I’m Super, Thanks.

Due to a copyright claim of which we were previously unaware, the Screw-Spotter will henceforth be known as the Nail-Noticer.

I’m not crazy about the beach. It’s hot. It’s sunny. It’s sandy. I chafe. But, with kids frequently comes vacation inertia, and the beach has become the leisure of least resistance, despite the aforementioned sandy friction.

Recently, I was hunched under a beach umbrella, recovering from a jellyfish sting sustained when I’d slipped into the water to pee (touché, Ocean). Bored and struck by the startling lack of diversity in Hilton Head, I thought up a superhero who developed powers after eating a not-fully-cooked order of Crab Rangoon, becoming The CrustAsian. The blockbuster first issue would be kind of like The Metamorphosis but with more spandex. I think at some point, he goes up against an Ayn Rand-spouting super-villain called Rational Shellfish, but I didn’t really get much further than that as I realized I should probably stop daydreaming and turn my attention to keeping my kid from drowning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about superpowers lately. Not in a, “How, exactly, do the Hulk’s purple cutoffs do that?” sort of way, although I am often prone to such idle nerding-out. A lot of my recent interest in beyond-the-comic-page powers is tied up with the fact that I’ve been shooting a documentary about people who cosplay, or dress up as characters from comic books and sci-fi. So, this has put me in contact with a lot of the primary colored trappings of superheroism, if not the actual powers.

I like the idea of superpowers, or at least the kind that don’t really exist: spider-sense, super strength, telekinesis and the like. The CrustAsian’s exoskeleton also seems beneficial, but having the additional power of being delicious with drawn butter is probably a liability. There’s always a downside. I know this, because here’s the thing: I recently realized that I have a superpower. And, it’s a pain in the ass.

I possess the uncanny ability to spot every screw, nail, tack, bolt or any other sharp bit of metal in the street. Not from my car, which is unfortunate, because that certainly would have saved me from a few flat tires. But, c’mon. I’m not Superman with super vision here; I mean when I’m out walking around or jogging. Although, if I were Superman, I would be flying instead of driving or walking, and even though I could spot nails and such in the streets, I would probably have bigger concerns.

Well, I like to think that I do have bigger concerns, but my attention is still drawn to every pointy object in the road. This sometimes includes small twigs; I didn’t say my power was finely calibrated. It just seems like there’s something in the visual processing center of my brain that hones in on all grayish-brown cylinders of a certain size. And, like with those digital jumbles where you struggle to see the hidden 3-D image that jumps out at you repeatedly once you finally find it, I can’t not see nails and screws. If it was simply a matter of taking note of these, merely cataloging them in short term memory, that would be one thing: “There’s one. Yep. There’s another. There’s…mmm. Nope. Stick.”

But, as every Spider-Man writer has rehashed ad nauseam, “with great power comes great responsibility.” So, I stop and pick up every one of these things, which can really fuck up your momentum when you’re trying to exercise, physical fitness being one of the base-level requisites of superheroics.

I like to think I do it out of altruism. Flat tires are no good, especially when you’re attempting to change one while trying to keep a toddler from running out in the street at the same time. Surely, Superman has prevented such a scenario of imminent kindersplatt in one of the thousands of comics he’s appeared in since 1938. But, wouldn’t it have been simpler and less traumatic for everyone involved if another hero had just picked a screw up off the ground a few minutes earlier? So, I’m that guy.

My mom always suspected that I had some obsessive/compulsive tendencies, and she might have been right. I’d flip the light switch repeatedly to make sure it was turned off just so. I’d do the same with the faucet. Even now, I fight the urge to check if iPads really do turn off when you close the cover. So, picking up hazards in the road could be just another in a long line of inconvenient compulsions.

I was raised Southern Baptist, and I’m prone to anxiety and second-guessing myself anyway, so an ever-present, amorphous sense of nagging guilt still kind of hovers over much of what I do. Granted, it’s not motivation on the level of a criminal shooting my parents, but we can’t all be Batman (and, to be fair, taking a shortcut through Crime Alley was really a “you buy the ticket, you take your chances” sort of bargain, Mr. Wayne).

Does my power to spot sharp metal in the street come from a desire to subject myself to more obligatory hindrance, just as trouble always seems to oh-so-coincidentally find the neurotic Peter Parker? Am I subconsciously always on the lookout for this stuff? And, where does it all come from? Do Home Depot trucks just have shitty suspensions, routinely shaking grab-bags of loose hardware all over my zip code? No matter the reason, the result is that I’m frequently walking around the neighborhood with fistfuls of rusty metal. This is where the hard, calcified pincers of The CrustAsian would come in handy. Or, clawy. Whatever. Fortunately, I’ve had a tetanus shot in recent years, having been reminded by a German Shepherd bite to the left ass-cheek that it was probably time for a booster. But now, at the very least, I can chuck bits of metal at aggressive dogs and other assailants.

Then I would pick them back up.


This piece was originally published by Write Club Atlanta as one of several Local Voices responding to a prompt about superpowers.

Illustration assembled from Public Domain sources with the exception of the screw, which was created by Paul Robinson and distributed via GNU Lesser General Public License.


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