Some things we?d like to un-invent

I enjoy reading Marilyn vos Savant’s weekly writings in the Sunday Parade Magazine insert in the Wichita Eagle. She always offers something challenging to think about, though I seldom have a clue on her mind-bending puzzles.

This past week, she headed a different direction, however, and reported on more than 2,000 responses readers had sent in after she asked what items they would most like to “un-invent.”

Some of the choices included high heels (presumably for women), jet skis, leaf-blowers, automated telephone assistance, television, video games, bass amplifiers, neckties, car alarms and cell phones.

I agree that many of these are in fact more detrimental than helpful to society.

Jet skis, for example, may be a great deal of fun for the users, but they are a pain, sometimes literally, for others. With proper use, they are fairly harmless. But people seem to go nuts when they start them up, and the drivers (or is it “riders”?) are often impaired by alcohol.

The television is not an invention I would want to do without. The problem is not the device, but the programming. Video games as well are detrimental to mental health when they are misused and overused.

Car alarms are a good idea in theory, but when they go off, nearly no one pays attention anymore. They are the modern reincarnation of the boy who cried wolf.

Cell phones are made obnoxious by their users, especially when the speaker is used, but the invention itself can be extremely valuable. In fact, it has saved lives.

We could all do without the necktie, I agree.

And those huge bass amplifiers in cars have no practical use. People in the vehicle can likely feel them better than hear them. I love it when the car in which the amplifier is installed rattles and shakes down the road. In some cases, the amp is worth more than the car.

So, what additional inventions would be wise to reverse?

At the top of my list is the tipping system, assuming one can call that an invention. Restaurant owners should not require patrons to pay for food, then pay for the service.

In most businesses, the delivery of the products is covered in the listed price. The only places tips make sense to me are when services like those from bellhops and delivery people are all that are offered. In such cases, the product being sold is performance of a task.

Another un-invention I would like to see is the infomercial. And, how about Daylight Saving Time, or at least the idea that it should be switched on and off?

My daughter mentioned a couple of things when she heard about the article in Parade. She doesn’t like the idea of lotion in facial tissues.

I agree for the purposes of cleaning glass, but I like the soothing effects of the lotion when I have a cold.

She is also against those rare towel dispensers in bathrooms that use a circular “belt” system. Do they still exist?

I’m not a big fan of the automatic paper towel dispensers. I have to do 30 seconds of “hand jive” to get the things to spit out paper. And who can dry their hands with only one small piece of paper at a time?

My wife’s choice for least-loved invention: automatically flushing toilets. She doesn’t like surprises in the bathroom, and she has been the victim of a few premature flushes in public rest rooms.

Possibly the idea I would most like to flush most would be the reality TV show. This brand of so-called entertainment has led to a whole new means of gratification for self-fulfilling celebrities. Two words: Paris Hilton.

There are many building owners who would like to see the end to flat roofs. I’ve never known about one that didn’t leak at some point.

I have also seen more of those ribbon-shaped car magnets than I care to. If memory serves, they began as yellow ribbons in support of the troops, so I blame Tony Orlando for that one. His song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ol’ Oak Tree” started it all back in the 1970s.

Now, we see magnetic ribbons (does that concept even make sense?) in support of nearly every cause known to mankind. Some cars have several hundred of them scattered on their bodies.

And, speaking of cars, is there really anyone who needs to driver a Hummer? I imagine these behemoths have a military purpose in their original forms, but now they are chrome-and-shiny-paint monsters that say “Look at me; I’m so rich I could squash your more practical vehicle.”

I would also like to un-invent those air fresheners that smell like food. I don’t mind citrus scents so much, but things like pumpkin pie, cookies, cinnamon rolls and coffee should be restricted to original sources. What’s next, bacon and eggs smells?

Why stop with foods? We could eventually see gym smells for basketball fans, oil and gasoline scents for car enthusiasts and even hospital odors for those who want to pretend they are recovering from surgery.

I’m sure there are many more things out there that people would like to un-invent. If it’s true that technology doubles every five years, we shouldn’t have long to wait for new things to wish didn’t exist.

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