what-ifBy John Pellegrini

What if your local funeral home used a Crazy Eddie “Our Prices Are INSANE” style commercial? What if your favorite call-in radio psychologist was doing his or her show in the nude? What if all Politicians were no longer able to say anything but the truth? What if our economy was based on cheese? What if we had more letters in our alphabet? What if every human on the planet was a vegetarian? What if you had to choose between fame or beauty? What if there were no goats?

What if the other planets in our solar system were only half the distance they are from Earth? What if tuna tasted like chicken? What if everything tasted like chicken, except chicken? What if no one had yet invented the Stock Market? What if you were the only person on the planet who spoke English? What if the Crusades had been a failure? What if the rest of the universe is merely a mirage? What if China had not given up so early in its history?

What if fish lived on land? What if farts didn’t stink? What if the Earth really was flat? What if the Mona Lisa was no longer considered to be great art? What if you weren’t allowed time off from work? What if the Communists had won? What if personal hygiene was no longer important to anyone?

What if farmers became musicians? What if Miss Manners became President? What if church services were based on the game of football? What if time zones were based on twenty-minute increments? What if we all ate trees? What if Picasso illustrated coloring books? What if the blacks had enslaved the whites? What if Rome hadn’t fallen? What if ducks couldn’t swim? What if there was no desert?

What if coal didn’t burn? What if there was no Social Security? What if we only lived to be thirty? What if talking pictures had never caught on? What if constipation was not a problem? What if you didn’t need to invest? What if all the great entertainers had to dig ditches for a living? What if you didn’t have parents? What if Napoleon hadn’t retreated? What if gunpowder hadn’t been discovered? What if we lost the ability to smell? What if cars ran on gravel?

What if no one was interested in flight? What if your job depended on setting fire to people’s homes? What if the continents were in different locations? What if no one ever learned to cook? What if ballerinas wore spiked heels? What if dogs weren’t friendly? What if we weren’t dependent on water? What if the sky was yellow? What if droughts never occurred? What if America was still a British Colony? What if birthdays weren’t celebrated? What if they were celebrated monthly instead of yearly?

What if we were allergic to flowers? What if trees could fight back? What if gold had no value? What if everyone owned his or her own oil well? What if we never had learned to harness electricity? What if the Dark Ages still existed? What if every business venture was an astounding success? What if JFK hadn’t gone to Dallas? What if Oliver Stone hadn’t gone to Vietnam? What if Prohibition hadn’t happened? What if all plants were poisonous? What if you couldn’t watch TV?

What if you didn’t want your computer? What if evil didn’t exist? What if cows could talk? What if newspapers couldn’t print advertising? What if the media really wasn’t biased? What if you only went to school for six years? What if there were only three notes to every piece of music? What if no one invented the bicycle? What if no one ever panicked?

What if there was no chocolate? What if you had to eat the same thing for the rest of your life? What if you had to ask permission to move to another state? What if our bodies no longer had odors? What if we never appreciated anything? What if antiseptics were never discovered? What if grass was as sharp as razor blades? What if there were no insects? What if Merv Griffin hadn’t been born? What if Tarzan married Cheeta? What if civilization had come out of South America instead of the Middle East? What if birds never rested?

What if you had to pay for your oxygen? What if we were all Buddhists? What if San Francisco and New York exchanged places? What if Ben Franklin had won and the turkey was our national emblem? What if the Titanic hadn’t sunk? What if Fermi hadn’t seen the traffic light? What if America had remained neutral?

What if Bob Dylan’s lyrics had made sense? What if FDR didn’t have a New Deal? What if Texas had remained part of Mexico? What if the Vatican had been located in Moscow? What if birds didn’t crap on your car? What if metal didn’t rust? What if Beta had won out over VHS? What if we still had quadraphonic sound? What if typewriters didn’t use the QWERTY system? What if we read right to left, as in Hebrew? What if plants could water themselves? What if the Europeans had never colonized anything? What if we could all sing opera? What if there was no sand on the beach?

What if the oceans had different names? What if no one liked sugar? What if rubber wasn’t necessary for tires? What if grass only grew to the exact length we wanted? What if snakes were cuter? What if you slept on a straw mat? What if we didn’t have heat? What if there were no cosmetics? What if obesity was considered sexy? What if compost didn’t rot? What if monopolies weren’t outlawed? What if we still had radio like in the 1940s? What if no one discovered fermentation?

