Nurse: “Doctor! There’s an invisible man in the waiting room!”
Doctor: “Tell him I can’t see him right now.”
Not only did my friends and I share incredibly hilarious jokes like the preceding when we were kids, but we also did a lot of deep thinking about important questions. Among those important questions:
• In a fair fight, who would win — Frankenstein or Hercules?
• Who can run faster — Superman or The Flash?
• Who’s smarter — Lassie or Flipper?
And included in those intellectually challenging debates was this: “Which would be cooler – being able to fly or being invisible?” Among my friends, the vote was unanimously in the “fly” camp. And if a cape was included, even better.
But I always had the contrary point of view: Flying would be swell, no doubt, but being invisible would be, well, totally out of sight.
There just seems to be so many more ways that invisibility can be useful — from ducking a tax audit to avoiding sunburn. However, it might be a problem on a driver’s license:
Cop: “I had you clocked back there at 90 miles an hour. Can I see your driver’s license, please?”
Invisible man: “Here it is, officer.”
Cop: “Hmm. There’s no one in the photo.”
Invisible man: “That’s because I’m invisible.”
Cop: “Step out of the car, please.”
Invisible man: “I already have.”
The synopsis for the classic 1933 movie, “The Invisible Man,” reads as follows: “A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.” Nuts! There always has to be a catch.
Still, in a national poll, when asked whether they would be willing to become murderously insane in exchange for invisibility, 75 percent of people said that would be fine with them. The remaining 25 percent said plain old insane would be okay, but not murderously.
I saw a story not long ago on the Internet – where, as you know, all information is accurate and verifiable. The story was about a guy who invented an electro-helmet in 1934, designed to make a person invisible. A public demonstration was planned, but the inventor failed to show up. Later, he claimed he had been there, proving therefore that his electro-helmet really did work.
Another man (on the Internet again) claims to have created the ingredients for “invisibility paint.” The paint, according to his instructions, consists of a mix of radioactive cobwebs, slugs’ eyestalks and the sting from a poisonous cat. Even though those are all things I have lying around the house, I’ve only been successful in getting the paint mixture partially right. Take it from me, being only partially invisible is not much good at all – and makes it tougher to shave without cutting yourself.
There are also stories floating around about so-called spontaneous human invisibility. This is a phenomenon I often noticed while playing high school sports:
Me: “Why didn’t you pass me the ball? I was wide open!”
Teammate: “You were? I never saw you.”
I also heard of an incident recently in Kent, where a woman became totally invisible to her husband during a televised Seahawks game. However, things changed suddenly when she stepped in front of the TV set during a third and one and became instantly visible to him again.
There are also believed to be certain words and sentences that will render a person invisible to another person. These include:
“Hey, where is the money you owe me?”
“Did you bring home your report card?”
“Where is that smell coming from?”
Otherwise, you might think that invisibility is simply the stuff of science fiction. But news came out recently about a research team that believes they have created a black material that can absorb 99.9 percent of light. To put that in perspective, that’s more than 99.8 percent.
“The technology is challenging,” says a member of the research team, “but invisibility is not fundamentally impossible.” That’s scientist-speak for “it could work.”
So maybe that invisibility cloak that Harry Potter wears in the books and movies isn’t so far-fetched after all? Well, researchers say, it’s not quite so simple. For one thing, the material they’ve developed would have to be several inches thick – more like wearing eleven or 12 big overcoats, than a thin cloak. So you might be invisible, but you’d be sweating like a water sprinkler. People might not be able to see you, but your body odor would be a dead giveaway.
And there’s another downside: If people can’t see through your invisibility garment, you also can’t see out. You’d literally be that thing that goes bump in the night. And the daytime.
Still, it would be nifty if everybody in this country had the ability to become invisible, at least occasionally. Make it the 28th Amendment: “The right of the people to keep bare arms, or any other body parts – visible or invisible – shall not be infringed upon.” After all, an invisible populace would be hard for our enemies to find. Plus, we could be right in the room with them as they discussed their evil plans.
And when schoolchildren across our nation recited the Pledge of Allegiance, exactly the way most of them have been saying it for decades, it would finally be entirely accurate: “One nation, invisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Pat Cashman is a writer, actor and public speaker. He can be reached at email@example.com