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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Thought experiment: what would you do if you could snap your fingers to become invisible whenever you wanted?

I have no idea how or why this came up but it’s been prickling my brain, a literary earworm of sorts, so I decided to sit down and think about it.

What would I do if I was invisible…

The first thing that came to mind is I would be invisible.

I think for me the true allure of being invisible is merely to be it. Because in a world where it feels like everything you say and do can come under scrutiny, where there are cameras and recording devices and everyone is documenting everything, disappearing is a nice option. Not forever and at all times, but when you just want to exist… it would be nice to be able to do it without anyone noticing.

I would just live my life in an invisible state so that nobody would see me, talk to me, notice me, pay attention to me. I could walk around and look at things and do things and have no interactions with people whatsoever. It would be brilliant.

It wouldn’t matter if I brushed my hair or wore my shredded Brigantine sweatshirt. I could forget about social niceties altogether.

But that begged some important questions, like would you have to be naked?

If you had to be naked, what could you really do? You can’t go out and sit on the beach, you can’t walk in the park, you aren’t going to sit on a bench or in a movie theater, ew.

The only way invisible works is if you have invisible clothes. And unless you also had a magical invisible pocket that could conceal some invisible things, you wouldn’t be able to carry anything, like your phone or a notebook or your house keys so you can go home afterwards.

I was going to say I’d go sit somewhere in a park by myself where nobody could see me or know I was there so there would be zero risk of anyone looking at me or saying hello or anything. But if I have to be naked and I can’t carry around a blanket without it floating in thin air then that would not quite work.

And if I was going to do something that I’d have to hide from people anyway, it defeats the purpose of being invisible, doesn’t it?

Being invisible is more complicated than one might think.

So for the purposes of this thought experiment we have to assume that snapping your fingers also includes being able to snap your clothes out of existence, and anything you put in your invisible pockets would also be invisible.

Which means the first thing I’d do is go out and buy clothes with a lot of pockets.

I wouldn’t steal anything. I mean, I’m not trying to be saintly, but why? I don’t see how that helps me or improves my life. So I’ll… have some free pants?

Assuming other things you touch will NOT be invisible, it would be silly to say I’m going to steal anything even if I wanted to. Someone might notice a mysteriously floating jacket leaving a store, and at a minimum it would be all over Twitter and Instagram and now the whole world is looking for the invisible person who stole the non-invisible jacket which once again defeats the purpose of being invisible.

Anyway, I am not interested in breaking any laws, per se. Nor do I want to harass/scare/spy on/punch/annoy anyone. Apparently a lot of people online would, if their Reddit and Quora threads are anything to go by. Top choices for using invisibility? To steal stuff and to do something that would otherwise bother people. Honestly. You could do ANYTHING and you’d opt to…. annoy someone on a bus? Slap someone in the face so they wouldn’t know what hit them?

That is either a dearth of imagination or some really crummy humanity right there.

So now I have pants with pockets and we’re all invisible and I can carry my invisible phone and we’re all set for a day of invisibility. Now what?

First of all, I would go into the church next door every hour and turn off the bells. I suppose that would freak people out or probably they’d just think God was communicating with them. It’s not about the people, though. It’s that if I turned off the bells over and over and over, someone would eventually get it. And if that went on too long and I couldn’t get through to anyone, I’d find the little plug that makes the electronic chimes work and I’d cut it with the scissors I carried over in my invisible pocket

Minor vandalism in pursuit of my own sanity. I’d do that enough times so either someone would get the point or they’d run out of money repairing it.

I’d get up at 4am and go to the golf course and turn off whatever makes that noise they make. I would pull the wires out of the trucks so they couldn’t beep anymore.

I’d stand watch and the minute someone started construction before 7am I’d grab the hammer out of their hand and fling it across the parking lot so maybe they would get the hint. Or probably they’d think God was communicating with them.

It’s Tennessee, what do you want.

I wouldn’t do this to annoy or harass or even scare anyone, not purposefully. But sometimes you have to break a few eggs.

I’d go to places off hours so nobody would be there and I could get the best views and be undisturbed. I would drive to the Grand Canyon, say, then snap invisible and go to all the best sights.

I would be at the park after dusk and I would be in the Eiffel Tower when it was closed. I’d figure out what the operating hours are of all the tourist spots and visit them the minute everyone left. I’d bask in the glorious solitude of the Roman Colosseum and then snap myself back into existence and go for some gelato.

I would go into all the doors and behind all the gates you’re not supposed to so I could see what really happens back stage or behind that swingy door in the grocery store.

I’d sneak into board meetings and classrooms and court rooms and restricted areas. I would find out all the things I don’t know.

I don’t want to spy on people, per se, but I would also like to do the whole “fly on wall” thing. I always want to know what people are doing in their houses and with their lives. The answer is probably boring, like “sitting on a beanbag in front of their computer for four hours” but still, it would be interesting to find out.

Here is another thing that people on the internet apparently want to do very badly: see other people naked. I mean… you’re on the internet. Have you not figured out how to see people naked? I don’t understand the fascination with that, but I guess I’m an old lady now so “sneak into the stock room at the grocery store” is about where my subversiveness ends.

And that’s where my thought experiment ends. Ralph and I are on our way to our first opera of the season tonight and while being invisible would not help me avoid people in this case, at least it would mean I wouldn’t have to go figure out what to wear right now because I could wear my shredded Brigantine sweatshirt and nobody would ever notice.

Photo: don’t even ask.