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Gimme a Smile: A whole universe of what ifs

What if…?

By Peggy McKee Barnhill

Sometimes reality can get to be too much, and you want to let your imagination take over for a while. When you feel like you need a reality check-out, ask yourself, “What if?”

What if all the technology in Star Trek was for real? Star Trek communicators have already shown up in modern society in the form of flip phones. The viewing screen on the bridge of the Enterprise looks suspiciously like our laptops when conducting meetings over Zoom. Next on the list: teleporters to beam us from one location to another? Who wants to skip the eleven-hour flight to the east coast with its obligatory stopover in Seattle? “Beam me back east, Scotty!” We really need phasers we could set to “stun” to neutralize the enemy without killing them. Doctors would love to have hand-held tricorders that can scan a patient’s insides, and hypos to do surgery without ever breaking the skin. Star Trek introduced these inventions in the 1960s—isn’t it time to roll them out for real?

What if your brain waves could pick up the name of anyone you encounter, whether you’ve met them before or not? You would never commit the embarrassing faux pas of forgetting the name of the person you sit next to in church or worked with five years ago. You could greet people by name with confidence, eliciting their trust right from the start.

What if when you read a book, you could physically enter into the story? You could be an invisible observer like Harry Potter in Tom Riddle’s diary, or you could enter into the action with full character rights and responsibilities. You would want to be careful when making this choice, however, depending on how many flesh-eating dinosaurs or conniving next-door neighbors you are likely to encounter in the narrative.

What if your driveway could magically repel rain and snow? It would remain clear and dry in all weather. You could watch the dreaded snowplow go by, burying your neighbors with the inevitable berm. But your driveway would stand alone, unencumbered by a three-foot-high pile of frozen snow and slush.

What if your magical thinking rituals really worked? When you speak your hope or fear aloud and then knock on wood, what if the vibrations from that knock reverberated throughout the cosmos, causing enough seismic disruption in the space-time continuum to bring about your devoutly desired wish? That’s the reason we all knock, isn’t it?

What if you could edit your verbal communication just like you can edit what you write? If you said something you shouldn’t have, you could just press “Delete” and the hurtful or embarrassing statements would disappear. It would be as if the words had never been uttered. Never again would you have to “watch what you say,” or “think before you speak.” You could rattle on unchecked, say the most outrageous things, and then simply edit your conversations after the fact for clarity, good taste, and compassion. No more apologizing to the ones you love. No more attempting to explain what you really meant after putting your foot in your mouth. Just press “Delete” and move on.

What if you could wake up each morning and decide which time period you wanted to live in for that day? On Monday you could go back to the fourth grade to have another crack at reciting all the U.S states and capitals in alphabetical order. On Tuesday you could visit the year 1918 to see if that pandemic was worse than this one. You could spend Wednesday in the present, just for a change. Every new day would bring a different time period.

What if you could make accurate predictions every time? Not only would you know whether to carry an umbrella in the morning, but you would know which movie would be the most popular in the second week of March or which store is likely to be out of toilet paper. The financial possibilities abound.

What if the crazy ideas from the recesses of your imagination came to pass in reality?

What if…?

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life. “Gimme a Smile” appears monthly in the Empire.

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