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Curbing the Public Nuisance (Part 2)

Yes, that pillar of society that has been with us since that slithery dude threw humanity for a curve in the Garden of Eden ? that cornerstone of society has been automated.

I am speaking, of course, of the public nuisance ( I wrote about him in Part 1 at )

No longer do pests have to come around in restaurants and train stations and villages singing loudly and playing their harpsichords. We now have machines to do that for us ? machines like televisions and radios and elevator muzak and backfiring Mustangs.

In the olden days, you could just throw a brick at a public nuisance, and that would usually shut him up for two minutes ? five if the brick hit its mark.

But it's harder to throw a brick at a TV, because bar owners send bloodthirsty lawyers after you, something the old-fashioned public nuisances knew nothing about. And how can you throw a brick at the shadowy creature producing elevator muzak?

So it was inevitable that some guy named Mitch Altman would invent a high-tech way to neutralize those high-tech public nuisances. It's an infrared keychain called TV-B-Gone that shuts off intrusive TVs remotely.

"Hey I was watching that show," calls out the six-foot-four, burly guy at the bar. "Whoever zapped my show has five second to unzap it., or I'll get off this stool." Oh, well. I suppose there are still a few technical adjustments to tinker with.

But I was thinking, "Hey. I could invent something useful like that. I could invent a high-tech brick to shut down those high-tech public nuisances for at least five minutes." So I did.

First, I set out to defeat muzak. I invented a device called the Automated Elevator Hostage Taker. I was so excited, I decided to take it for a test drive. I found a really high building and headed straight for the elevator.

Half way up, I activated my Automated Elevator Hostage Taker. "Aha!" I called out. "We have your elevator hostage. If you shut the muzak off, we will release it unharmed."

The other passengers looked at me like I had a purple horn growing out of one ear.

"I said, turn off the muzak and your elevator won't be harmed."

One passenger was starting to get interested. "What the *$&% do you think you're doing?"

I was positively giddy that my fellow passengers were so eager to participate. One of them even wanted to get his hands on my Automated Elevator Hostage Taker, but for public safety reasons I couldn't let it into untrained hands until it had been fully tested in both laboratory and field conditions.

"How did your test drive go?" my wife asked.

I looked up at her from my hospital bed. "I think the next prototype will be equipped with life insurance."

Fortunately, I came up with another invention as soon as I recovered. I call it the Tailpipe Plug-in. Cars emit the most ghastly-smelling fumes. No. Wait. I take that back. Cars emit the second-most ghastly-smelling fumes. Diesel buses emit the most ghastly-smelling fumes.

But those days will soon be over, as people arm themselves with their personal Tailpipe Plug-ins.

"How does it work?" my wife asked.

"So glad you asked. It uses spidey technology."

"Spidey technology?" she looked puzzled.

"That's right. You know, like Spiderman. Let's say a bus come within a few yards and threatens to belch out yucky black stinky stuff. You just flick your wrist like this..."



"You knocked over my prize lamp and broke it. And what's this ugly goop splattered all over the carpet and the wall? Yuck. Get it off," my wife demanded.

"I can't."

"What do you mean, you can't?" she raged.

"It's like that expanding foam insulation. No. Wait. It's like very fast-curing expanding foam insulation."

"Well, what do you plan to do about it?" my wife wanted to know.

"I guess I'll have to put on a warning label ? Do not use indoors."

Once back in my hospital bed, I realized I had not given the right answer.

I still had many inventions left in me. Like the Automatic No-parking Sign Dissolver. And the Perfumalizer, handy for use in crowded buses where people hold onto bars and posts above their heads. And I can't wait to invent the Escalator Fast-forward Button.

But for now, I am way too distracted by the very loud TV show my hospital roommate is watching. I sure could use Mitch's TV-B-Gone right about now.

About The Author

David Leonhardt is a humor columnist:

He is author of Climb Your Stairway to Heaven:

Read more personal growth articles:

Visit his liquid vitamins store:

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