I met a man with the powers of Superman and the wealth of Tom Cruise.
Of course I didn’t know that when he and I struck up a conversation at the nice bar last night.
I wasn’t drunk, though in retrospect it may’ve helped.
Bill was slightly inebriated but then Superman’s got a lot on his plate. He’s entitled to unwind. Especially at his age, a guesstimated 54. He’s done plenty for the planet through the decades.
My curiosity posed to him the question: “If you knew you had only 24 hours left to live, how would you spend them?”
Straight-up. For real. Within the parameters of planet earth.
The uber-short version. If you knew how this all really went down, you’d thank me profusely!
First, he’d go home and give his wife all the passwords to his online accounts and such.
That’s an hour. You’ve got 23 remaining.
“Next I’d drive to the beach,” he says. San Diego. A straight shot west. Some 400 miles (645 km).
That’s 6-1/2 hours driving at the very least. Under the most ideal and impossible of conditions. Little to no traffic in southern California or Phoenix. No accidents bringing the fast interstate to a dead halt (which happens frequently).
“I can make it in 4 hours,” he says. Absolutely serious. “You’ve never seen me drive.”
To accomplish that, he needs to sustain a speed of 100 miles an hour (161 kph) for four hours, including through southern California.
Realistic? he insists so. “And I won’t care about speeding tickets since I’m about to die.”
Granted. Delusion is beginning to grip his mind but he doesn’t or hear it. He’s morphing from Kent Clark into Superman before my eyes.
He arrives at the beach in the wee hours. Too cold to swim. So he and the wife get a hotel room. “A nice one, since the end’s near.”
But he doesn’t sleep. Still things to do in the some 13 hours remaining.
So he goes fishing. Not at a lake or stream. Ocean fishing. He hires a boat off San Diego. No advance notice. No reservation. Just walks in and off they go. Bill pays through the nose but no problem. “Money talks.”
Now at this leg in his story, he’s become filthy rich.
He’s not the quiet middle-aged IT guy sitting by himself at a bar I met 25 minutes earlier. He’s loaded and insists every word’s true even as I endeavor to steer him back to reality.
Every fantastical step leads to an even greater fantastical step.
His Southern California fishing expedition ends around noon. He’s got 6-1/2 hours left to live. What’s he do now?
“I’m going skiing.” In northern California. Tahoe.
How are you doing that?
“I hire a helicopter.” On the fly. Like the boat.
Again, dead serious. Neither a flinch nor a sly smile suggest he’s goofing.
Not a short flight from San Diego to Tahoe, where he says there’s snow. Maybe there is. Maybe not.
Who am I to question the prowess of Superman or the opportunities availed by unreal wealth.
Speaking of unreal …
With only 6 hours left to live, I wonder whether this helicopter ride across California to the mountaintop is a realistic goal. He says it is.
Because he’s got money. Not just some vague wad of cash but $20 million!! Not as much as Naomi Watts but close.
“Wow! You’ve got $20 million?!?!?!”
You’d never guess by his homely appearance, blue jeans, sports shirt and quiet presence in a bar in southern Arizona.
With that moolah, you’d think he’d at least live in a nice home away from the sardine-canned Phoenix and have dinner beyond the discount happy hour appetizers and beers. But whatever.
“You’re buying me dinner and paying for my two beers then!” I say.
He doesn’t oblige.
So now he’s skiing – though never explaining how a helicopter lands on the snowy slopes.
“You’ve got like 3 hours left. Is this where you die? Skiing down the slope?”
“No,” he says.
“Now the helicopter”– that he’s paid millions for at the drop of a hat, don’t forget — “takes me to Universal Studios. For the tour.”
“A HELICOPTER takes you to Universal?! Reeeeeeaaaallyyyy. Where does it land?”
“In the parking lot. Between the cars”
For the 10th time, unflinchingly serious. He’s speaking delusionally and all efforts on my end to introduce parameters of realism fall on deaf ears.
“So it doesn’t matter about the FAA — aviation — regulations? Or that there’s NO SPACE for a helicopter to land? Or that the pilot could lose his license?”
“Nope. Money talks.”
He confirms for the 10th time that yep, he’s got $20 million — mostly in assets. “Does your wife know? Can I text her? She should know.” He won’t give me the number.
So his wealth, pull and power — even more extraordinary’s than Tom Cruise’s!
Here’s where his 24 hours and this story end.
He stopped being “fun” to talk with 30 minutes earlier, when he insisted he could make a 400-mile drive across two states in 4 hours.
But I pressed onward — in a hope that he’d hear how outrageous he was being and answer in the spirit of a good question,
He stopped being realistic.
He stopped being a somewhat entertaining conversationalist.
He kinda became a jerk.
He became uninteresting. Whatever entertainment value earlier had already evaporated.
Then he became kinda scary.
What I observed is a quality sometimes found in the criminal mind — delusions mingled with a soft of sociopathy. I even told him so.
As a criminal, he’d be a tough nut to crack. He’d frustrate investigators with an ability to build his house of cards with a stone face and tell their tales as if he truly believed the cards were real yet knowing full well they’re not.
In the same broad ballpark as psychopathic lying.
What’s especially troubling is that he’s got a long career in IT. A field where parameters is in the earliest vocabulary and the abilities to discern, analyze and plug into reality must far exceed the norm.
Talking with him — there’s an hour I’ll never get back.
I was done when he slowly turned his journey into one fantastical.
I shut him down and out. Pulled out the library book that I’d intended to read when I arrived and said not one more word to him.
Soon he confessed he doesn’t have $20 million. Oh no, you don’t say!!!
Then he tried his hostile damnedest to turn the topic to God and religion. He tried to rattle my chain.
A religious zealot. Not surprising.
I didn’t bite. Or nibble.
I read my book, sipped my beer. I was done with him.
He soon left.
If ever we cross paths again, I shan’t waste a minute of my time. I do feel sorry for his wife.
It all illustrates that it’s not what you do for a living that matters really but who you are as a person, the quality of your mind, the depth of your reasoning and breadth of your sanity.
Tonight, thanks to this story told, Superman is getting his cape back.
As for Tom Cruise, not even he, with his immense fortune, persuasiveness and star powers, could accomplish what Bill accomplished in his final 24 hours. Not even half.
Tonight, Tom’s spending his bucks in 3-D time on earth.
And the planetary orbit rights itself yet again …