Three Things (Because There Are Always Three): Great Ideas Edition

So, I have a theory.

Now, before you roll your eyes or shake your head, hear me out because I think I’m really on to something. So, let me begin again. I have a theory that when companies say they want “suggestions” as to how they can be better, they don’t mean it. In fact, I would argue that it’s quite the opposite. I know this because over the years I have contacted several companies with (and I grant you this is an opinion) what I believe are to be FABULOUS suggestions and NOT ONE OF THEM has been acted upon.

“What?!” you may be asking yourself. “How can this be?”

My simple answer is, “I don’t know. I just don’t know. I may be ahead of my time.”

And that may in fact be the case. I point, as an example, to Mary Anderson. Most people don’t know about Mary’s sad story. Most people don’t even know her name, but Mary Anderson was the original inventor of the windshield wiper. It was winter in 1903 and Mary left her home of Birmingham, Alabama, to visit New York City. She was eager to see the tall buildings and be a part of the hustle and bustle of the city.* But while she was on the trolley, she was unable to see much of anything because of the snow and sleet. And more to the point, she noticed that the trolley driver couldn’t see well, either. Frequently, he had to either reach his arm out the window to wipe the snow and sleet from the front windshield, or stick his head out to see. In her mind, this was a huge safety issue.*

The situation got her to thinking. And when she returned to Birmingham, she took it upon herself to invent a contraption with a lever on the inside of the vehicle and an outside arm on the windshield that would allow the driver to stay inside the cab but still clear away what was obscuring his (or her) view. She got a 17-year patent and started shopping it around. But everyone to whom she submitted her “window cleaning device” turned her down. There was no use for such a silly device, they said. Why would anyone waste money on that?

Why indeed? Which is why, she let her patent lapse. It was only later, when more people had automobiles, that the utility of her invention was clear.

The morale of this sad, sad* tale, is that Mary Anderson was ahead of her time. And this leads me to wonder if that is not the case with my inventions as well. For example, I sent an email to Ray Ban suggesting to them that they use mood ring technology to make glasses frames that change colors based on a person’s mood. Think about how those could change the world! You could tell if your spouse is angry so you can avoid him or her until they’ve calmed down. You can tell if your boss or co-worker is having a good or bad day. You could gauge which checkout line to use at the grocery store.

Brilliant, right?

And then there was the message I sent to Vistaprint suggesting that they make magnetic dry-erase “I Heart __(Fill In the Blank)________” bumper stickers. Each bumper sticker comes with colored markers and you can personalize it depending on what you feel like you “heart” on that particular day. Do you love Ranch dressing? Share it with the world as you drive around. Do you adore Game of Thrones? Let everyone know. Maybe you want to kill two birds with one car and combine other popular bumper stickers. For example: “I Heart my stick figure family” or “I Heart 26.2.” The possibilities are endless. But did I hear back? Sadly, no.

And then there have been my repeated suggestions to Bravo TV regarding new reality shows. For example, one night when I walked past a classroom in which they were arranging flowers with an intensity and vigor that was frankly, terrifying, I sent a note to Bravo suggesting a flower arranging competition show called, “Best Buds.” It would feature “frienemies” working as teams on arrangements. Nothing. I also sent them the suggestion that they should do a show on the “Lesbian Housewives of Kansas City.” Nada. Maybe, I thought, my show ideas were too fast-paced or too racy. So I reigned it in a bit. I suggested an archaeology reality show in which the people did nothing but dig square holes in five- or ten-centimeter levels, take measurements and dry screen. Not. Even. A. Bite.

I don’t know what’s going on, but all of these lines of evidence all lead me back to the same three conclusions: I am a Mary Anderson who is ahead of her time, companies don’t really want suggestions, or these aren’t good ideas. Given that I KNOW FOR A FACT it’s not the latter and I can totally see the utility of each of these great ideas, I have come to the conclusion that the right answer has to be that despite their suggestions that they want our “questions, comments, and concerns,” they really don’t.

Frankly, I think it’s their loss. But when I start selling the “I Heart The Lesbian Housewives of Kansas City” bumper stickers, we’ll see who’s laughing then. It will be – me and Mary Anderson.*

*Creative License




    How about Bertha Ringer? This one’s for real. Bertha married Karl Benz. In 1888, she took a pretty major trip in Germany in a “motorized vehicle” and along the way basically served as her own mechanic. She ended up inventing brake linings.

    Anyway, I would totally wear mood Ray-Bans.

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  2. I so need those mood glasses!! And speaking as someone who has driven a car with no windshield wipers…I heart Mary Anderson ❤️

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  3. Nice one, Sandra. When you look at the ludicrous gadgets in the catalogues which plop on the doormat (I’m sure you must have them in the US too – the daft catalogues, not the front door deliveries), your cunning devices are positively essential! Carry on lateral thinking!

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  4. Yes, you’re definitely channeling Mary Anderson. And don’t stop. I think you’re a Sag, right, but you must have a Gemini moon!


  5. Dear Mary,
    Might I suggest you are BEHIND the times!
    It’s 2015! WHO sends fabulous ideas –worth thousands, maybe millions, of dollars- to companies for free?! You need to develop and market these ideas … or at the very least sell them!
    A fan of your writing and of the way you think!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Sandra, I enjoyed your blog and loved your ideas, you sure are an ideas woman.
    I would wear your mood glasses but don’t fancy Ray Bans, maybe you should patent the idea then approach other manufacturers. You could make a mint!
    Then I could say I knew you and read your books when…

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