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Wind-up Romance
by Mad Dog

 

The Freeplay brand wind-up radio works by turning a crank on the side. They tried using Andy Rooney but even the South Africans thought he was just too annoying.

     Scientists all over the world may retire now, safe in the knowledge that their probing minds and tinkering hands are no longer needed, for the ultimate invention has been created. Yes, after putting up with such bogus technological advances as the light bulb, the telephone and the Flow-Bee haircutting system, we can all sleep better at night knowing that any day now we'll be able to buy a wind-up radio that can help us find a wife.

     Think about it: a simple product that in one fell swoop eliminates the need for messy dating services, embarrassing personal ads and the Hair Club for Men while letting us hear soothing music, informative commercials and Howard Stern trying to guess Richard Simmons' cup size. The Nobel Prize is a lock.

     At the moment the Freeplay, as the radios are called, is only available in South Africa. While South Africa isn't usually thought of as a consumer product test market, this isn't a first. They tested apartheid (didn't like it), Paul Simon (didn't need him) and Bishop Desmond Tutu (won a prize for him). They may not have a lot of electricity, but you can't say they don't have good taste.

     The Freeplay brand wind-up radio works by turning a crank on the side. They tried using Andy Rooney but even the South Africans thought he was just too annoying. This cranking action was originally developed for the Model T Ford and was later adapted for use on Jack-in-the-Boxes everywhere. Cranking the Freeplay winds up a mainspring which drives a little dynamo which in turn generates enough electricity to power the radio for a half an hour. This is more than enough time for the South Africans to enjoy listening to AM and FM stations, the BBC, and the Voice of America, which contrary to what Rush Limbaugh thinks, is not him.



In France, on the other hand, a wind-up radio isn't a prerequisite for conjugal involvement. Obviously neither is regular bathing nor a good attitude.
     This radio, in addition to making you start to think television is intellectually stimulating, can supposedly help you find a wife. This already makes it more useful than a dozen roses, a six-pack of Tic-Tacs, a fishing rod with a thousand dollar bill on the hook or learning to put the toilet seat down. According to the New York Times (motto: We can say 'eschew' with a straight face and you can't.), a radio is one of the three big status symbols in South Africa. The other two are a suit just like John Travolta's in "Saturday Night Fever" and Paula Jones' home phone number. Just kidding. Actually a motorcycle is the ultimate status symbol, a bicycle is next and "on the basis of just a radio, make no mistake--you can procure a wife."

     This points up an interesting cultural difference between their country and ours, for if this were true here in the United States I'd have five wives: one in my bedroom, one in the living room, one in the car, one in my office and one wherever my boom box happened to be. Unfortunately this isn't to be. Polygamy is illegal in the United States, except of course in parts of Utah for religious reasons and most of West Virginia because they can't be prosecuted for anything they can't spell.

     In France, on the other hand, a wind-up radio isn't a prerequisite for conjugal involvement. Obviously neither is regular bathing nor a good attitude. To put it bluntly, French women couldn't care less about whether a man owns a wind-up radio or not. A recent survey by romance publisher Harlequin France (motto: Our quivering flesh thinks your pulsating throbness is disgusting.) found that only 1 percent of French women wanted an ambitious man, less than 5 percent thought professional success was important and just 2 percent thought a perfect body was crucial. You'll notice a wind-up radio wasn't anywhere on the list. So what do French women want? It turns out they're all looking for a man with a sense of humor. This may help to explain why they adore Jerry Lewis, Ronald McDonald and Louis XIV furniture.



This pre-nuptial agreement covers virtually everything the couple does during their waking hours and even a few they do while asleep.
      Back in the United States finding a wife gets increasingly complicated. As the new Duracell battery slogan says: All the wind-up radios in the world won't buy you happiness. That's why a couple from Albuquerque, N.M. (official city slogan: There is no correct spelling of Albuquerque) filed a 16-page pre-nuptial agreement. That and their lawyer was trying to get in the Guiness Book of World Records for the most words written about nothing, a title previously owned by Joan Collins.

     This pre-nuptial agreement (hereinafter referred to as 'ridiculous') covers virtually everything the couple does during their waking hours and even a few they do while asleep. It states how many times they'll have sex (three to five times a week), how much gas there will be in the car (never less than half a tank) and yes, what time they'll go to sleep (11:30 pm on weekdays). It also declares how the rest of the world will refer to them ("luckily not married to me").

     All of this makes me long for the simplicity of life in South Africa, where a simple wind-up radio can still get you a wife. Hmmmm, I wonder what I can get for this nice VCR?

    

1996 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. If you want to listen to it on your radio you may have to wind it up.

 

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