What If Gene Were a Genius?
Oh, never mind . . .

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, October 2, 2005

Critics sometimes complain that my columns lack intellectual depth. So today I thought I would examine fundamental epistemological questions of life in a contextual fashion, by postulating alternative realities and extrapolating likely results.

What if Freud had been a woman?

Sex would not be considered the primary force that drives human behavior. Instead, it would be Fear of Having a Large Behind. All men would be haunted by a condition known as "penis shame." The mind would not be divided into the Id, the Ego and the Superego but the Shoe-Desire Region, the Weeping Center, and the If-You-Don't-Know-What-You-Did-Wrong-I'm-Not-Going-to-Tell-You Lobe. Also, sometimes a dried apricot is just a dried apricot.

What if wishes were horses?

Then beggars would ride. But so would everyone else. We would each have, like, 7,000 horses. They would completely paralyze civilization, consuming all vegetable matter in a week or less. Continents would rise several feet, just from accumulated poo. And anytime anyone wished for no more horses, another horse would appear. The world would end in a terrifying, thundering apocalypse of horses, is what would happen.

What if Hitler had beaten us to the bomb?

Humor wäre heutzutage verboten, und Humoristen würde man in der Öffentlichkeit erschiessen.*

What if Shakespeare had been born in Teaneck, N.J., in 1973?

He would call himself Spear Daddy. His rap would exhibit a profound, nuanced understanding of the frailty of the human condition, exploring the personality in all its bewildering complexity: pretension, pride, vulnerability, emotional treachery, as well as the enduring triumph of love. Spear Daddy would disappear from the charts in about six weeks.

What if our thoughts scrolled across our foreheads, like a TV news crawl?

All men would be incarcerated for public lewdness, conspiracy, fraud and crimes against humanity.

What if, as originally predicted, heavier-than-air flight had actually been impossible?

Rocket-propelled blimps. Travel would take a little longer, but the 9/11 plot would have failed, comically.

What if celebrities were punished by God every time they took money to endorse a product they don't use?

It's happening already! Consider Rafael Palmeiro, who did those obnoxious ads for Viagra even though he claimed he didn't need it and hadn't used it. Now he's ruined.

Is this, finally, empirical evidence for the existence of the deity?

It is hard to deny.

What if all snowmen could walk and talk, like Frosty?

They'd be gone as soon as we made them. You think snowmen would sit around here just to entertain kids, waiting until the first warm spell melted them? No way. Responding to some primitive instinct for survival, they'd hoof it for Antarctica, or climb Kilimanjaro. The only time anyone would ever see a snowman is by climbing a mountain. We'd expect them to be gurus, and ask them about the meaning of life. But they would just say things like, "Me want toy." Snowmen are idiots.

What if you could smell air? And it smelled like B.O.?

That would be real bad.

What if the wheel had never been invented?

Even worse mileage for SUVs.

What if the U.S. Constitution required presidential candidates to campaign wearing only a sombrero and a cummerbund?

The only people who would run for president would be shameless, contemptible, power-mad, ego-crazed, narcissistic exhibitionists. So, basically, this one's a wash.

What if dogs were as dumb as chickens, but chickens were as smart as chimpanzees?

No one would notice the difference in dogs, but we'd feel a lot worse about continuing to eat all those plump, delicious chickens.

What if there were a doomsday Web site, where if any-one logged on, it would instantly annihilate the world in a fiery inferno? And what if the url were published in a news-paper? You know, something like "Log on to www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/mmedia/endofworld.html and the world will end?" How long would it take some irresponsible jackass to do that?

Probably no more than three sec

*Humor would be illegal today, and humor writers would be taken out back and shot.

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com.

Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company