Now That's an Invention

As I see it, a great invention is one that can serve more than one purpose, something that is not thrown away after it has lost its utility or when a newer model comes along. I am reliving my childhood currently by rereading A Series of Unfortunate Events. Violet, a main character, is the inventor. She dreams of a life lived in a laboratory, in a workshop, with new materials at her beck and call. But unfortunately, this is not the case.

She must make life-saving devices out of almost nothing. And rely on them. These, to me, are the most impressive inventions. Creative IQ is a way to determine someone’s intelligence. How many things can you do with a sock? Go! In anatomy class we had this exercise. We were given the task of naming all of the uses for this obscure, unassuming object.

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It was a red, fabric strip, with Velcro at one end and rubber at the other. Now Think! Winner takes all, which was nothing. So what can you do with it? The generic, as always, come first. A necklace, a hair band, a bracelet, a skinny person’s belt. Then well, hmm. Well, it could be put on the back tire of a bike, you know, to keep the mud from splattering up your back.

Then our emergency drive kicks in. You’re running away from a guy with an ax, say, and you fall and twist your ankle. Now what? Well you have this thing, whatever it is, and you use to wrap your ankle and continue you speedy escape. Now you’re in trouble, stuck out on sea in a sinking sailboat. You blend right into the seascape, you have no hope of survival, but you have this thing.

And it’s red. You climb up the mast, and fly the [now] signal as far up as you can reach. Soon enough a huge herd of friendly eagles or a welcoming pirate ship sees you and your signal and you are safe, carried away from what was sure to be you doom. So the most impressive inventions are the unexpected ones. The ones you make in a pinch, when your life is depending on it. Not the throw away fads like Cylon toast toasters or snoopy Icee machines.

It’s the gum that’s holding the submarine porthole in or that paperclip that you just used to free your baby sister from the suitcase. Now that’s a good invention.