Sunday, October 05, 2008

Invention is the mother of excuses

Ordinarily, the purchase of a six-pack of socks wouldn’t warrant further discussion, but the pack I just bought came in a re-sealable plastic bag, which raised issues too important to ignore. I could understand the usefulness of re-sealing a bag of socks if the socks were made out of, say, crab bisque. But this was not the case. These particular socks were made of New England clam chowder; I could tell because they were white.

To the sock-packaging professional, a re-sealable bag must have seemed like quite the innovation, but I just can’t fathom a single situation under which a person would need to re-seal a bag of socks. Socks have never gone stale before I got a chance to wear them. I’ve never heard of anybody using a bag of socks to hide a jar of honey from a sniffing bear. Under ordinary circumstances, I’d feel just as comfortable keeping socks in an unsealed bag, or even – and perhaps this is because I wasn’t raised correctly – not in a bag at all.

Not every innovation is destined to be a winner. I learned this the hard way, after inventing the self-drilling screw while mangling a household project a few months ago. “Why don’t they just put tiny drill bits onto screws so you don’t have to pre-drill all the holes?” I thought.

It was the greatest idea I’ve ever had, besides attaching a generator to an exercise bike so that you can run your house off your own energy, which, in retrospect, would never work, not least of all because your average exercise bike sees less playing time than your average bread maker. In fact, the idea was so good, you can go onto Google right now, search on “self-drilling screws,” and buy my awesome invention from a wide variety of jerks who preemptively stole it by unfairly inventing it first.

The discovery of the existence of self-drilling screws wasn’t nearly as crushing for me as it must have been for my visionary friend Johnny to see other people getting credit for his two inventions, Facebook and the iPhone.

“I totally invented those first,” he complained recently. “I was like, ‘How come nobody has a site where you can post pictures of yourself and connect with old friends? And also, why don’t they put an iPod into a cell phone?’ The Man is always sticking it to me. I deserve royalties.”

My old college roommate had an invention idea about which he swore me to a pinky-swear level of secrecy. It’s been ten years, though, so I think the statue of limitations has expired. Either that, or I’m a terrible friend. Nonetheless, he invented a pencil that wouldn’t have to be turned over to switch into eraser mode. Never mind that if flipping a pencil ranks as one of your day’s most onerous tasks, your life is already pretty awesome, but I’m fairly certain that pencil sales these days are dwarfed by sales of Kerry ’04 bumper stickers.

For one of her college classes, my wife Kara invented a microwave that comes equipped with a barcode reader, so that you’d just have to scan the UPC on your food to have it nuked to perfection. Some jerk stole this idea, too, and preemptively invented it, saving Kara the hassle of losing her own life savings on it.

I wish someone would steal this idea: let’s solve the energy crisis by putting exercise bikes connected to the power grid all over metropolitan areas. If you ride the bike until eleven cents worth of electricity gets created, a dime comes out. Forgot your subway fare? Just ride the bike until you have enough dough. Of course, it might be exponentially quicker just to walk home. If that’s the case, you’re welcome to borrow some of my fresh socks.

After you invent email, send one to Mike Todd at


  1. Those who want to work out at their home then owing fitness equipment is the best method. There are hundreds of pieces of home cardio equipment available. The most popular are treadmills and exercise bikes. Exercise bikes are unique in that many of them come programmed with various biking routines. You can get more information about exercise bike which I browsed on internet can fetch you help.

  2. I'm going to invent a gizmo that you can plug into your computer which will automatically deliver an electric shock to anyone leaving spam comments on a blog.

    Ya hear that, Fitness?

    Mark my words.

  3. Wow Mike, you've really made it!... your blog is getting spammed... that's big time!

    By the way, my breadmaker is now mad at you, and you can no longer have any of its delicious, delicious bread!

  4. Dude,

    Awesome stuff... it's been a while since I've read your column.

    Reminded me of a Seinfeld episode when Jerry and Kramer are arguing whether it's "statue of limitations" or "statute of limitations." Jerry insists it's "statute", and gets confirmation from a friend as a tie-breaker, to which Kramer responds "I think you're wrong, buddy!"

    I'm game for dime-popping bicycles. If you get that baby patented and installed in our cubes, I'll be the first one in line.

  5. Fitness -- You're a dick. Please don't make me turn word verification back on.

    JL -- Ha! You're a world-class commenter.

    Sergey -- Dude, seriously, when's the last time you fired that thing up?

    Dima -- Thanks for dropping in again! Or what about the one where Kramer invents the cologne that smells like the beach, and then gets ripped off? Just like the self-drilling screw. Jerks.

  6. Dude... you still blog? I stopped by to see if it was collecting dust yet.

    Congratulations... you DO know that blogging is so 2006/07 though, right? Are you trying to catch the Perez Hilton train to success?


  7. An ex-boyfriend of mine used to swear he was gonna make his millions with the invention of the "paper bag-style huggie"... Imagine the disappointment on his face when someone brought him a prototype of his own idea -- invented by someone else.

    He's in politics now, btw.