Having fun with hypotheticals

By Kevin Wilson

In his pop-culture book, “Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs,” Chuck Klosterman has a series of hypothetical questions that makes you consider your world (i.e. If cats could read, would they find Garfield to be an insulting caricature?), and perhaps yourself.

I’ve been dabbling in hypotheticals myself, and here are some questions Professor Wilson would ask in his class:

1. There is a restaurant you frequent very often. You’re on a first-name basis with the staff, there’s not a single menu item you dislike. Service is fast and it’s a block from your job.

The owner decides you are his favorite customer. You, and anybody who joins you, eats on the house every time you visit. You always get the best table, and the best server waits exclusively on you.

The tradeoff is that you must communicate in pig Latin. The menus are printed in pig Latin, servers speak in pig Latin and they cannot take an order that isn’t in pig Latin.

You cannot return to being a paying customer. How many times a week will you eat at this restaurant?

2. General Motors has revolutionized solar collection techniques, and has applied its knowledge to a new series of vehicles. The car runs without limits during the daytime, and one hour in the sun is enough to run a car for eight hours of darkness.

Additionally, GM has agreed to market the technology to other automakers, provided the company receives commission for each solar-engine vehicle sold. Conversion kits are also available at each dealership, so any gasoline vehicle can be converted for a nominal fee.

The drawback is that 5,000 people will die from the production of these vehicles. The government has effectively argued the sacrifice is a benefit — no soldier on Earth will die protecting oil reserves, and the decreases in pollution will effectively reverse global warming. (It’s my hypothetical.)

The 5,000 victims will be treated as heroes for the final month of their life, and the first event is a dinner party at which you are the featured speaker. What do you say in your 15 minutes?

3. You are given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use a time machine. The time machine owner has two different travel packages.

The first option is to travel back to the final five years of Jesus’ life, and to be waited on hand and foot while you observe his final years. You will then return to present time, one minute after you first stepped into the time machine (like in “Back to the Future”).

The second option is to be sent to Las Vegas, in August of 1999, with the total value of your bank accounts and appraised value of possessions converted to its equivalent in 1999-issue U.S. currency. You will arrive at Las Vegas knowing backup Kurt Warner is about to lead the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV victory against 200-to-1 odds, Shaquille O’Neal will lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA title against 5-to-1 odds, and so on. Basically, your knowledge of sports takes the risk out of gambling (like in “Back to the Future 2”). When your five years of “gambling” is complete, you will return to present time, owing the time travel agent the money he loaned you plus 2 percent of your winnings.

Which option do you take?

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail:

kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com