The Mother of Invention

I try to be a resourceful guy. I’d rather fix something that’s “broken” rather than throw it away even if every bit of information I can find indicates it cannot be fixed. I’d much rather try and fail than simply toss it out. I’m also pretty good at using whatever materials I can scavenge to solve the unexpected problems that invariably arise. Sometimes my resourcefulness saves me money on a replacement and sometimes it saves me from embarrassment.

As an example of the former, one afternoon I sat and worked at my computer. Suddenly, Autumn made a commotion in the bathroom. Then Chrisie started screaming as well.

“What’s all the screaming about?” I called out. Since they were both screaming I thought maybe a snake had gotten in the house or something. I soon learned it was much worse.

“You don’t want to know,” she hollered back.

“Yes I do.”

“Jackson’s playing in the toilet.”

“He’s done that before and you didn’t freak out like this.”

“There’s something in it.”

Now there are some things I just don’t discuss. I mean, bathrooms have doors for a reason. Chrisie knows this about me and knew that phrase was enough to shut me up, which I did. But then she surprised me when she said, “It’s not what you think. You’d better come here.”


“It’s the remote.”

“The old remote we let him play with?”

“No. Our remote.”

I panicked. Our remote served a very specific purpose. It allowed my wife to operate our complex entertainment setup without assistance. She only had to press a single button and everything turned on and all the inputs set correctly. I didn’t want to replace it (it was ridiculously expensive) and I certainly wasn’t going back to using multiple remotes.

I quickly ran and grabbed the remote, tried to ignore how it got wet, and tested it out. Oddly. it failed to work properly after being completely submerged in a toilet bowl. Who knew? I stared at the lifeless hunk of plastic.

I did the only thing that seemed reasonable. I made a work area out of several paper towels and grabbed a screwdriver. I got the outside case open easily enough and poured the remaining water from inside the remote (again trying not to think about where the water came from). Then I removed a couple of pesky stickers that said something about warranties being void if removed. I completely disassembled the guts of the remote and carefully laid out the pieces on the paper towels. I finished by spraying everything down with rubbing alcohol because: One, to speed the drying process and, Two, ewwww.

I impatiently waited two days during which we used two different remotes to get things done. I hoped the real remote would work again because I wasn’t sure I could live like that. I mean, two remotes? I might as well get up and adjust things by hand.

After the two days, I carefully examined the parts and everything seemed dry. I put it all back together. I figured I did it correctly since I didn’t have any parts left over. I put the battery in and its screen lit up. This was definitely a promising sign. I took it to the family room where, to my complete delight, it worked perfectly.

I could go on all day about such examples, but the most interesting situations are ones where a little ingenuity helps avoid embarrassment. A prime example of that type occurred one Wednesday when is till worked in Nashville.

I was in the middle of an over two year process to determine why I experienced neurological issues. No, they never offered a diagnosis other than, “Hey, we really just don’t know.” They hadn’t reached that point yet though so they scheduled a series of testes for me that Wednesday.

Since I worked in Nashville and the tests were in Nashville, I figured I’d be able to get a half day of work in. I showed up at the hospital where a technician wired up my head like a Christmas tree. He then proceeded to performed “tests” that I am almost certain are considered torture.

The first wasn’t too bad and involved sitting while lights flashed in my face. I thought it was horrible, until we reached the nerve induction test. This test required the technician to add more leads to m head which he glued down. They felt tight against my scalp.

“So why do you have to use glue?” I asked.

“So they won’t shift around at all.”

“How can the shift around? Won;t I be lying on that table over there?”

“Yes, but it will be difficult for you to lie perfectly still.”

“I bet I can.”

“Trust me. You can’t.”

I should have bolted right then. Should have, but did not. Here’s how a nerve induction test works. After your head is wired with sensors, a probe gets attached to a spot on your foot. Then a small electric current passes from the probe through your body. This causes nerve endings to fire and a technician records the length of time it takes the signal to reach your brain. The electric current increases until you feel your muscles start to contract. The technician then moves the probe up your body to the next spot and does it again. It goes on several spots on your feet and legs, and then your fingers, hands and arms get attention.

I spent almost two hours on that one test. It hurt. A lot.

When it finally ended the technician made sure he had all the necessary data and then set about removing the leads from my head. After they were off, he lead me to sink exactly like the ones found out hair salons and washed my hair. I didn’t expect this. They left many details out when I asked about the tests earlier. It didn’t seem bad until I realized that he used baby shampoo. He explained that it was the best at removing the glue.

Here’s a funny thing about baby shampoo: apparently it is specifically formulated to make it look as if you have one hand on a Van de Graaff generator. Since I didn’t my hair would get washed, I hadn’t come prepared with anything to tame it. The technician left the room and I desperately hunted for anything that would help me remove the impression that I sat in a clothes dryer on the Fluff setting.

I opened every cabinet, every drawer. There was nothing. I definitely did not want to go back to work with my current hairstyle so I looked all around the room. I almost gave up hope completely until I spied an ultrasound machine. Right next to it was a warmer with a container of the strange lubricant used to help the ultrasound probe glide over skin.

Well, at least it has got to be non-toxic, I thought. I grabbed the container and squeezed a generous portion of the blue gel into one hand. I knew it was actually lubricant, but I intensely wanted to think of it as gel in that moment.

I went back to the mirror and styled my hair. It worked! It only had a very faint scent and no one even noticed the slight blue tint the rest of the day.

Sometimes you just have to do whatever it takes.

© Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Leighton Brown is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leighton Brown and Stories Now Told with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information, please see the Copyright page.

About leighton

I could be considered a true Renaissance Man after having a long and storied (seriously, people actually tell stories about it) college experience and varied careers. I am also a shameless self-promoter (who did you think was writing this anyway?) who is prone to flights of fancy, an abundance of passion on any given subject, ,obsessive behavior, spontaneous storytelling (whether anyone listens or not), and making parenthetical references. I would also be thrilled if I heard someone use the word "raconteur" to describe me.
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