My Father’s Greatest InnovationPosted: June 15, 2013
“Ya know what they should do with these guys, don’t ya?”
When my brother and I were young, this was the line that usually preceded our father holding forth on some issue. It was usually a good idea to stop and listen to what followed that line. In fact, it still is a good idea. Dad is a practical man, with a humorous streak.
If Dad announces the solution to a societal problem, there are three things which are certain:
- The solution would likely work
- It would be hysterical to see happen
- What he proposes would have little chance of being implemented, because of those first two things
This is the tale of his best problem solving idea.
How To Prevent Repeat Drunk Drivers
My family had watched a television news story about someone who’d received yet another sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol. This particular driver had several convictions for impaired driving, but continued driving despite the court’s orders. My father announced the solution to the problem people like this gentleman caused.
“Ya know what they should do with these guys, don’t ya? Big shoes.” He had us hooked. My brother and I pressed for details. As usual, Dad was up to the task.
“Not really big shoes. One big shoe. If you sentence them to wear one big shoe they won’t be able to drive.” I envisioned something like a clown shoe, but Dad saw it differently. “A big wide shoe. So wide that when they go to step on the gas, they step on the brake at the same time. Even if one of these people got the car rolling, the way the shoe made them drive would be so obvious that they’d be stopped and on the way to jail before they got out of their neighborhood.”
It seemed that he’d again resolved a great societal problem.
Two Boys Do Not Equal One Man
Great solutions require testing. My brother and I started firing questions, trying to find the flaw in “The Big Shoe Punishment.”
“What if they take the shoe off?”
“Bolted on above the ankle.”
“If they get a car moving and can’t stop until they hit someone?”
“They will be able to stop. Moving the car will be the problem for someone wearing The Big Shoe. The brake is higher than the gas pedal. The harder they press on the accelerator, the harder they press on the brake.”
We were starting to buy in to the idea.
“Still, it isn’t impossible to get the car moving.”
“Yes, but you don’t understand the shoe. It is very wide, with a heavy metal sole. If someone is wearing one of these shoes, everyone else will know it. It will change the way they walk. If you see someone going down the street with one of these on you’ll say “see that? Big Shoe.”
“So, it will be almost impossible for him to get in the car with a shoe that big. Everyone will know that if he is wearing The Big Shoe, he isn’t allowed to drive. If he tries, someone will call the police.” But Dad wasn’t finished.
He pointed out that the embarrassment of The Big Shoe would be part of the punishment and correction for driving drunk. Even if the person wearing The Shoe wasn’t trying to drive, he would be an example to others. Parents would point him out to their children – “see that guy? If you don’t want to wear that shoe you’d better not drink and drive.”
Dad concluded that once the sentence was complete and The Shoe was unbolted, the memory of the embarrassment and inconvenience of The Big Shoe would be a constant reminder that it is a bad idea to drive while impaired. I’m sure he was right.
What Became Of The Idea?
The Big Shoe is another of my father’s ideas that was ahead of its time. It has never been implemented. From the start, it was doomed – too effective, too funny and thus, too good to be put into practice.
While this perfect solution never came into being, the originator is still out there originating. With more time to think, more problems fall to his wisdom.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
I’m still listening.
* I now know that “so?” is the beginning of the end of a debate with anyone under 17. They know they’re losing, they don’t realize that “so?” gives that fact away to anyone over 17.