I was in a phone booth changing my clothes when a policeman knocked.
I slid the door open a crack, standing in my underwear. “Yes?”
“What the hell are you doing in there?” the policeman asked.
“Changing my clothes.”
“I can see that. Why?”
“I’m not sure you’d believe me.”
The cop motioned with his finger. “Get out of there.”
“Right now? I’m in my underwear.”
“Yes, right now. On the double.”
“Can I at least put my pants back on?”
“Your pants never should have been off in the first place. We have decency laws in this city.”
“And I agree with those laws,” I said. “That’s why I locked myself in a phone booth: to change my clothes. Why, if I was your average criminal miscreant, I would have just changed in the middle of the sidewalk, with no regard for societal values.”
The cop sighed. “Put your pants on, then step outside.”
I yanked on my trousers, tightening my belt. “I assure you, officer, this is not how it looks. I have a perfectly rational explanation.”
“I suspect it’s exactly how it looks. Out.”
I slipped into my loafers, then moved onto the sidewalk.
“I’ll need to see your ID,” the cop said, holding out his hand.
“You mean like a driver’s license?”
“Don’t play dumb. You’re in enough trouble as it is.”
“Well, here’s the thing,” I said. “I don’t exactly have a driver’s license.”
“You don’t drive?”
“I don’t need to. I fly.”
“Ah.” The cop sighed. “Do you have any form of identification?”
“Can I unbutton my coat?” I asked.
“I’m already citing you for indecent exposure. Do you want another charge added to the list?”
“It’s just that I have to unbutton my coat to show you my ID.”
The cop rolled his eyes. “Sure. Why not? Just keep your hands where I can see them, and unbutton the coat slowly.”
I obeyed, loosening all of the buttons. I pulled back the coat to reveal my shirt.
The cop looked at me, then down at the shirt … then back up at me.
“That’s really the only ID I have,” I said. “Is it sufficient?”
“That’s not an ID. That’s a blue shirt with a red ‘S’ on it.”
“Exactly. That’s my ID.”
The cop sighed. “Are you telling me you’re Superman?”
“No, sir. ‘Superman’ is a registered trademark, and I obey all copyright laws. In fact,” I added, “I endeavor to uphold all of our great nation’s laws. That’s why they call me Super Good Guy to the Rescue.”
“Super Good Guy?” the cop asked, rubbing his temples.
“To the Rescue, yes. But you can call me SGGR for short.”
“OK then.” The cop reached for his radio. “Dispatch? I’m going to need some backup here.”
“Haven’t you heard of me before?” I asked. “I help the city by fighting crime. The very mention of my name instills fear in the heart of the criminal underworld.”
“Does it now?”
“Yes, sir. In fact, you and I are on the same side. Instead of wasting time hassling me for no good reason, you could be my sidekick. Together, we could ensure the safety of all the city’s law-abiding citizens. What do you think?”
“I think I’m taking you in,” the cop said. He spoke into his radio again: “Dispatch? Backup.”
“I’m endowed with powers you can’t even imagine,” I said.
“Oh, you’re endowed, all right. That’s why I’m arresting you for lewd conduct and indecent exposure. Put your hands out, please.”
“You got to believe me,” I said. “I can see into the future. That’s why I was in the phone booth changing my clothes. I anticipated that a crime was going to be committed, so I was preparing myself.”
The cop slapped a pair of thick, icy handcuffs on my wrists. “If you can see into the future, then how come you didn’t know I was going to bust you?”
I looked at him, blinking. “I assure you, my superpowers are real.”
“I’m sure they are, buddy.” The cop started to frisk me. He reached into my pocket and pulled out a large, blue ball of fabric. He mulled over it, then looked at me, his eyebrows raised.
“Tights,” I said, looking at the ground. “I wear tights.”
The cop unfurled them so that they dangled from his hand. Passersby stopped and stared.
“You seriously wear tights?” the cop asked. “They’re part of your … outfit?”
I kept my gaze at the ground. “I was about to put them on before you knocked on the phone booth.”
“You keep these rolled up in a pretty tight ball,” he said. “Don’t you worry about them getting wrinkled?”
“I don’t know how else to carry them. They don’t fit in my wallet, and it’s not like I can carry a purse.”
“They make European handbags for men.”
“It’s still a purse. Haven’t you seen that Seinfeld episode?”
“How about a fanny pack?”
“Not my style. They’re too fuddy-duddy, and they scream middle-aged.”
