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Meandering on bad inventions

KEELY BROWNspecial to the daily
Keely Brown
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After putting out my kitchen fire today I started thinking about bad inventions.Not that I can call my kitchen burner ring a bad invention. It’s just broken. There’s a difference. But it still falls under the category of Things That Don’t Work, which brings to mind, and is often a subcategory of another category, Bad Inventions.A few months ago one of our major creditors gifted us with their latest innovation: A small, boomerang-shaped credit card fastened in a small leather holder. The card swings out at the touch of your thumb, just like a switchblade.

There’s always the same scenario whenever we present this card to retailers. First of all they exclaim at how “cute” it is. A moment later, these exclamations turn to curses as they try to get the damned thing to swipe in any size standard credit card machine. It may be cute, but it’s unswipeable.Apparently our boomerang card is a harbinger of more evil to come. One store clerk told us, with a hollow laugh, of newer, miniscule-sized credit cards that don’t fit into any type of machine known to mankind. Since the whole purpose of a credit card is to be used, I’m not sure why these things are hitting the market. I can only attribute this phenomenon to the proliferation of Bad Inventions that are cluttering up our culture.If you Google the words “new inventions,” the results can be disturbing. My favorite this week is the rotating toilet paper holder, ideal for families who can’t decide if they like to pull their roll from under or over. Just give it a turn and – voila! Toilet paper satisfaction.

Which leads to the question: When did we get so spoiled?What I find disturbing is that, instead of developing things like a cure for cancer or a new biotech fuel run on soybeans, the world’s top-flight researchers are instead creating things like mini-credit cards and turning toilet paper holders.I blame it all on what I call the sea monkey mentality.

When we were kids, we were told by the ads in the backs of our comic books that we could have a roomful of new best friends by just adding water (after, of course, sending a dollar to the above address). We envisioned being able to talk to our sea monkeys, and taking them out for walks. (By the way, the official sea monkey website calls them, and I quote, “dream pets.” These people obviously never had a Labrador retriever).When we got a bit older and wiser, we were taken in by more sophisticated wares, such as X-Ray Specs, which claimed “You can see the bones of your hand!” What this really meant to a generation of adolescent boys was, “You can see your next-door neighbor undressing!” – neither of which statement was true.The direct ancestor of this type of advertising, the infomercial, has continued the great American retail tradition of ripping off the public. The same kids who sent in a buck for the 1,000 military insignia patches that never arrived grew up to spend 50 bucks on the magic blender that burnt out after two weeks, or the hair straightener that leaves you looking like a cueball.Hope does indeed spring eternal, which is another way of saying that human beings will always be gullible. A certain portion of the population will always believe that if you can draw “Doodles the Deer” and send a copy of it into a certain art institute, you’ll end up seeing your paintings in the Louvre one day.


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