|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
When my kids were young and still at home and we used to take car rides that were longer than 15 minutes, we would play a variety of word games or do mental exercises to pass the time. One of our favorites was, “The World's Greatest Invention Game”. In order to keep it more interesting I made a rule that the invention had to be something small and nothing like cars or penicillin or computers or anything else that seriously changed the world. Instead, we focused on things that would not necessarily come readily to mind. Chuck and I played this game on the way back to Maine from Florida and it made me realize that even in the decade that separates his generation from that of my other two, things had changed.
Chuck's first candidate for greatest invention was the iPod, because it is tiny but can hold thousands of songs. I told him that the new rules were that you couldn't name anything that could be classified as “high tech”.
“The iPod isn't high tech, Mom.” Chuck rolled his eyes. “It's been around forever.”
I didn't recall exactly how long ago the iPod came out, but it wasn't so far in the past that I would classify it as forever. I later found out that the iPod was introduced to the public in 2003. I guess that when you have only 14 short years of life on the planet, 6 years seems like forever, particularly when technology appears to be evolving at the speed of light.
I suggested that Scotch Tape was a great invention.
Chuck snorted. “Scotch Tape has nothing on Duck Tape.”
He had me there. I launched into a short lecture on the history of Duck Tape. It was invented during WWII because the Army needed some kind of adhesive tape to keep supplies anchored in open personal carriers that could be quickly removed but would hold up in wet and rain. It was called “Duck Tape because water ran off of it like a duck's back. Later, it was found to be excellent when doing duct work, so people began calling it “Duct Tape”, and then “Duck Tape” again, believing that it was an after the fact name when it was actually its original name.
I looked over at Chuck in the passenger seat. He had his head in his hands.
“One should never pass up an opportunity to learn something new and interesting,” I told him. He just groaned.
“OK, Mr. Smarty Pants, you come up with something.” I huffed.
He still had his head in his hands. “Give me a minute, I'm trying to think of something you can't possibly come up with a lecture about.”
He finally sat up, slapping his knee. “The Egg Beater. Egg Beaters saved millions of housewives from the horrors of carpal tunnel syndrome. And if you tell me that it was invented by Napoleon's chef during the Peninsula War so that he could always have omelets before a battle I'm going to throw myself out of the car.”
I had no idea whatsoever who invented the it or when so I wisely said nothing while trying to look as if I knew but was restraining myself.
“The mop.” I said. “Before mops everyone had to scrub floors on their hands and knees.”
Chuck looked at me with one raised insolent eyebrow. “Didn't you tell me once that mops just push dirt around and leave dirty water on the floor and the only way to get a floor clean was to get down on your hands and knees?”
“I didn't say anything about floors being cleaner, I just mentioned the advantages of being upright while cleaning them.” I retorted.
“That doesn't make it a great invention, it just makes it a less effective convenience.” Chuck insisted.
“Look, buddy,” I snarled, “until you have had the thrilling experience of cleaning a floor on your hands and knees, don't tell me the mop isn't a great invention.”
“I still say that just because something is more convenient doesn't mean that it is a great invention.” Chuck stated. “Now, the ball point pen, that was a great invention. No more searching for big feathers and sharpening quills, no more filling fountain pens that leak ink. Not to mention the fact that you can carry it around with you a lot easier.”
“And leave it in your pants pocket and throw it in the hamper so that your mother washes it and it leaks all over the clothes.” I said.
“Oops.” I could see that Chuck's memory was intact. “But isn't that washing machine a super invention?”
“Darned Skippy.” I agreed. “Without it you and I would be hanging down by the river every Saturday scrubbing our clothes on rocks.”
Chuck leaned back and closed his eyes. “You aren't going to start lecturing me about the history of clothes washing, and how scrubbing your clothes on rocks got them cleaner, are you?”
“Not a chance.” I assured him. “I don't know about you, but if scrubbing our clothes on rocks makes them cleaner, I'm willing to live with dirtier clothes.”
He sighed heavily. “Thank goodness, because if you started making us scrub our clothes on rocks I would have to reinvent running away and joining the circus.”
I can't say I blame him, even clowns would be better than that.