Have you ever thought about having a superpower? Most of us would think of being one of the Avengers with some sort of neat ability. Maybe you could turn things into liquid, walk through walls or regenerate at an alarming rate. These would be all cool things to have super powers. I possess a power that is so useless that it really only serves two purposes — the power of the random fact.
My origin story began like many other superheroes. One day I was reading a book and discovered that Mickey Mouse’s debut was in the short film “Steamboat Willie” and was a replacement for Disney’s prior character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Discovering this knowledge that my parents didn’t know made me feel powerful. Lightning flashed, winds blew the posters off my wall and an energy took me over (all hypothetical, mind you).
The next several years I attempted to hone my skills, finding out more useless information, studying backlogs of facts, watching TV for the next celebrity couple and breakups. It’s amazing what you can learn from several news sources. Did you know that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers backed Johnny Cash on his album “Unchained?”
By my 20s I was a random fact machine, besting trivia team’s by myself and leaving people in awe (well, I think they just couldn’t believe I knew so many useless facts). I became arrogant with my trivia knowledge. Want to know what song was on the top of the charts in 1973? “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and Dawn. What is Boston Red Sox great Nomar Garciaparra’s real first name? Anthony. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Trick question. Moving on.
But like any good superhero, I found my own personal kryptonite — family life. As movies, music and TV continued to march on into the future, I found myself spending more time with my wife and children and less on how many countries celebrate an independence day from the British Empire. And who really cares to know that Roald Dahl, famous for writing “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach,” was a spy for Great Britain during World War II?
But much like Luke Skywalker’s attempt to live life like a hermit and not use his Jedi powers, I have recently rediscovered some of my uncanny ability. During a recent conversation, I discussed this very topic of pointless facts with a co-worker. I went off on a tangent about the relationship of Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck and why Scrooge’s accent had me curious about Donald being his nephew. This spun off into the relationship of Huey, Dewey and Louie to Donald and Scrooge and an eventual trip down the characters’ genealogy. It was exhilarating. But would I use my powers for good or evil?
As silly as it is, this thought about what knowledge I have retained and what I have set to the wayside has intrigued me. Why didn’t I pick up math better? Why do I struggle with remembering errands? I hope that I don’t end up being elderly and telling my grandchildren only useless information.
Well, it’s time to wrap this thing up, get back to work and…did you know… ?
Zach Stich is the managing editor of The Fergus Falls Daily Journal. His column appears Friday.