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Jun 10, 2020

Six Post-Pandemic Brainstorms to Prove Invention is the True Mother of Necessity

Ideas borne of isolation and possibly too much coffee

By Ed Goldman

I’ve been reading about how many people used the global house arrest to, variously: (a) create art; (b) learn homeschooling skills; (c) master stress-reduction techniques from homeschooling; (d) teach themselves to cook; (e) use GPS to triangulate where the nearest pharmacy was that still had a supply of Pepto Bismol; and, (f) order copies of “DIY Divorce: The Self-Isolating Couple’s Guide to Alienation of Afflictions and Other New Legal Terms.”

Some people have even developed what they hope will be Post-Pandemic inventions. I am one of those people. I think that a lawyer friend was recommending I register these because, as he said, “They’re patently absurd.” I initially thought this might have been a shot—but because it contained the word “patent,” I’ve since written it off as a jealous compliment.

My six brainstorms include the following:

1. ANAL-RETENTIVE HOUSEPETS. I know, I know, it sounds inhumane. But I assure you that no critter was harmed during the genetic-engineering phase. A number of my lab assistants were, however—especially the ones working in our Large Animals Division, where they discovered that sliding a Depends® onto a hippopotamus is a little more fraught than it may sound. On the other hand, the opossums and ferrets in our Amiable Animals Division were not only cooperative but also proved to be surprisingly ticklish. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a ferret giggle.

2. AUTOMATIC DISHWASHER LOADER/EMPTIER. A friend of mine once suggested that the best way to save time and energy doing the dishes would be to have two dishwashers sit side by side: You’d simply load up the empty one as you unloaded the one filled with dirty dishes and silverware, and never have to schlep anything across the kitchen ever again. These color-coordinated appliances would each include a retractable arm to load and unload the two dishwashers in concert—or possibly on iTunes (sorry, but I’ve never understood the expression “in concert” unless it refers to a musical performance of some sort).

Well, I thought this was a great idea but then grew worried about the future of the craftspeople who make china closets, especially those with the little lights inside them so you can distinguish the Spode from the Oneida at a glance and thereby lose no I’m-just as-rich-as-you luster with your dinner guests. So for now, let’s just call this—as I’ve been called, all too frequently and not in a manner I’d deem to be constructive—a work in progress.

3. TISSUE SHORTAGE ALERT (informally, TSA; not to be confused with the national airport-safety groping department). Since there still seems to be some mania out there about running out of toilet paper, it might be worth your time and federal stimulus check to install an early-warning system when the supply of rolls in your closet is diminishing and you’ve already interrogated all the people with whom you’ve been isolating to see if any of them have side-hustles involving the sale of Two-Ply Charmin on the black market. The TSA may be a tiny sensor but it’ll emit a deafening roar not unlike that of a hippo whose private parts are snagged as he’s being fitted with Depends®.

4. AUTO-CORRECT CORRECTER. Are you as fed up as the known galaxy is with this device on your reportedly smart phone—the one that juxtaposes one word in a sentence like “I think this is unclear” to “I think this is nuclear.” Or that turns a suddenly omnipresent term like “the novel coronavirus” into “the novel, ‘Coronation on Venus’”, which sounds like a new, unauthorized Star Wars story.

In journalism, an editor or copyreader has two funny little words to indicate “Remove this word” (dele) or “Leave it in, I must’ve been drunk when I wrote ‘dele’”(stet). In other words, there’s a precedent for reversing yourself—i.e., correcting a correction.

I’ve turned my invention into an app, but am making it available only for stubborn transitioners from IBM Selectrics®, who evidently miss that miraculous sold-separately white ribbon.

5. TECH SUPPORT ACCENT REMOVAL. This is not a cultural slam; in fact, I hope it will help improve international relations between the users of English-language based products and the Help Desk people who are also said to speak English, but often with accents richly evocative of Indo-European and Indo-Iranian languages such as Dravidian, Austroasiatic (including Munda, natch) as well as certain Sino-Tibetan tongues.

With a single click of your iPhone, or a series of them with your thrifty droids, you can greatly reduce dialectic inflections but also select—from a lengthy list of United States regional tones—a new sound for your tech helper.

There’s Deep South Drawl (“Hah! Hooow kin we mike yer phone grite again, jess lack America?”) or New England Katherine Hepburn-tinged Can-Do-It-Ness (“Oh, fah Gawd’s sake, stop yaw whining, pick up yaw device and let’s get on with it!”).

My preferred voice takes me back to my childhood in Bronx, New York (“T’ink I got nuttin’ bettah t’do dan play nice wit’ your phone, Pal? Fawgeddaboudit!”)

6. REVERSIBLE PAJAMAS/PANTS-OR-LEISURE SUIT. Since so many of us grew accustomed to the comfort of working in our jammies the past several weeks, why lose that reassuring stretch-proof-waistband feeling when we return to the out-of-home workplace?

With just a flip and a shake, your patterned PJs can become, for ladies, an attractive monochrome pants suit, as popularized by Hillary Clinton—or, for fellas, a 1970s leisure suit that all but begs to be accessorized with love beads, a dashing neck scarf and the growth of mutton-chop sideburns.

The ladies’ pants suit comes in shutter green, the gents’ leisure suit in powder blue. Make your new parole a fashion statement!

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).