by Clive Doucet
This week out of the blue, Felix hops in the car and asks, “Is school free, Grandpa?” I have no idea where this question comes from or why but the answer seems easy enough. “No, it isn’t. School is paid for by our taxes, which we all pay.” “And swimming lessons? Are they free?” “No, that comes out of your Mom and Dad’s own pocket.” “I don’t understand,” says Felix, because he likes to understand things. “Well, you’ve got two pockets in your trousers, right? Felix agrees that he has two pockets. “Well, one is a collective pocket into which everyone puts some money and the other pocket is just for your own money. From the collective pocket, which is a lot bigger than your own pocket, comes the money for schools, doctors, roads, street lights, buses, clean water, parks. From your own pocket comes swimming…” “And violin lessons,” interrupts Clea. “Yes, and violin lessons.” Violin lessons do not interest Felix and he moves on to his favourite subject, superheroes. “If you could have any super power, Grandpa, what would you choose?” With the world at my command, I’m a little unsure what
I would choose and finally, I say, “I’d like the power to be happy.” Felix is immediately disdainful. “That’s not a real power, Grandpa.” “I think it is. Imagine saying ‘poof’ and all your worries were gone and you were happy. Wouldn’t that be a great power?” Felix shakes his head. “That’s a fake power. Real happiness is like your collective pocket. It has to include others. You can’t be happy alone.“ “Then I could include others.” “No, you can’t. That would be evil. You can’t force others to be happy. A real power is being able to save the planet from an asteroid or wrapping up a bad guy in a spider web like Spiderman does.” “So what real power would you like?” I ask, curious. “I’d like a car that flies.” I shake my head, disappointed. “That’s not a real power. That’s just an invention. Besides we’ve already got cars that fly. They’re called planes.” “Not a plane. A car that looks like a real car like in Harry Potter, drives down the road like a real car but can take off into the sky whenever it wants – without wings.” Clea says, “Grandpa’s right. A flying car is just an invention. It’s not a superpower.”
“Then why are we driving to our lessons? Why are we stopping at all these red lights? Why don’t we have a car that flies?” We all agree this would be useful, but neither Clea nor I are sure a flying car is a superpower. “You’ll have to find a different super power,” I say to Felix. Felix thinks for a bit, then decides he wants the power to immobilize bad guys with an immobility ball. He would start with his teacher, Monsieur Cyr. Clea shakes her head. “Not possible, Grandpa.” “Why not?” I ask, curious. “Because Monsieur Cyr would always be stuck in his immobility ball and never be able to teach anyone.” Felix allowed that would be a problem. “How about we keep your immobility super power for asteroids coming towards earth,” I suggest. Felix thought that would be okay but he still liked the idea of immobilizing Monsieur Cyr.
And so we arrived at Clea’s and Felix’s lessons, not having resolved much at all. Although it seemed to me that the collective pocket was a super power worth having because it could do so many incredible things; but I did not say this to anyone, because taxes are more complicated than asteroids.
Clive Doucet is a supergrandfather and former city councillor who has played a part in deciding what would come out of the collective pocket.