anything difficult. It's also a great way to explain away our own negligence. I can't even count the number of times the universe has conspired to slip liquids and gels into my carry-on when I'm already late for a flight, just to warn me that my plane is going to crash, or worse, that my trip home is going to be really boring. Oh, and speaking of doomed flights ...
Recently I was on a flight during which the attendant joked over the intercom that we should all hold on tight because the plane was so full that the tail might scrape the ground during takeoff. He was booed savagely by a few passengers, and the woman seated in front of me made demands to another attendant that he be fired. She said, verbatim, "He could have gotten us all killed. There are just some things you don't joke about unless you want them to happen."
At first I thought she was being ridiculous, but on the off chance that he really did have the ability to incite tragedy just by mentioning its possibility, then I agree with her that working in a flying steel tube is probably not the best job for him.
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"And if a window cracks even a little, we'll all be sucked out into the air like pudding through a sieve."
The truth is, there's a little bit of crazy lady from 14D in all of us. We believe we have the power to jinx situations by acknowledging the worst case scenario out loud, like atrocities are T. rexes that can only find us when we make noise. It's a movie universe rule that accidentally infiltrated our lives and saddled us all with the belief that we can curse trains into derailment and our friends into cancer just by thinking about it. For instance, if I say ...
"Everyone who rushed to the comments to tell me that Marianne Williamson is responsible for the quotation I used at the top of this article: I promise you will suffer a terrible bout of diarrhea this week that will require hospitalization."
... your immediate reaction might be "Don't even joke about that." But the reality is that my words just aren't powerful enough to make it happen, regardless of how much I mean them (a lot -- it's going to be awful for you). Telling a joke isn't the same thing as controlling fate, and it certainly can't manifest my subconscious. If it could, there's no way I'd used that power for good. I'd live in a volcano hideout and the government would be paying me billions in ransom to ensure that I don't turn all your eyelids into labia.
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Oh shit, did I just will it?
How did these hyper-specific tropes spread so quickly?
The Hollywood rumor mill has been playing games with celebrity deaths for at least a century.