The greatest invention - ever!
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by Ron Cruger
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First, I have to tell you about the people who gather at the local Starbuck’s
on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are seven of them, including me. It’ll help if I give you a very brief description of each one of
them. There’s Helen, who’s in her fifties. She’s observant, smart, reserved and only speaks when she has something worthwhile to say.
Dick, almost sixty years old, who is loud and opinionated. He doesn’t want to spend too much time on any one subject as he gets antsy.
He wants fast solutions to problems. His eyes are constantly darting around the table, around everything.
is in her early forties, shy and quiet. Doesn’t like confrontations. She’s a small town girl. She likes the idea of sitting around
the table, listening to other people express their opinions. She likes the Tuesday and Thursday meetings.
is Asian, forty five years old. She’s short, pretty, comes from an extremely rich family. I’ve heard it said that her father owns
half of Hong Kong. She sees flaws in most arguments, but won’t say anything until she gets totally fed up with the lack of logic on
behalf of a few of her table mates.
Steve is in his middle forties, black,
athletic, very smart and a graduate of Harvard. He has little tolerance for ignorance, bigotry or stupidity. He’s a serious student
of thinking and problem solving.
Helaine is forty six years old, quite
attractive, smart, has a tendency to flirt, likes the challenge of listening to, understanding and even adding to the round table
conversations. Avoids encounters.
There really isn’t a round table at the
local Starbuck’s. It’s more of a quadrate, formed when the participants shove four of the square tables together every Tuesday and
The group of seven grew from a series of chance meetings
while enjoying various sizes and flavors of the available coffees. The “Roundable” enlarged from the original four members and has
increased over the course of a year to the current seven.
four, myself, Helen, Dick and Steve thought that the name of the group should be “The Algonquin Roundtable II,” but it was decided
to be somewhat ostentatious and dropped. The name, “The Starbuck’s Roundtable” stuck.
Thursday morning, Aimee offered her “good mornings” to the group and said, “I’ve been thinking, which do you think was the greatest
invention of all time?”
Dick quickly responded, “Hell, it’s gotta be the
atomic bomb, look what it did in Japan. And look how the fear of the atomic bomb affects so many of the nations of the world.”
differed, “I think there are three things that rank right on top of the list of greatest inventions. The mechanical clock, the toilet
and the electric grid. Just think, before the mechanical clock, nobody knew the exact time. They looked at sundials, sand timers or
they guessed at the time. Do I have to tell you how great it is having toilets? Think if we didn’t have them. And the single thing
that keeps the world moving is the electric grids. Three great inventions. Top them.”
raised her hand, as if in school, and said, “I know how important to the world those inventions were, but don’t you think the inventing
of penicillin, aspirin and the printing press should be ranked one, two and three? I’d even put immunization and all antibiotics in
with my list as the greatest inventions.”
Quiet Mary, shyly, almost reluctantly,
spoke, “I don’t know, but don’t you think the greatest inventions, the ones that changed the world the most, are the automobile, television,
the airplane and maybe even the telephone. How could the world do without these inventions?”
turned to Helaine and impatiently said, “So, what does the pretty one think, huh?”
not wanting to present an argument to the others, hesitated a moment, then spoke. “Well, I don’t know if I can pick the very top invention,
but I think the World Wide Web and computers have changed the world as we know it. Almost everything we do is related to our computers
and the internet. We couldn’t live without them, could we?”
in his chair with anxiety, looked at me and said, “So, what do you have to add to the discussion? Got any ideas?”
never invited, he always challenged.
let’s face it, there’ve been a lot of great inventions. How about beer, the button, cellophane, the zipper, corn flakes, the bikini,
Astroturf, the aerosol can, the brassiere, electric can opener, the ATM, Polaroid film and maybe the most important invention – religion.
Today there are more than twenty major religions and all of them have had a profound effect on the world, right from the beginning.”
Aimee sat up straight in her chair and said, “Boy, it’s hard to find an
invention bigger than religion. That get’s my vote. Religions have changed the world and continue to do so.”
had one more selection. “My vote for the greatest invention of all time hasn’t been invented yet, but it soon will be.”
put down his cup of coffee, leaned forward and asked, “So, Ron, what’s the big mystery, what’s the greatest invention of all time?”
I said, it isn’t here yet, but when it is it will change the lives of millions. The sick will be healed, the crippled will walk, the
chronically ill will find health. With this invention will come problems by the score, but overall, genetic engineering will be mankind’s
Helen, with her quiet, intelligent manner, checked
her wrist watch, pushed her chair back, rose from it, looked at me and said, “Perhaps, next week we can continue this discussion.
With that, the seven members of the “Starbuck’s Roundtable”
rose. Each going their own way. Each contemplating the discussion.