“Don’t you go knocking fanny packs,” the cop said, pointing his nightstick at me. “I wear one all the time when I’m off-duty. I especially like taking it to Disneyland. It gives me something to carry all the souvenirs we buy from the gift shop.”
“Fanny packs aren’t becoming of a superhero,” I pointed out. “They’re not masculine enough.”
The cop raised an eyebrow. “You wear tights, and you’re worried about appearing masculine?”
“Most superheroes wear tights.”
“I don’t think Batman wears tights. He wears body armor.”
“It depends on which Batman. The Adam West Batman wore tights.”
“Yeah, well, the Michael Keaton Batman wore body armor.”
“Like I said, it depends on which Batman. Not all Batmans are created equal.”
“Why don’t you just wear the tights under your trousers? That way, you wouldn’t have to wad them into a tight, wrinkled ball.”
“Why are you so concerned about my tights, officer?”
“Hey! I’m the one asking the questions here. I’d keep your mouth shut if I were you. You’re in enough trouble as it is.”
He prodded me with the nightstick. “Just answer the question.”
I sighed. “I can’t wear the tights under my trousers. My legs would sweat.”
“I thought tights breathed?”
“They don’t breathe well when you wear them under trousers. And if you were to take them off, you’d have a hell of a time getting them back on again.”
“You should wear body armor,” the cop said. “What if you got shot in the leg?”
“It wouldn’t affect me. I have supernatural powers.”
“Have you ever been shot before?”
“Then how do you know it wouldn’t affect you?”
“I’m just assuming.”
“That’s a broad assumption.”
“Not really, considering I can fly and all.”
“Ah,” the cop said. “I forgot you can fly.”
“Care for a demonstration?”
“Not at the moment. You’re under arrest.”
“I’ll just fly to the top of that building and come right back.”
“Sure you will.”
“Honest. You don’t have to worry about me flying off and not returning. That’s not my style. After all, like I said, you and I are on the same side.”
“I wasn’t exactly worried about you flying off and not returning.”
I frowned. “I really can fly, you know.”
“I’m sure you can.”
“I just can’t do it in civilian clothes. I have to be in my superhero outfit, first. Those are the rules. I don’t make them; I just live by them.”
“And I suppose that’s why you were in the phone booth changing, right?”
“That’s exactly right, officer. So you can see that my story adds up.”
“No, not really. The math’s still a little fuzzy.”
The officer’s radio went off. “Officer Smith? Officer Smith? There’s a shoplifter in the vicinity of Maple and Seventh. He’s headed in your direction. Please respond.”
“I think that’s the crime I predicted,” I said. “Remember how I told you I can see into the future? That’s why I was changing into my superhero outfit, because I knew that shoplifter was going to … well, shoplift.”
“Ah-ha.” The cop motioned. “Come on. Let’s go. I’m taking you to my squad car.”
“But an evil shoplifter is getting away!” I protested. “If you and I work together, we can stop him!”
The cop motioned to his car, which was parked at the curb. He opened the door. “In you go. Watch your head.” He chuckled, holding his stomach. “Unless, of course, your head is impervious to metal. Is that one of your superpowers?”
“We can’t let him get away!” I said. “Give me my tights back. Please!”
The cop pushed me inside and slammed the door.
“No,” I said, wiggling in the handcuffs. “You’ve got to let me go. He’s getting away.”
The cop walked to the front of the patrol car and climbed behind the wheel. “Did I read you your rights?”
“No,” I said, sighing. “But I have a feeling you’re going to.”
“Well, how do you like that?” He turned and grinned. “Maybe you really can see into the future after all.”
We drove away, then, leaving the criminal element to swarm the city. It was a devastating day for justice … as well as my tights, which have never been returned. As far as I know, they’re still sitting in an evidence locker at the local precinct.
Without them, I’m totally disempowered. I no longer have the strength to fly, or the pocket change to visit random phone booths. My blue shirt with the red ‘S’ hangs in my closet, all wrinkled and in need of a cleaning. I’m unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It sometimes takes two, or even three bounds. And that’s on a good day.
But worst of all, I’m left emasculated and unable to protect the citizenry from the evil, nefarious criminal masterminds that are overtaking the city.
Which I suppose is just as well. After all, it has been getting harder to find a phone booth these days.
And I’m not too fond of changing in portable restrooms. Especially when my burly cape touches the urinal.