What Will They Think of Next

There’s nothing new under the sun. That may have been true centuries ago when the phrase was attributed to an unnamed philosopher, identified only as “the Preacher,” in the Book of Ecclesiastes; but since then, WOW! Innovations have been coming at us at the speed of light.

Every time I think things have gone as far as they can, I remember the song from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma that proclaimed, “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City. … I counted 20 gas buggies goin’ by theirselves.

Almost every time I took a walk,” the singer reports. “An’ then I put my ear to a Bell telephone, an’ a strange woman started in to talk … they’ve gone about as fer as they can go.”

Hardly. Obviously, they’ve gone a heck of a lot “ferer.” Some “buggies” no longer need gas. They run on electricity. And no woman, strange or otherwise, talks to you when you pick up a telephone, Bell or not. At least not a live one. Most likely you’ll hear a recorded voice — not necessarily female. And that phone probably doesn’t even have a wire; but it does play music and take pictures and has a global positioning system and Internet access — and, who knows, soon maybe the ability to sprout wings and fly you to Mars.

The song continues: “They went an’ built a skyscraper seven stories high, about as high as a buildin’ otta grow …” Of course, today skyscrapers actually do scrape the sky, while back in Kansas City of yore, “With every kind of comfort every house is all complete. You can walk to privies in the rain and never wet your feet! They’ve gone about as fer as they can go …” Not quite. Indoor privies have since morphed into luxury spas, with giant Jacuzzis, tanning beds, toilets that flush automatically, and showers for two (or more) with dozens of power jets to spray.

All well and good, but I wish the brainiacs who developed these wonders would turn their attention to more practical areas — like designing a fitted sheet that will fold itself. I still have not figured out how to do it manually.

Also, how about a shopping cart that will survey your fridge and pantry, print out a shopping list of what you need, and maybe even roll
itself to the supermarket and collect your groceries. OK, so that may be a bit unreasonable. Actually, I would settle for a cart with wheels that all go in the same direction.

And I would really appreciate a dishwasher that loads and unloads itself and stows all the clean dishes, glasses, flatware, and pots and pans in their designated places.

Again, if that’s too much to ask, how about one that actually delivers on its promise to clean those pots and pans of burnt-on food without any help from me?

I do have a robotic vacuum cleaner, but I don’t know why. I don’t really trust it, so I go over all the rugs with my electric manual vac anyway. And I still have to dust. Will someone please design a feather duster that can flutter around on its own, cleaning every surface, nook, and cranny, including the ones I usually miss?

Oh, and you know what else would be great — houseplants with feet that could walk over to the kitchen sink and water themselves when they’re thirsty. All that droopy, dried foliage perched on various surfaces in my home does nothing to enhance its décor.

A self-balancing checkbook would be another dream come true. Sure, there are computer programs that are supposed to achieve this result, but not independently — you have to help it by activating the program and entering numbers and hoping the computer won’t crash before you’ve finished. Much too stressful. (Come to think of it, a crash-proof computer would be nice, too.)

And, yes, they’ve invented a car that can parallel park itself, but when will they give us one that will drive itself down the highway so I can concentrate on my cell phone calls, answer my e-mails on my laptop, and use both hands to eat my sandwich … without worrying that a cop is going to pull me over?

I know they’ve also developed a windproof umbrella that will not blow inside out, even in a hurricane. But better yet would be a sunshine bubble that would encase you and your car wherever you go so you’d never need an umbrella (or a coat or boots for that matter). A blizzard is raging, and you need milk and pork chops? No problem. Just activate your sunshine bubble, slip on your flip-flops, and you’re set to go.

Also near the top of my wish list is a magic wand that I can wave over my lasagna and hot fudge sundae to absorb all the calories. In the meantime, I’d like a scale that will lie and tell me I’ve finally lost those 20 pounds. And until someone develops a wrinkle cream that really works, how about a mirror that lies, too?

Actually, that calorie-absorbing magic wand is second on my fantasy list. I just decided that something else deserves the No. 1 position: You know how some TV shows pluck a plain “before” Jane from the audience and turn her into a gorgeous “after” by the end of the show? Well, I’d like a makeover booth that would do the same thing. I’d step inside, push a button, and out would pop robotic makeup brushes, hair styling tools, and Botox-loaded syringes that would whip around and do their magic while I took a 10-minute nap. Then, voilà! Me, “after”! At least I think it’s me — I really don’t recognize myself.

But back to more mundane matters: I’d really appreciate drawers and cupboards that organize themselves and closets that vaporize anything I haven’t worn in two years, as well as file cabinets that automatically shred contents I will never need again.

And is there a botanist out there who can develop grass that grows only a couple of inches high and never needs mowing or watering, but stays lush and green all summer? Oh, what the heck, all winter, too, while we’re at it.

Speaking of winter, will some climatologist please find a way to direct all snow only to the mountains to keep the skiers happy and off the walks and roadways to keep me happy?

The pundits say that a sure way to wealth is to find a need and fill it. There you go! I’ve identified lots of needs. The rest is up to you.

I’ll trust you to split the profits with me when they start rolling in.

Rose Madeline Mula does her thinking about new gadgets in Methuen, Massachusetts. Her latest book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is published by Pelican Publishing Company.