Most of us are law-abiding people. We stop at red lights, don’t graze on the grocery store produce without paying, and refrain from driving off in our neighbor’s car left idling on the curb while the owner runs inside for one quick thing. Our parents taught us to turn in the money we found on the ground, to wait for our turns on the slide even if other kids are pushing in front, and to not stash cookies in our pockets to take home from the all-you-can-eat buffet. Our parents expected us to do the right thing, even if no one was watching. Now, as responsible adults, there’s nothing more annoying to us than seeing other people getting away with something that we know is wrong.
How many times have you shaken your head in disbelief when some irresponsible driver blows through the red light? Where’s a traffic cop when you need one?
Or maybe you’re waiting in line for the midnight release of the summer blockbuster, and just when you get close to the front of the line, the guy in front of you waves 14 friends into the line with him. Since there were exactly 15 tickets left before the movie sold out, you end up on the curb with nothing to watch except the disappointed people in line behind you. Where’s the justice in that?
Standing in line is one of the most severe trials for a rule-follower. You wait in line correctly and expect everyone else to do the same. Dream on! There are always some people who think the rules don’t apply to them. They have no qualms about ducking under the rope to cut in line, or taking their full-to-bursting shopping carts through the express line, leaving the rest of us fuming. We want justice.
Then there are those annoying people who claim something they’re not entitled to, like the mom who says her 5-year-old is 2 to get him a half-price plane ticket, or the guy who sits a mannequin next to him in the car so he can drive in the carpool lane. Or there’s the person who takes advantage of the handicapped parking space when they really don’t have any need for it. Imagine that you’re going to a baseball game where the first 500 fans each receive a free baseball signed by David Justice. You circle the parking lot, searching for an open space while dutifully avoiding parking in the handicapped spot. You finally find a place half a mile away from the stadium, and as you’re hustling to the entrance you see someone jump out of their car in the handicapped spot and sprint to the line in front of you to snag the 500th baseball. No justice for you!
But what if you could get that justice, after all? What if you had a superpower, just a little one, which would allow you to right the everyday wrongs that take place all around us? I’m not talking about saving the world here. Leave the heavy-duty stuff to the superheroes on the big screen, and settle for taking on the scofflaws in our midst. You could duck out back to don a water-resistant cape and drink a special elixir that would give you super speed and other handy powers.
You could start by ridding the town of red-light runners. You could zoom into their passenger seats and give them a 30-second safety lecture about the importance of following the rules of the road, before telekinetically bringing their cars to a stop at the next red light. You could zoom through a long line, rearranging people like cards in a hand of poker, until the line-cutters are at the back where they belong. You could zip through the all-you-can-eat buffet like a mighty wind, turning the patrons’ pockets and purses inside out and exposing all the food they’ve squirreled away for later. You could convert your cape into an invisibility cloak when you zoom into the back seat of the guy in the carpool lane and use your ventriloquist powers to make him think his mannequin can talk. You could run circles around the car in the handicapped spot until you create a vortex that lifts that car right off the ground and deposits it into the very farthest spot in the lot.
At the end of the day the world might not be any closer to salvation, but you might have converted a few scofflaws into rule-followers. If nothing else, you can enjoy getting a little bit of justice in your life.
• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and debut author who writes cozy mysteries under the name “Greta McKennan.” Her first novel, Uniformly Dead, is available at Hearthside Books. She likes to look at the bright side of life.