Dec 30, 2010

Big Dreams

My dad was the king of "I coulda been a contender." In his mind, he had invented nearly everything in the world and just never got the credit.  

One of his biggest ‘inventions’ was the outdoor metal closet in which gas stations keep tires.  You couldn’t drive by a service station without him declaring, "You know, those were my idea. John Acton, who owned the service station down on Oak, he asked me where he could store his tires and I said here's what you could do."

At this point my dad usually rooted around in his pockets for a napkin or scrap of paper and sketched what could have been a rectangular item of any size from shoe box to airplane hangar, with two scratch marks on the front as door handles. He would never have won any Pictionary rounds with his drawings. With the sketch as proof, Dad would get more puffed up, angrier and emphatic, "I told him he could fit all his tires in there and they'd be secure, no worries about weather or theft, but he wouldn't listen to me.  A few years later my tire enclosures started popping up everywhere. I never got a cent."  By this point he would be poking at the rectangle with the business end of his pen and splattering occasional bits of spittle.

I think you're getting the idea.  With his concept of inventing things, we should all own patents on things like comfortable pillows and good chocolate.  (I told Red Roof Inn five years ago they needed fluffier pillows.  Now they've got fluffier pillows and do I see a penny of that business?  No.)  

He also could have been an investor.  He claimed he'd had an opportunity to buy into a McDonalds franchise in the early years but hadn't been able to get a bank to loan him the money.   Of course, the major problem with his investing ideas and his inventions, one that he never seemed to grasp, was that we were poor and had no collateral to speak of.  No one in his right mind would have loaned us money back then, decades before the current housing crisis revealed a new philosophy of finance.  

His ideas didn’t always make a lot of sense, either.  The last invention, which he conceived in his eighties, was a steering wheel cover for hot weather.  His prototype was a manila envelope that he would somehow bend and fold so it would magically stay on the wheel and keep the sun off.  This invention was going to be the big one.  It was going to make him millions.  When I pointed out that people could buy their own manila envelopes much cheaper, he was truly crestfallen.  And I was truly sorry I had poured water on his still tenacious dreams. Maybe it coulda been the big one, Dad, maybe that was the one.

1 comment:

  1. Your dad was such a sweet man even if he wasn't a contender. Great blog! Hope you are enjoying school. Happy New Year!