is the Bastard Son of Invention
by Mad Dog
It’s an artificial hand and arm that swing forward to perform a
congratulatory high five, perfect for those dorks who always miss the
other high-fiver’s hand and then grin sheepishly hoping no one,
including the other person, noticed.
||If you were going to
invent something, what would it be? A light bulb that never burns out? A
car that runs on unrented Waterworld videos? How about a remote
control that works when you’re sitting in traffic so you can change
your current life to, say, a Caribbean channel? Whatever it would be,
chances are it would better mankind. Or at least make life easier,
simpler, and hopefully Carrot Top-free.
But inventors don’t think like you
and me. They’re more concerned with getting those pesky ideas out of
their brain and into the patent office so they have room to store more
important things, like their birth date, home address, and how to use a
comb. They certainly have no shortage of ideas. It’s difficult to find
out just how many patents have been issued for inventions over the
years, but one online database catalogs over 30 million of them from
around the world. With that many it shouldn’t come as a surprise that
one or two are for useless items. Okay, so chances are 29,898,013 are
useless. Who’s counting?
Take the invention patented by Albert
Cohen of Troy, NY for an “Apparatus for simulating a ‘high five’.” It’s comprised of an
artificial hand and arm that swing forward to perform a congratulatory
high five, perfect for those dorks who always miss the other
high-fiver’s hand and then grin sheepishly hoping no one, including
the other person, noticed. Amazingly a patent search turns up no other
references to high fiving. This means Cohen has the market all to
himself, yet he doesn’t seem to be taking advantage of it since I
haven’t seen them in any store. Of course I don’t usually hang
around Klutzes-R-Us. Usually being the imperative word.
charmingly useless patent is for a Gravity Powered Shoe Air Conditioner.
Unfortunately it turns out gravity powers the air conditioner, not the
big market for the La-Z High-Fiver™ would be those people who over
high-five. You know, the ones who take every opportunity to congratulate
each other , including when their favorite chess team takes a rook, when
they cross the street successfully, and when a girl actually speaks to
them, even if all she said was, “Leave me alone or I’m calling the
police.” But since those people don’t have the La-Z High-Fiver to
help them out, they might consider giving their arm a much needed rest
by using the Motorized Ice Cream Cone patented by Richard Hartman of
Issaquah, WA. All you do is fill it with ice cream, stick out your
tongue, press a button, and the cone spins around for you. Hopefully it
comes with a warning sticker not to use it with a Popsicle lest your
tongue stick to it, much like the mid-winter tongue-on-the-flagpole
trick your brother tried to talk you into, only this time with a motor
Another charmingly useless patent is for a Gravity Powered Shoe Air
Conditioner. Unfortunately it turns out gravity powers the air
conditioner, not the shoe. Maybe next patent. The shoe contains a small
bellows, a compressor, an evaporator, and liquid-filled heat exchange
coils so it cools your feet as you walk. This is a good thing since with
all that extra equipment in your shoe your feet are bound to get pretty
hot. The patent says the same principle can also be used to heat a shoe.
If this is correct, it would put this innovation on par with the thermos
bottle for the Intelligent Invention Of All Time award. After all, a
thermos keeps hot food hot and cold food cold. How does it know when to
It would be nice if
they’d focus on things we really need. You know, like a
microwave oven with a “Reverse” button for those times when we
overcook our dinner.
Kool Kicks™ gravity-powered air conditioned shoes are bound to be a
little on the heavy side, they’ll probably need a better way to help
them stay on, which is why it’s a good thing Aaron Harrellin invented
the Pneumatic Shoe Lacing Apparatus. It uses “a plurality of
securement webs”—whatever that may mean, a crank pulley, and a gas
cylinder to—as best I can gather—help you lace your shoes, something
any five-year-old can achieve without having to resort to three of the
six basic types of machine. It’s a shame Harrellin couldn’t have
worked in a lever, inclined plane, and wedge or he might have woken up
on Christmas morning to find a Nobel Prize in his stocking.
None of these, however, may be quite as useless as the Force-Sensitive,
Sound-Playing Condom. Paul Lyons holds the patent on this marvel of 20th
century technology which plays a song during intercourse, the on-off
switch being tripped when your bodies, uh, meet. This is the perfect
thing for those times when there’s no Barry White CD handy, the bed
doesn’t squeak, or your partner equates silence with ecstatic
feedback. Unfortunately you can’t get them at your local drugstore.
Yet. I suspect that’s because Lyons had trouble getting the rights to
use Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up; Easy to Be Hard from Hair;
and the Bee Gees' How Deep Is Your Love. Face it, Killing Me Softly just
doesn’t cut it at a time like that.
While none of these meet the high standard set by such patents as the
phonograph, safety pin, or paper clip, you can’t expect that from
every invention. Yet it would be nice if they’d focus on things we
really need. You know, like a microwave oven with a “Reverse”
button for those times when we overcook our dinner. Or a voicemail
system which lets you go back in and delete the stupid message you just
left someone before they discover just how stupid you can really be. Or
maybe a way to email an electric shock to anyone who routinely hits
“Reply to all,” puts you on their joke forwarding list, or sends
2-meg attachments in a format your computer can’t understand without
warning. Now we’re talking useful.
©2002 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them while wearing your gravity powered airconditioned