Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Mother of Invention

The life of an inventor is difficult. It’s not very glamorous or exciting, and it’s pretty hard work. The worst part is that the more successful you are, the harder your job becomes. Once people see that you have a knack for thinking up ideas to make life easier, then they expect that your next invention will be better, and that the next one will be even better than that, and that the one after that will be the best idea you ever had, and it just gets worse from there.
But the life of an inventor is fulfilling; you know that every light bulb moment you have will eventually help people in some way or another. More so if you’re someone who formulates new ways of conserving energy or dreams up an amazing new method of transportation. But even a lowly As-Seen-On-TV inventor can improve the lives of his fellow humans.
You probably haven’t heard of me. Or maybe you have. I’m the guy who came up with those heating/cooling cup holders a couple of years ago (“A thermostat for your beverage!”), and before that it was the headband comb (“Comb and accessory in one! Never be without a comb again!”).
Right now I’m working on my next big idea. But after a couple of weeks of brainstorming, tossing out mediocre ideas and improving the good ones, I’m beat. The past couple of mornings I have had to work really hard to gather up the willpower to get out of bed. This morning I had particular trouble.
As I lay there staring at the ceiling, waiting for a concept to appear in my head and trying to think of a way to force myself to get up, a thought appeared: “I should invent a way for people to stay in bed when they really should be going to work instead.”
And there it was. I could see the commercial in my mind: smiling actors carrying briefcases as they walked into the office, all while ensconced in snuggly duvet-like warmth; holding travel mugs of coffee while waiting for the bus, as they were nestled in varying stylish colors and patterns of comfort; attending an early morning meeting with colleagues, but still burrowed down in the same luxurious feeling they had woken to that morning. I could hear the marketing manager’s excited praise already: “It’s going to be bigger than the Snuggie!”
With such an encouraging fantasy to motivate me, I couldn’t wait to get to work. I leaped up, wrapped my down comforter around myself, and headed out for a walk around the block. Surely I could figure out a way to make that “sleeping in on a weekend” feeling portable.
I wasn’t very far from my front door when the first chilly early Spring air tried to permeate my shell of contentment. There was no way it could dishearten me; it only cooled my legs despite the flannel pajamas I wore, and I was confident that I could figure out a way to prevent chilly early Spring air from cooling the legs of the future purchasers of my product.
I rounded the corner at the end of the block and found that the gust of air I had experienced earlier had only been a light breeze, and folded the comforter more tightly around my head to ward off the icy fingers of the late Winter wind. But some clever designing, maybe fastening it into some kind of close hood… that would surely keep the icy fingers of a late Winter wind away from the heads of the future purchasers of my product.
I was halfway around the block when I passed one of the ladies from the senior living center down the street, who was out walking her dog. The bewildered look she gave me triggered another daydream, only this time it was more nightmare than fantasy: reviews. “Makes you look like a crazy person,” said one reviewer. “Nothing at all like being in bed,” said another. And finally, “If I wanted to walk around draped in a bed sheet, I’d throw a toga party. Honestly, who comes up with these things?” Then I heard the disappointed voice of the marketing manager echo through my head: “The Snuggie may look a little silly, but the reason it works is that you’re only looking silly in the comfort of your own home, not in a professional or business setting.”
I mourned the sacrifice of comfort to the fashion gods all the rest of the way back to my apartment, where I shut out chilly early Spring breezes, late Winter’s icy fingers, and the scorn of the shortsighted masses.
I had planned on going straight to the drawing board, but figured I’d warm myself up first, so back to bed I went. As I nestled down under the covers, my own body heat working together with the goose down in my comforter, I considered that this setback was probably a good thing, and that my bed was where I should have been all along.
Then I had my first actual good idea: “I’m going to stay in bed today,” I thought. “Maybe I’ll be ready to get back to work tomorrow.”

“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention… arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness. To save oneself trouble.”
―Agatha Christie

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