Best invention EVER: Nail Polish Strips by Sally Hansen.
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“I need a syringe, a cotton swab and a cuticle stick–STAT!”
The groans of the sick and the dying were too awful to bear, made more horrible by the relentless heat of the equatorial sun, but who was I to complain? I was just a lowly orderly, while Dr. Walter Reed was the brains of the operation, working night and day to develop a vaccine that would rid the world of yellow fever, the wasting disease that had brought progress on the Panama Canal to a grinding halt, thereby strangling the U.S. cruise ship industry in its cradle.
“Sure he’s suffering. You would be too with nails like that!”
I dragged myself from bed to bed, applying cold compresses to the foreheads of the dying ditch diggers, hoping to give them a few moments’ surcease of suffering before they left this world for a better one. I had just wrung out my cloth and was about to lay it upon the furrowed brow of a young man whose eyes had rolled back under his lids when I heard a shout from Dr. Reed’s makeshift laboratory.
“Eureka!” I heard him exclaim. “I have succeeded–finally–and stand ready to have a hospital in the greater Washington, D.C. area named after me!” he cried out with joy.
“A vaccine? You’ve found a cure for the disease that will thrill young readers of Landmark Books for generations to come?”
“No, you goombah!” Reed said with excitement. “Nail polish strips! At first I thought they were press-on nails, but they’re definitely not!”
As a mechanic at the Ford Motor Works in Dearborn, Michigan, I often felt as if I was a witness to history. I know, I know–I should have said “were,” but the subjunctive mood would have been inconsistent with my character as a humble grease monkey on the first prototype of an automobile manufacturing plant.
The problem that our wacky anti-Semitic boss Henry Ford was struggling to solve was how to produce a car that could be afforded by the great mass of men who would build it. He had tried stacking auto bodies on top of each other, putting them into a gigantic restaurant-style blender, arranging them in crop circles in the hope that alien life forms in flying saucers would build them as a hobby, the way young boys like the author tried without success to make miniature hot rods out of plastic and glue. Nothing seemed to work.
Ford had been holed up in his “skunk works,” the drawing room where the tables were covered with blue prints of various designs, for days now. They guys on the shop floor were growing restive, juggling chrome bumpers, trying to scratch their armpits with their hobnail boots. And then, like a bolt of lightning, Ford emerged from seclusion with an enormous smile on his face and let out a shout that could be heard all the way to Detroit.
“Gadzooks, the answer was hiding in plain sight right before me!” he cried to the junior engineers who crowded around him.
“So you think my idea of assembling the ‘cars’ on a moving assembly line will work, Mr. Ford?” one of them asked hesitantly.
“Who said anything about cars?” Ford snapped in a peremptory manner. “My best friend Emily that lives in Indianapolis called and told me I HAD to try Sally Hansen Nail Polish strips!”
Boston’s Bowdoin Square was covered in snow, and Alexander Graham Bell shivered in our unheated quarters. He had used up nearly all of the money he had raised from friends and family to construct his “phonautograph,” a machine that would someday enable suburban mothers to maintain constant contact with each other while they drove “automobiles,” if Henry Ford would ever get off his duff and mass produce the oversize SUVs that an impatient nation yearned for. At the moment, however, he faced almost certain business and personal failure, and I withdrew from his laboratory, pained as I was by the site of the man in his sore distress.
Blow man, blow!
When I reached the adjoining room, however, I heard the culmination of all of our hard work, as clear as a bell. “Mr. Watson,” I heard Dr. Bell say. “Come here — I want to see you.”
“Yes, Dr. Bell! I’ll be right there!” I could hardly contain my sense of relief and happiness as I skidded around the corner and saw him sitting in his chair, smiling, holding up his handiwork for me to see.
“Look, Watson,” he said, his fingernails lit up as if by Thomas Alva Edison’s light bulb. “You won’t believe how easy Sally Hansen Nail Polish Strips are to apply–and there is no drying time!”