Ultimately Not Very Important Thought Experiment #2
Nonfiction..? Quite Weird Water-Based Would You Rather. Wow.
Try as I might to stay laser focused throughout the working day, it’s very tempting to daydream. There’s just only so many neurons you can dedicate to emails about other emails, you know?
The problem is that my daydreaming is getting worse, and weirder, and more academically rigorous. For example, what follows is an Ultimately Not Very Important Thought Experiment I’ve been agonising over the last week.
If you mull any similar hypotheticals throughout your working day, please email them to me. Please. I’m trying to stop the left hemisphere of my brain from atrophying, lest I lose equilibrium and have to walk in circles. Haha. Help.
You are kidnapped from your current location by a kind of reverse genie. The genie points a gun at your brain and demands that you answer his hypothetical question. You must choose one of the options he presents to you. There are no loopholes or ways to game the system—this isn’t that kind of genie.
The eternally-binding question he asks is…
Would you rather:
Wear swimming goggles all the time, even when sleeping, for the rest of your life. You can remove the goggles twice a day for ten seconds of de-fogging.
Be stuck in a Groundhog Day-style time loop where you have to relive your Year 12 swimming carnival over and over and over, restarting at the end of each day (or if you die), and the only way to break the loop is to become the Age Champion.
To eat any food (soup is a grey area) you must exclusively use a full-sized replica of Poseidon’s Trident, and you can’t say why.
I encourage you to have a go yourself before reading on, and let me know what you come up with. Taking very stupid hypothetical questions extremely seriously can offer many meaningful insights into your character. They’re also a good way to pass the time between the hours of 9 and 5.
Long (But Still Non-Exhaustive) Summary Of My Thoughts On The Matter
Option A: Goggley Eyes
I think Option A basically boils down to the size of your forehead. Bear with me.
While there is great diversity in colour and size and lens reflectiveness in modern swimming goggles, with varying degrees of sleekness, lameness, and (aquatic)aerodynamics, the thing that every pair in the world has in common is that they turn the brow into a hard line. A sort of checkout divider for the face, if you will.
Unlike glasses, which can be cute and subtle in their framing of your features, goggles are an absolute fact. There is no way to look at someone wearing swimming goggles and not think, within your first three thoughts, ‘This person is wearing swimming goggles.’ You know what I mean? They interrupt the natural dimensions and progression of a human face and just strand the forehead up there, all on its own, with nothing to distract from blemishes or girth.
If you can make it past the Great Forehead Filter (must be nice), then the next thing to consider is what you’d look like at job interviews, funerals, first dates, and on the day your children are born. Be prepared to say goodbye to a career where people take you seriously—you can’t wear goggles as an oncologist delivering bad news, or a lawyer cross-examining a serial killer, or a marketing coordinator doing whatever it is a marketing coordinator is supposed to do (connect with me on LinkedIn).
In addition to the obvious embarrassment and increasingly self-conscious explanations to strangers on the train about how a reverse genie did this to you, there’s the actual physical pressure of a tight rubber strap squeezing your eyes into your brain all day, all the time, for as long as you live. No thank you.
Advantages: Cutting onions; Could probably leverage a Zoggs sponsorship; No one will see you cry.
Disadvantages: If you do cry, the goggles will fill up and you’ll be in real trouble; How will you watch 3D movies?; Getting into nightclubs will be difficult.
Option B: Live. Swim. Drown. Repeat.
Swimming ability is a broad spectrum, and your personal position on it probably depends on the size of your feet and whether or not you had asthma as a child. If you were already the Age Champion, then *sarcastic slow clap*, congratulations. We’re all really impressed. If you, like me, nearly drowned in the last lap of the 200m Individual Medley that you entered as a joke, then this Option B is a real battle between hope and reason.
There is, in every cohort, anywhere between one and three lifeless nerds, who smell like chlorine all the time, who live the unglamorous parts of an Up&Go commercial, who get up at 6AM every morning to do Squads. This is your competition. Your only real chance of beating them is subterfuge or murder. There’s an obvious ethical hurdle there... but hurdles can be jumped. The real problem is that if you Grievously Bodily Harm everyone who’s better than you in order to win and break the loop, that is the reality you’ll be stuck in.
So, would you rather be trapped in an infinite, absurd, high-concept, deeply spiritually and existentially traumatising prison, suffering a fate much worse than death? Or be sent to actual jail?
A real Sophie’s Choice.
It’s also worth noting that it’s harder than you’d think to cheat at a Swimming Carnival—I’ve tried. If there’s one thing a high school staff can do, it’s run a corruption free sports event. Maths teachers on the scorekeeping, P.E. staff on cone management and security, the English Department standing around looking generally stern, threatening to mark your poetry harshly. Yikes.
Advantages: Being seventeen again means you’ll have no job, rent, gout, or requirements to control emotions; You could think of it as one very long high school reunion without all the awkward small talk and confronting physical decay that reminds you of your own mortality; You might escape?
Disadvantages: You really might not escape; Crushing futility and meaninglessness of infinite existence will destroy your soul; Body shame.
Option C: It’s Just An Obnoxious Fork
Poseidon, much maligned brother of Zeus and Hades, Father of Fish, Sovereign of the Sea, Patron of Pegasuses (Pegasi?), was the God in charge of water, earthquakes, and horses. Which is a strange portfolio when you really think about it.
His Trident was sculpted by the Cyclopes, and he had a tendency to strike it, emphatically, to spook horses and make super fun (and presumably ecologically devastating) changes to the water cycle. It’s a big, golden bastard. An imposing weapon. A very conspicuous, supersized, magical fork.
This one, for me, is all about logistics. Trident transportation will take up a lot of your thoughts—fucking good luck taking it on the bus to work without getting arrested. And plus, you’ll have to become one of those really earnest, annoying people who spend all their free time waxing lyrical about the virtues and spiritual importance of “meal prep”.
Maybe, in the privacy of your own home, with big, pierceable bites of food prepared, maybe the Trident will be an inconvenient but ultimately fun way to eat dinner. In every other culinary experience it will be a red hot pain in the ass. Like, you want a mentos? Trident. A scotch finger? Trident. Soggy Weetbix? Trident. Dinner with your in-laws? Trident. And you can never explain why.
There is a non-zero chance that, should you wield the Trident with enough aptitude and courage, you might inherit some of its mythical powers. Earthquaking. River running. Horse spooking. Clout from fish. You really could become quite skillful with the thing over time, until the day that you’re no longer strong to lift it… then I guess you’ll have to die.
Advantages: Free Trident; Powerful, albeit cumbersome toothpick to carry around at all times; Strong motivation to do intermittent fasting.
Disadvantages: Very hard to eat an individual grape; Likely to incur the wrath of Zeus; All the work you put into mastering chopsticks will ultimately be for naught; Early death.
Watching the swimming at the Olympics has affected me in a very strange way.
I’m very bored at work and also might have some weird forehead insecurities.
It’s gotta be the Trident, I reckon.
Thanks for reading, I know this was a real weird one. Apologies to September’s new subscribers who have copped a whole bunch of weird ones. As always hit the heart icon at the top, and don’t be afraid to share this with a friend or an old swim coach or Poseidon himself.
And don’t forget, my weird fiction podcast These Stories Are Not Real is currently releasing its third season. Go find it wherever you get your podcasts.