Unventing

Cabbages and Kings

My teeth were cleaned and flossed, and I was out of the dentist’s chair. No cavities. Good feeling. There followed the usual routine. A present! I was given a new toothbrush. I again felt like a little boy—back when my parents outfitted me with a new Sunday suit and the salesman put five brand new shiny pennies in one of the pockets. Now it was a toothbrush. What color would I like? I could choose. How about yellow?

This time I decided to be crotchety. To look the gift horse in the mouth. “Why,” I complained, “was the handle lumpy? And why were the bristles uneven?” If there was anything I hated, it was lumpy handles. Couldn’t manufacturers make bristles all the same length? I supposed I could use my scissors at home and cut them straight.

The hygienist, knowing me, got into the act. In a longsuffering manner she explained. It was all scientific. The lumpiness of the handle fit the contours of the human hand, and the bristles, the contours of the human mouth.

“Baloney,” I said. What was needed was someone to “unvent” the modern toothbrush.

Back in the car I continued my train of thought, spurred on by a motorist who almost hit me while talking on a cell phone. Someone ought to unvent the cell phone. See all the people in automobiles and malls with bent elbows and hands up to their ears. All talking. Pretty soon babies will be born with their elbows and a hand up to an ear. The wheels of my head turned faster. I began thinking about all sorts of things that could be unvented for the benefit of mankind.

Television! Who needs all that junk invading our living rooms, poisoning the minds of the young while turning them and their parents into couch potatoes? I had a great advantage in my growing years over the youngsters of today. No TV!

And how about computers? Wherever I go in offices, banks, business establishments, even schools, I see people staring like zombies at computer screens. Bad for the eyes. Bad for backs.

And how about e-mail? The fine art of letter writing has gone out the proverbial window.

I remember when my mother balked at getting a newfangled washer and dryer. She loved her wringer washer that between two rollers squeezed the water out of the bed sheets, which she then hung on clotheslines. There they were sanctified by sun and wind, creating that wonderful freshness you crawled into at night in an age of innocence. I don’t smell that freshness anymore. So, while we’re at it, let’s unvent clothes dryers too.

And how about cars and such? Let’s unvent them also and get rid of that national threat called obesity. Machines can run and never stop. So let’s unvent them and get back to horses that have to rest. And while they rest, we rest too.

By the time I arrived home with my lumpy toothbrush with the uneven bristles, I had unvented so many things in my mind, including inventions that have created such ethical problems as cloning, stem-cell research, and more, that we were back to the good old days. About the only thing I refused to unvent—remembering outhouses in my distant past—was modern plumbing.

The good old days? What with all my unventing we were back to diphtheria, no polio vaccine, no heart transplants, no insurance, and no social security. And, and, and . . .

And farmers and factory workers old at 40.

About the Author

Rev. Jacob D. Eppinga was pastor emeritus of LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, in Grand Rapids, Mich. He went to be with his Lord March 1, 2008. This column concludes his popular “Cabbages and Kings” series, which he wrote for 40 consecutive years. Watch for It’s All Grace, a collection of his best and more recent columns to be published in book form this fall by Faith Alive Christian Resources.
X