My Friend, Ben

Adults aren’t supposed to have imaginary friends. I suspect that it doesn’t matter if the “friend” in question was actually a real person. Possibly, that makes it worse. Yes, I’m well aware that there is a fine line between “creative” and “crazy.”

I’m going to tell you about my good friend, Ben Franklin.

Yes, I know he’s been dead for centuries. No, I never actually see him. Yes, I know he’s in my mind. No, I don’t care that he’s not really there.

Ben comes around from time to time, and I show him the sights, or explain to him the miracles of today’s world. I’ve told him all about air travel and explained the concept of “lift.” He asks millions of questions. Should I be concerned that Ben will find out he’s smarter than me? I suspect he already knows this but is using me for information.

When he asks me something I don’t know or can’t remember, I just put in a bunch of authoritative sounding technobabble, “Yeah, those flaps are where they put the phlebotinum they found in the unobtainum mines of Pandora. It makes the double isopropyl diaphoniscope rotate the lift generating oscillation elevator to propel the plane forward.” That worked great until he asked me to give him a demonstration.

I’ve told him all about the practical applications of electricity, and all the things we use it to do. I figured he’d love knowing the places his experiments led, because if I’d invented something, I’d want to know, even if I was dead. Besides, maybe one day, when he’s soaked up our technology, he’ll slip me a brilliant idea I can pass off as my own and make into millions.

He’s never fearful of new ideas, and he never argues with me that these things could never be. Not like that jerk Nathanial Hawthorne. He says I’m lying and that my life of comfort and sloth is the work of the devil. He doesn’t visit any more.

Just last week, Ben showed up and demanded I tell him about computers. He had found out about the Internet from some other imaginary people, and felt hurt that I hadn’t told him about it before. He said, he thought we were friends, and that I’d been holding out on him.

I sighed.

I told him I wasn’t sure if he were ready for the Internet, and wasn’t sure if he’d be all that interested. He told me that he’d be the judge of that.

So, I told Ben Franklin all about computers, and networking and applications. I glossed over social networking and didn’t tell him about Nigerian spammers, “naughty pictures,” and trolls. There was a long digression about phones, since I’d also failed to mention these simultaneous voice transmission modules, or that distance no longer mattered for instantaneous communication. Talking with Ben is exhausting.

I often learn a good deal from our talks. Ben has taught me more than almost anyone on the planet, and I hope he’ll still speak to me after I let slip the plot of the first National Treasure movie. He was pretty offended about the whole thing. I can’t say I blame him.

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