Electric Weirdo Man

Autumn 2004

I have discovered that I have a new talent, nay, a secret identity. Most days I am William Bains, quiet, egocentric entrepreneur, but, on cold autumn mornings between 7am and 8am on the Northbound platform of our local train station I turn into ....

Electric Weirdo Man!

Yes, wherever there are evildoers on Northbound platform, providing the weather is cold and dry, Electric Weirdo Man will leap to the rescue, giving the bad guys mild but slightly surprising electric shocks! Ever since Electric Weirdo Man bounded from the waiting room, his unforgettable costume of bicycle helmet and trousers tucked into his socks, and shapeless woolly flapping in the cool October air, our station has been entirely free of major bank robberies, violent kidnappings, and international terrorist incidents.

It's another victory for ... Electric Weirdo Man!

A short word of explanation. While I was sill employed I used to take the early train up to Cambridge with my children and our bicycles. We found one morning, when the air was a dry 8oC or so, light breeze, scattered cloud, that one of them had become oddly charged. Running a finger lightly over the back of another's hand gave a strong tingling, like a continuously firing, weak static charge. I tried it - I was even more charged. It was as if I had a miniature rotary sander or a very small van der Graaf generator on the ends of my fingers. It only worked on the station platform, and in those weather conditions. "How weird!" they said, and so was born the name of Electric Wierdo Man, and the rest is (almost entirely uneventful) history.

One boring explanation for this effect is that we were picking up AC from the overhead power cables for the trains. But that seems rather dull. What if it really was a super-power, akin to the X-men, but just not so impressive as the ability to call up storms or have fire streaming from your eyes?

The X-men derive their super-powers not from being from another planet like Superman or from technology like Batman, but from mutations. But, logically, one would not expect such complex and powerful phenotypes to spring full-grown into the gene pool. Fins did not evolve into feet in one generation, but by gradual change, small steps, each generation slightly less finnish and more footy than the last. So one would expect super-powers to be pretty un-super at the start. Evolution starts small, and builds on successes.

So, I prefer the explanation that Electric Weirdo Man is the next very small step in human evolution. Hundreds of generations from now, my descendents will be able to throw quite large sparks around on the Northbound platform, in all sorts of weather, and cause quite substantial static several miles down the line. A million years hence they will have combined with Always chose the shortest queue at Tesco Woman and Aroma Kid (able to make odd smells at will - no, wait, that has already evolved ....), to build a being of almost God-like powers.

Of course, if other current trends continue they will also be fantastically short-sighted, have near lethal asthma, eczema, arthritis, flat feet, bad backs, depression and alcoholism, and be so obese that they will classify not as mammals but as geography.

What a strange world. I leave the vision to my writer friends.