The other day I saw a poll, one of those ridiculous hypotheticals I think was designed to test a person’s personality, although what exactly was being tested and what the answers meant are still beyond me.
There were four magical objects offered, each with an impossible ability but having a limitation. They were a notebook, a car, a pen and a wallet, and these were their descriptions:
- A – a notebook full of blank paper. Whatever you need to turn in in a printed format, you will find it inside this notebook, properly formatted and complete. The supply of paper is inexhaustible. The catch: The overall quality is only as good as if you’d done it yourself so all it really does is save you time. However, you’ll never be accused of cheating.
- B – a car that will transport you anywhere you want to go. All you need to do is think of a place, and the car will take you there in five minutes. The catch: You will arrive at your destination five minutes later than you honestly intend. That is, if you plan to go somewhere at 7:45 because you really want to be there at 7:50, you’ll still get there at 7:55. If you plan to go somewhere a day early, you’ll appear the day you wanted to be early for, and so on.
- C – a pen that writes the modern equivalent of Shakespeare or James Joyce or Voltaire. You will almost universally be considered the genius of your time at whatever you produce. The catch: Once the ink runs out, the pen is worthless.
- D – a wallet with an infinite amount of money in it. The money is legitimate and inflation won’t be a problem unless you go crazy with it. The catch: It’s all in $1 bills and people will naturally grow suspicious if you spend too much.
In my experience, the wallet is the most popular response. While it’d be tough to buy a house, especially with all that unreported income, all necessities and petty luxuries will be monetarily provided for for the rest of your life.
The notebook and car are the second or third most popular choice, depending on the demographics of the respondents. Both save time. The notebook appeals to students, white-collar workers and pseudo-intellectuals, with lots of crossover.
The car is usually picked by people who like to travel and are late everywhere anyway. It’s the freedom to pop in and see your family for dinner, go vacation across the world on the weekend or just miss the morning rush, with the sneaking worry that if being five minutes late became acceptable, you’d start being 10 minutes late.
The pen is the least common choice, probably because it appears the most limited. It’s only got enough magic to produce one moderately lengthy work – or maybe just a bunch of poems. And however good the product was, it would still feel like you’d cheated at it because you didn’t write it, exactly.
Magic is fun for the imagination, exactly because it’s fantastic and impossible. And analyzing hypotheticals too seriously is the most fun of all.
The wallet, so you know, is the wrong answer, because all of the others have value, too. For example, a classic script or novella will leave you richer than sin, and if you’ll “never be accused of cheating” for using the notebook, aren’t checks printed and turned in? Etc.
But the car is the best answer (if you can figure out why).