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“Can I be your guy in the chair?”
When Ned finds out that his buddy Peter Parker is actually Spider-Man, he wants in on the action. He puts himself forward as Peter’s self-appointed “handler;” the guy who tracks Peter’s movements and provides information just in time.
This proves both useful—and comic—at the climax of Spider-Man: Homecoming when Peter is battling the Vulture and Ned provides backup from the school library. Ned shuttles between computers using a rolling office chair, tracking Peter’s phone, calling Happy Hogan and telling Peter how to find the lights on the car he’s appropriated. Thrilled to be helping, Ned blissfully exclaims, “Guy in the chair!”
Ned is just the latest in a long line of “guys in the chair” in pop culture. Where would Kim Possible have been without Wade? Neo, Trinity and Morpheus would have been lost without Tank manning the switchboard on the Nebuchadnezzar. Without Chloe O’Brien, Jack Bauer wouldn’t have made it through eight seasons and three movies. Tony Stark needed help so badly that he built Jarvis.
And I’m a little jealous. What I wouldn’t give for my own personal “guy in the chair.” When I leave for work, my guy would tell me traffic conditions and the quickest route. When I need data in a meeting, he’d have it ready. At the grocery store, he could inform me if I’m getting the best deal and how to tell a ripe melon from a dud. Forget battling villains, having a “guy in the chair” available 24/7 would be a huge time saver.
A “guy in the chair” is a lot more than just a source of information, though. He can also be a valuable safety net.
There’s a scene in Homecoming where Ned and Peter are walking to school and they come across the disaster left in the wake of Peter’s attempted intervention in a robbery. The building across the street is a smoking ruin. The sight of it stops them and Ned breathes, “You could have died.”
Peter had been foolhardy. Feeling invincible, he’d rushed into a fight. His visions of being an Avenger had overcome his sense of self-preservation. It had to be Ned who pointed out how much danger Peter had been in.
Later in the film Peter takes the tracker out of his suit. Ned sits nearby, quietly examining the code that Tony Stark left implanted when he built the suit. Among the code he finds references to the “training wheels protocol.” Peter is annoyed at the realization that Tony was holding him back. He asks Ned to disable the protocol.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Ned says. Peter persists and eventually Ned relents, even though he clearly still has misgivings.
As it turns out, Ned was right. Peter ended up spending the night locked in a storage facility, missed an important academic tournament, and nearly got his classmates killed. (He also saves them, but had he listened to Ned, they might never have been in danger.)
More important than just a source of information or technical support, Ned acts as Peter’s conscience. He’s the voice of caution when Peter is heading down the wrong path.
So, maybe I do have my own personal “guy in the chair.” Perhaps there is a voice that guides my actions.
My conscience is there in the background, quietly evaluating the things I’m planning to do and telling me whether or not I ought to proceed. It also takes the form of sensible friends and biblical wisdom.
Like Peter, I’m free to ignore these things. I can listen to the advice I receive and then insist on going my own way. And, like Peter, if I ignore my conscience and sage advice, I’m liable for the consequences. Worse yet, those consequences might extend beyond my own life into the lives of others.
But sometimes, I just want to do what I want to do. The moral course of action doesn’t always feed my ego. I want to feel big and important, but pursuing that grandiosity can mean taking immoral actions. My conscience tries to steer me away; friends who have gone through similar experiences try to warn me; or perhaps I have the nagging feeling that this isn’t something Christ would do. And when I do it anyway, there’s a cost. Through experience, I have learned that the price of ignoring my conscience and other sources of wisdom can be high. Knowing that I have a “guy in the chair” is a start, though. With practice and experience, I hope to get better at listening to him.
He has been married to an extraordinarily patient woman for more than three decades and they have two adult sons. Kevin also has entirely too many DVD boxes with the words "Complete Series" on the cover. He enjoys exploring themes of faith through his fandoms.
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