Dick Maynard Column October 15, 2008

Creature comforts make life more livable

Flash of Genius. Currently playing nationwide, it’s a flick starring Greg Kinnear. About what? Would you believe the intermittent windshield wiper? It sounds like a movie about nothing, a formula that worked so well for Seinfeld. But film aficionados profess Flash of Genius to be much more than that.

The Kinnear character — one assumes he’s the genius — invents the drizzle defying windshield protector but then gets hosed by Ford and Chrysler. So he hires a lawyer or two, battles the automotive giants for decades and is eventually awarded 30 mil. However, by the time the judge rules in his favor, he’s lost his wife and family. Have I seen the film? Are you kidding? My psyche’s ability to handle emotionally taxing drama extends about as far as Two and a Half Men. But the movie review caused one to wonder.

Having just returned from the Pacific Northwest, just know nothing heightens an appreciation for intermittent windshield wipers like two weeks in Oregon and Washington. I read the Flash of Genius story line and asked, “What about other unknown souls, the ones responsible for creature comforts making life more livable?”

We’re not talking about major 21st century impacts such as the computer (invented by Bill Gates?), the internet (Al Gore?) or pre-stirred peanut butter (most likely created in a lab by a guy named Skippy).

No, we’re discussing those elements in our lives we lived without for years, totally ignorant of the void their absence created, but once a reality, we no longer could face a day without them.

Like wheels on suitcases. To think of the cumulative tons of encased shirts, shoes, and underwear I’ve lugged through airports and never once did the simple “wheels would certainly lighten the load” concept enter my cranium. So much for the value of a liberal arts education.

And, in the last couple of years, what contribution to everyday life has been more important than the yellow line on televised football games that provides graphic detail of how far the offense is required to go for a first down? Do you know the name of the anonymous soul responsible for this revolution in television viewing? Me neither, but the creator deserves, at a minimum, the Nobel Prize.

The list of creature comforts from unknown genius goes on and on. Would Thoreau really have preferred Walden Pond’s simpler life had he experienced a world that included cruise control, rabbit ears, wine openers, Crocs and lemon scented furniture polish? Ha. Thoreau just couldn’t handle a life devoid of iPods and Bluetooth wireless.

Don’t think today’s world offers little room for improvement. Wish to contribute to the betterment of humanity while retaining your anonymity? There’s a fertile field remaining to be plowed. Coming to mind are critical needs like easy-open ketchup packets in fast food emporiums, a self-propelled bindweed eradicator and, for folks over 50, a remote control so easy to operate one need not ask the grandkids for operational assistance.

Such inventions might be the subject of a feature length film. However, the easy for geezers remote control movie will most likely be classified as science fiction.


Dick Maynard can be reached via e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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