Spidey Senses are tingling

Spiderman, MP David Wilks and me, on hunches, instincts and gut feelings.

Our Kootenay-Columbia Member of Parliament, David Wilks, was in the news briefly this week.

The Canadian Bar Association and Criminal Lawyers’ Association on Tuesday were criticising surveillance powers in the government’s anti-cyberbullying bill, Bill C-13. At one point, Michael Spratt of the CLA tangled with MP Wilks about the use of one’s spider senses (the following is taken from the Globe and Mail).

“What we want to avoid is police obtaining personal and private information based on their spidey senses, which happens all the time and the courts have a dim view on that,” Mr. Spratt said, speaking about the new powers in the bill.

Mr. Wilks, interrupting, said: “As a police officer, my spidey senses, as you [call] them, are the one and only thing that will allow me sometimes to move forward in an investigation that will eventually bring forward more information in a case.”

Well, indeed. While there are likely flaws in Bill C-13, I must agree with MP Wilks that instincts, hunches and gut feelings should not be discounted — though no one expects them to stand up in court. I know my instinctive reactions to a problem have often guided me to a decision. Not always 100 per cent for the better, of course.

For our older readers, “spider senses,” or “spidey senses,” are one of the superhuman attributes of the amazing Spiderman, a rather palooka-like everyman who was bitten by a radioactive spider in his youth developed superpowers, which set him on a career of fighting crime (crimes usually committed by supervillains). “My ‘spidey senses’ are tingling*,” meant there was immediate danger, present but hidden.

So no wonder MP Wilks, a former cop, would understand the value of spidey senses. I understand their value as well.  But the term “spidey senses” elicits something electric, a tingling announcing that “action will soon be your reward,” as the song says (“Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman”). In my case, my warning signals manifest themselves as a heavy pain in my belly, like a snake has hatched in there and is squirming around.

A hypothetical situation: I have to decide whether to publish a certain piece in the newspaper. There is something dangerous about it — perhaps it’s potentially libelous. My reaction upon reading it will be unpleasant twisting in my guts, with the thought that if the piece is not published — if it is killed — an unhappy situation will result. If it is published, something even worse will result. In my hard-won experience, I have learned that this is usually how it plays out, and so I have learned to trust my spidey senses — or rather, the snake in my belly. Following the spidey senses doesn’t stand up in the court of the angry writer. But that’s better than ending up in a real court.

But enough of all these spiders and snakes. The important point is that the Amazing Spiderman and the cool things he says have entered our lexicon. “Spidey senses” has become part of our everyday speech, and Spiderman an awesome linguistic role model (“Is he strong? Listen, bud! He’s got radioactive blood!”).

* In Spanish, the term is “mi sentido aracnido zumba.” I learned that from reading a Mexican Spiderman comic.