Building the Slower Mouse

2 Feb

by Roger White

I saw my invention on TV the other day, and I had to laugh. Plastic dumbbells, filled with the latest sports drink, were being touted by some company in Norwalk, Connecticut, as the newest workout wonder. You control the amount of weight resistance by the amount of liquid you put in the refillable dumbbells. And if you get thirsty during your routine, simply drink from the weights. Amazing!

Let me take you back a few years. (Imagine your vision becoming wavy as dreamy harp strings carry you to yesteryear…)

I had never actually taken it this far. In the past, either I had never properly incubated the notion or simple next-day logistics torpedoed the whole concept. But this time I’d done it. I had hatched an idea, sketched it, planned its manufacture, and even dreamed of its high-profile marketing. On the tube I could see Emmitt Smith hawking the Gator-Weights. “I never jog without ’em,” would say Emmitt, smiling that Hall of Fame smile and hefting a lime-colored plastic dumbbell. Maybe he’d even autograph them.

A sensational breakthrough that would forever change the aerobic workout paradigm, the Gator-Weights I envisioned as simply two hand-sized hollow plastic dumbbell weights with screw-on tops. When filled with Gatorade (or the athlete’s nourishment of choice), the Gator-Weights would provide muscle resistance for the arms in an aerobic workout or simple jog. When the workout’s done, the athlete would unscrew the top and replenish those vital fluids. Get some brainy-looking guy with a labcoat and bar charts to attest to Emmitt’s claims, and Gator-Weights would swiftly be all the rage. I would have done my part to lower mankind’s cholesterol, and I’d be stinking rich.

So there I sat, in the office of Inventor’s Friend, some strip-mall cubicle that was supposed to bulldoze a path for my product “straight to the boardrooms of the top corporations worldwide.” My mind wandered as I waited my turn. I made a mental list of my favorite vanity plates for the Mercedes. G8RW8. XRSIZ. Or maybe DMBLL.

There were two people ahead of me. Each sat suspiciously eyeing the others, on guard and hunched. The guy next to me, all forehead and cheeks and girth, peered over. He and I were sitting on a black vinyl couch that normally held four. The guy smelled of long-cultivated sweat, and something akin to minted Black Flag Roach Spray.

“What’s yours?” the guy wheezed.

“What’s my what?” I surreptitiously pressed myself against the far armrest, trying to evade the man’s fumes.

“Your invention. What is it?”

I found myself becoming guarded, hunched. I eyeballed the man, then I whispered through the fog, “What’s yours?”

“Movie-roma,” he whispered excitedly.



The other inventor, a woman, looked up. She was guarded, hunched.

My man leaned close and produced from his defoliant-odored overcoat a brass ring, deeply grooved.

“Movie-roma. You know those halos you put on your lamp’s light bulbs? Fill ’em with liquid, and they smell like cinnamon, or something stupid like apple-peach?”

I nodded, confidential-like.

“I made the same thing, except I developed aromas you can use for movies.” The rotund inventor interpreted my expression as curiosity. “See, it’s simple. Say you rent a western. Bring it home, make popcorn, pop in the movie. What’s missing?”

“Uh, Movie-roma?”

“Exactly. Take out one of these special aromas I’ve created, and you have that genuine leather smell. The saddle, the boots, the horses. The movie comes to life.”

My silence slowed him not at all. The horses?

“OK. You rent a war movie.” The huffing man produced a small case of vials. “This one. Gunpowder. The stench of war.”

“Ah,” I said, warily. “Realism. The true multimedia experience.”

A representative from Inventor’s Friend came from behind a door. He carried a long clipboard, and he smiled, used-car-dealer fashion. He asked for S. Stein. There was no response, and the representative got snippy. “S. Stein, S. Stein. The Petrified Pet.” The representative read from a sheet. “Nostalgic throwback to the Pet Rock. Petrified wood in a cage. Petrified Pet. Hurry, please.”

“Oh.” The gaunt little woman in a chair against the far wall put down her magazine. She stood, half-raising her hand with a blush. She carried what looked to be a rectangular bird cage fashioned from old coathangers. Inside the primitive cage was a dark chunk of something, presumably petrified wood, nestled in a lump of Spanish moss. Her ticket to the big time.

As the woman followed her Inventor’s Friend representative to the recesses of the establishment, I gave serious reconsideration to this whole thing. Dumbbells filled with Gatorade. Hmmm.

I divulged my idea to the Movie-roma Man, with considerably less enthusiasm than I had earlier rehearsed. His expression was not unlike mine regarding cinematic scents. I could see in his slow nod, “Dumbbells filled with Gatorade. Hmmm.”

By the time the next Inventor’s Friend representative emerged, I decided to give the Movie-roma Man my place in line. I tossed my home-fashioned dumbbells (Clorox bottles maimed and taped together) in the trash as I left.

I read in the paper several months later that Inventor’s Friend was under investigation for fraud. Seems they charged every would-be inventor who stepped in the door, no matter how ridiculous the contraption, a hundred and seventy-five bucks for “application fees and legal research.” The place had yet to produce one legitimate invention.

Contemplating my near-brush with fame and fortune, I later scanned the prime-time TV selection. I noted that Nova had a documentary on the marvels of bat guano as crop fertilizer. Wonder what the Movie-roma Man would do with that one?

Gator-Weights, indeed. DMBLL was the choice all right.

(Imagine wavy vision and tinkly piano music as we fast-forward to today…) So now a guy in Norwalk, Connecticut, is making money on my idea. Ah, well. OK, how about this: a flyswatter coated with adhesive, so it picks up squashed bugs as you kill them! Call it the flysucker.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit


4 Responses to “Building the Slower Mouse”

  1. Joann February 2, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    Now this column was “ha-ha” funny!

  2. Michael Johnson February 20, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Mine (probably late ’50s) was butter you could squeeze out of a bottle, like mustard. My mother kept the butter in the fridge, which was turned up to near-freezing, and then gave us Wonder Bread, guaranteed to rip and tear in the buttering process. I’ll bet the inventors of whipped butter had the same problem as children.

  3. List of 10 February 20, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    I’m sure somebody is patenting the flysucker right now. Also with a version that slaps a cute sticker to a wall over a dead bug, this giving your children an incentive to hunt all bugs

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