Friday, August 9, 2013


The original Star Trek series ran on television for three seasons from 1966-1969. I was in fourth through sixth grade during those years.

I recall playing adventure games with classmates on the playground of my elementary school. These were pretend-games in which we made-up and narrated stories, with a more or less Western theme, and which involved a lot of chasing and running around. Usually the way we incapacitated someone was by shooting them with our hands (the index finger and thumb functioning as the gun: this was thirty years before school shootings, or we probably would've ended up in the principal's office or worse for even pretending to have a gun). But we also used the Vulcan nerve pinch. “Spock!” you’d declare as you pinched someone at the base of the neck, and he would be expected to fall to the ground. Like finger-shooting, this had a remarkably short-term effect on the kid; he just got up after a few seconds and resumed the adventure.

I looked online for information about the nerve pinch. Apparently Trekkers disagree on the exact nature of this procedure: whether it temporarily interrupts neural signals to the brain, or perhaps it involves some kind of Vulcan telepathy. My favorite example of the nerve pinch of the movie Star Trek IV where Spock knocks out an obnoxious person on a bus.

I (lightheartedly) thought about uses, if humans had this ability. Meetings could certainly go faster if loquacious people knew they might be rendered unconscious by an annoyed colleague.

People on their cell phones! They're prime targets for spocking! My daughter and I were in line at the store yesterday, and the person in front of us was on her phone, talking loudly and rapidly, during the whole transaction. She hardly made eye contact with the cashier.

“Tom, she told me yada yada yada and this afternoon yada yada yada and if you don’t come over Thursday night you’ll have to come Saturday because all day Friday we’re ---” Spock! ("Customer spocked in lane 6 …”)

Actually, anyone who is having a conversation that disturbs other people (parents at a band concert, for instance) could be “spocked.” So many folks seem oblivious to their surroundings these days and the volume of their voices. Chatty folks in movie theaters: spock! People who cut in line: spock!

I’m still not used to young people who employ the F-word in casual conversation. “And I thought, 'What the f---?' Why don’t you--” Spock!

Of course, people could spock you and me, too! We’d have to be careful of our actions and conversation. Oh, no! That’s much harder than pointing out the faults of others! A common trait of human nature is that we excuse our own bad behavior but feel angry at the behavior of others.

How might we treat one another with more courtesy, kindness and respect if we faced the possibility of a Vulcan nerve pinch? How might we treat one another with more respect, anyway?

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