I’m Batman

Tim Burton’s Batman was released in 1989. My son, Sean, was six years old. My son, Quinn, was three. While Batman was still in theaters, we went to see it as much as we could, a minimum of eight to 10 times. Then we bought it on VHS cassette and continued to watch it.

For some occasion, years later — Christmas, Father’s Day, a birthday — Quinn bought me a Batman watch. Not to be outdone, and for the same occasion, Sean bought me Batman floor mats, front and back, for my car. (Yes. They’re still in the car I drive today.) And so it began. I now have a collection of Batman paraphernalia that would be the envy of Bruce Wayne.

The Rescue

From 2004 to 2006, I lived in Middletown, Connecticut. Given the close proximity of my residence to Cromwell, Connecticut, I did my grocery shopping at the Stop & Shop store in Cromwell. One day, while strolling the aisles in Stop & Shop, I encountered an Irish family. I know they were Irish for a number of reasons:

First, the mother was red-haired, freckled, and beleaguered. Second, the sources of her beleaguerment were her four children, all under the age of five. Third, she was unaccompanied by anything resembling an adult companion like … oh … I don’t know … the kids’ father. Fourth and most tellingly, she kept screaming loudly and unabashedly at one boy, apparently the eldest of the lot, “Seamus Hickey!”

Pegging her for a damsel in distress and thinking I might ameliorate her plight, I approached and asked her if I might have a word with young Seamus. She said, with no attempt to conceal her desperation, “Yes, please!”

I happened to be wearing one of the numerous Batman watches I’d acquired at that point. Beckoning Seamus to where I was standing, I knelt down and asked him, “Can you keep a secret.”

With quintessentially smiling Irish eyes, he said, “Yeah.”

Glancing around the store suspiciously, the better to create an atmosphere of conspiracy, I leaned closer to Seamus and pulled up my left sleeve, revealing my Batman watch. You’d have thought I’d fired a starter’s pistol.

Seamus took off like a child possessed. He sprinted up and down every aisle, pointing toward where I stood stock still with my face flapping in the breeze, exclaiming at the top of his little lungs, “Holy shit! That guy’s Batman!”

I looked with a combination of sheepishness and apology at Beleaguered Mom and shrugged my shoulders helplessly. Beleaguered Mom shook her head, rolled her eyes, refrained from calling me a moron, and resumed her unabashed screaming, “Seamus Hickey!”

The Moral

I’m a believer in lifelong learning. One of the things I continue to learn is that any notions of control are flat-footed fallacies. Regardless of whatever comforting delusions we might harbor, we’re all one moment, one heartbeat away from catastrophe. That’s why God invented joy.

In every non-catastrophic moment, we have the opportunity to be joyous, to be grateful, to celebrate the reality that, in this instant, we’re good. I’m sure Beleaguered Mom knows that better than I do.

Fact: You can’t control anything, especially little Irish boys named Seamus Hickey, even if you’re Batman.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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    • Larry, I’ve come to precisely the same conclusion.

      Dennis is taking a 10-day sabbatical starting Friday. But I have more positive stories in the works. I promise.

      Thank you for your comments and for your support.

  1. Mark: I live in NYC. I can’t imagine approaching anyone in the grocery store – with or without a Batman watch. It’s not that most New Yorkers are hostile – although my wife’s cautionary advice is “Never make eye contact! Especially on the subway!” – it’s just that they want to be left alone. That’s the vibe. Space is at a premium here, so don’t invade it, with or without good intensions. That said, you can always offer to help an elderly person – read as “Much older than Jeff” – who is try to cross the six lanes of traffic that make up Queens BLVD before the light changes. And I’ve never once been called “Moron.”

    Loved this piece. Laughed out and almost shot hot coffee everywhere. I needed this, Mark.

    • Oops. Sorry about the coffee, Jeff. 😉

      I certainly understand context. I can’t imagine what kind of trouble my gregariousness would cause me New York. It’s likely no accident that we don’t live there.

      As for Seamus Hickey, Anne suggested I look him up this morning. That little hellion grew up to win a geography prize in middle school. And he made Honors every year in high school. I guess you can’t judge a kid by his reaction to Batman.

      Thank you for weighing in here, my friend.

    • 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

      Dang! Busted again.

      And that ten letters and four vowels thing just freaks me out. I had no idea.

      Thank you for leaving me with no place to hide. 😉

  2. Oh, I absolutely loved this story, Mark. Thank you for sharing this as I think some part of us always wants to believe in superheroes-I think Seamus’s reaction might be like mine if I ever got to meet people that I deeply admire, who continue to inspire me and make me believe in the wonders of life. I’d likely run screaming through the aisles or the bookstore or where ever it was that we met -hopefully with much joy! 🙂 And Batman Lives!! You’ve got those superhero qualities, my friend!! (The ways you connect with children from your heart to theirs-)

    • Thank you so much, Laura. You humble me again.

      I actually suspect children are the ones with the superpowers. They detect the kid who still lives in me, engage that little kid, and bring him up to their levels of freedom and imagination. Even when I share my books with them, I feel so much more alive.

      I’m so grateful for your comments. If I’m Batman, you’re Wonder Woman.

    • Kevin, thank you. Your comments made me smile for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that you’re an Irish boy your own self. 😉

      At some point, I’ll get around to writing another post about Batman and about a conversation I had with my sons at the point at which the older one had just read Frankenstein in the Illustrated Classics for Children version. Truly amazing.

      In the meantime, I’m grateful to you for your reading and for your comments.

  3. Oh this was very entertaining Mark, well written and descriptive. It s really magical what runs in the mind of the innocent and vulnerable children. Pre deposited exposure and the facts of reality have not been filtered. I laugh at the image of Seamus running away … was he in fear of a superhero for his thoughts of being caught misbehaving? Or was he just so excited he just met the amazing Batman?
    And how did it make you feel? 😀. This little tale tells more in the imaginative mind!
    Thanks Mark!

    • Wow. Terrific reflections and questions here, Paula.

      My sense was that Seamus had no fear and no awareness of (or self-consciousness about) misbehaving. He was just a pure hellion in the innocence of childhood. It made me feel wondrous and a little envious that Seamus could just accept at face value — no doubts or second guesses — that I was Batman and that he’d encountered Batman in a grocery store, of all places. There’s still a part of me that hopes Seamus’s mom never told him the truth.

      Thank you for your comments and for inviting me to reflect on this story even more.

salon 360°