I was thinking the other day, as I sometimes do, about stamps.
We buy stamps, lift them to our mouths and slide them across our tongues, stick them on an envelope and then drop them in a mailbox to be sent across town, across the country or to another country altogether.
But wait. As I think about this, I realize that I haven't seen a stamp that you have to lick in years. In fact, I myself, exclusively buy the self adhesive variety. I don't buy them because of their peel and stick ease, but rather because they come in fun designs (read that not the American flag) and when it comes to stamps that is important to me. So perhaps stamps are not the best example.
So, let me start again.
I was thinking the other day, as I sometimes do, about envelopes.
We buy envelopes, place folded paper inside them, bring them to our mouths and draw them across our tongues, seal them, stick a self adhesive stamp on them and then send them across town, across the country or to another country altogether.
We lick them. Collectively. Think about that for a second. To make the envelope work, we apply saliva to it. When you think about it, isn't that kind of strange?
Clearly, the envelope is not a recent invention. The contemporary mind just doesn't come up with inventions that require the addition of bodily fluids in order to make them work.
I tried to do some research on when the lick-able envelope was invented and came up with nothing. (By research I mean that I typed the words "lickable envelope" into the google search bar and glanced at the descriptions of the resulting web pages that came up. I love the fact that nowadays you can use the world "research" to describe a 7 second act, while back in the day research required a trip to a library, thumbing through catalogs and the viewing of microfiche.) My research, while speedy, did not reveal any information on the invention of the lick-able envelope, but I did learn that the lick-able stamp was invented in 1837 by a schoolmaster from England named Rowland Hill. One could assume then that the lick-able envelope was invented the very next day. After all, they needed someplace to stick the stamps.
It probably happened like this:
Rowland: "Hey look! If I lick this, it will stick right to your forehead."
Rowland's Wife: "Hey! Cut that out Rowland! Why don't you stick it on a piece of paper that is folded up to serve as a thin outer membrane for paper on which you have written a piece of correspondence. Then all we have to do is wait for the postal system to be invented in order to deliver it to a designated recipient for their reading enjoyment."
That was a long time ago. Long before we had hand-sanitizer and clorox wipes available at the grocery store to wipe down the handles of your shopping cart. Long before automatic toilet seat covers spat out of a machine at the airport restroom. Long before we figured out that human beings have lots and lots of cooties.
Perhaps back then, people went around licking things randomly anyway, so someone decided that they may as well find a use for all that saliva.
This would never happen now, a saliva-dependent product. Imagine it.
Seriously. Would YOU buy a new I-pod Lick?
What if it were way cheaper that a regular touch I-phone, but worked just as well, except you had to lick it to make it work?
What if it were half the price?
What if it were $5.00?
I know who would buy it. When I was in Junior High School there was a boy named Sid McKensey. He was a bit of an entrepreneur. He started a business called, "I will lick anything for a quarter."
A lollypop that had been on the floor. The bottom of someone's shoe. A slug. You name it, and he would lick it. For a quarter. I never witnessed this, of course, but his status was legendary.
I imagine that if Sid were still in the business, his venture would now be called, "I will lick anything for a dollar." Or perhaps Sid is running those underground extreme stamp licking rings you hear so much about.
I think perhaps that we are too quick to dismiss saliva-dependent technology these days. Take the following scenario. You get on an elevator with your hands full of sleeping infants that can't be put down even for a moment or they will wail at unprecedented decibels and at the same time, you are suffering from a broken nose, an injury so painful that you can't apply the slightest bit of pressure to it without passing out, and there are no other people on the elevator to help you out, and you have an important appointment on the 42nd floor which has to do with receiving a large sum of money, but only if you show up on time. In this instance you might just be very grateful for the newly installed lick-operated elevator buttons.
Or take the following scenario, albeit slightly more outlandish and improbable than the last. It is a very hot day. Your wish for a refreshingly cool treat takes you to the freezer at your local convenience store. You reach in and pull out a popsicle. Only one question. How in the world are you going to eat it?