What if everyone could dance the tango? What if Hawaii had mosquitoes? What if bananas tasted like mustard? What if no one cared about sex? What if you couldn’t have lumber to use for anything? What if carpeting was made out of suede? What if you couldn’t remove stains? What if pianos only had twenty keys? What if cars could go sideways as well as forward and backward? What if you couldn’t make any money until you were fifty years old? What if truth was arbitrary?

What if professional athletes weren’t paid? What if politicians were forced to serve? What if the Army ran everything and the Navy, Air Force, and the Marines were subservient? What if there was no country music? What if Ireland, Scotland, and Wales had defeated England? What if we didn’t walk? What if the whole planet was hot and steamy? What if you could never order another cappuccino for as long as you lived? What if no one gave a damn about super models?

What if the Earth rotated the other way? What if the atmosphere didn’t change at higher altitudes? What if lasers didn’t work? What if you could only rely on your memory? What if written history didn’t exist? What if Beethoven composed polkas? What if the Sistine Chapel was done in stick figures? What if Pizza was made of tofu? What if all restaurants served exactly the same thing? What if you could only live for today? What if you had to live your life over and over and over again? What if there were no cacti? What if Seattle had nice weather all the time? What if Canada was our biggest state? What if flags were outlawed? What if everyone had to wear cowboy hats? What if snow was the consistency of pudding. What if cats didn’t have hairballs? What if clowns staged a revolution? What if there were no streets? What if charge cards weren’t allowed? What if horses were house pets? What if winter wasn’t cold? What if certain mammals didn’t hibernate? What if the bison hadn’t been hunted to near extinction? What if the waltz hadn’t caught on? What if you didn’t have teeth?

What if all history was recorded as really bad poetry? What if everyone played the bongos? What if there was no beat? What if the ground was sharp? What if mud was edible? What if airplanes could only fly a few feet above buildings? What if there was no beer? What if baseball was played with weapons? What if Cuba was an American-controlled dictatorship? What if pigs were sacred? What if flowers bit everyone? What if beans didn’t cause gas? What if lobsters tasted like they look? What if you could mine diamonds in your own back yard? What if we could all write like Shakespeare? What if no one cared? What if a different species was given a greater intellect than humans? What if plants produced ammonia or sulfur? What if the only way we could save the planet would be to nuke the San Andrea’s Fault Line? What if no one had microwaves? What if the cat was man’s best friend? What if cows couldn’t be domesticated? What if we could only wear moccasins? What if no one ever said, “Have a nice day?”

What if we all had vertigo? What if dreams were real and reality was a fake? What if Timothy Leary hadn’t taken LSD? What if the Communists had been nicer? What if horses walked upright? What if everyone paused at three o’clock each day to sing a song together? What if we all watched Oprah? What if everyone lived in the same city? What if no one ever slept again? What if the world ended tonight? What if the circus came to town every week? What if you made your fortune in manure? What if all the animals in the world got mad at us? What if there were no mountains? What if nothing had ever changed after the Byzantine Empire? What if the edge of space was like a giant rubber band and everything that went up against it snapped right back down again?

What if everything ever written had to have the same title? What if you could only cook with olive oil? What if we all spoke the same language? What if no one ever migrated? What if clouds didn’t make rain? What if nothing was warm and fuzzy? What if funerals were parties? What if there were no stairs anywhere? What if everyone had the same idea all the time? What if businesses had to operate for free? What if you could only choose one job for your entire life? What if there were no rain checks allowed? What if we all lived in igloos? What if you couldn’t ask questions? What if you couldn’t spit ever again for any reason? What if everyone was physically fit and perfect in every way? What if we all were wiped out by a mysterious belching disease?

What if no one had invented concrete? What if there were only seventeen hours in a day? What if no one was allowed to own a car? What if all the buildings in this country were only five stories high or less? What if pork was kosher? What if mules had been favored over horses? What if everyone got tired of sports? What if your sinuses were on the outside of your head? What if no one discovered how to build ships? What if you could only watch golf? What if Pharaoh had treated Israel like equals? What if Woman had been created first? What if there was no nighttime? What if the only transportation was motorcycles? What if we could control the weather? What if Einstein was wrong? What if Freud was wrong? What if Columbus had been correct? What if everything we know about history had actually been made up by some drunken college professor in 1924?

What if you could come up with a thousand or so ideas by just asking what if?