3. Flight

I think I inherited my superpower from my father who once engaged in a 15-year correspondence with the State of Maine, disputing some property tax or other, I forget the details. Endless letters of wearying detail – "Allow me to draw to your attention paragraph three, line four of my letter of May 17, 1986, reiterated in my letter of November 18th, 1989, paragraph two, line two..." He comes from a long line of lawyers and judges, though he doesn't practice law himself.

"What is this?" he'd exclaim, exasperated, having received yet another injustice-by-mail. As he read, the solution would dawn on him yet again: "I will write them a letter!" he'd declare, and sit down at his computer. He eventually wore down three generations of tax clerks by out-bureaucratizing them. He's the master.

While my father was tapping away at his keyboard, my mother was accepting delivery of a 36-inch TV in the front hall. "Why did you order such an enormous TV?" I asked.

"Oh, they were offering these TVs to people who signed up for a Visa card I already had, so I asked them if they'd send me one for being a longtime customer."

She signed the form and showed the delivery men where to put it.

"It never hurts to ask," she added.