I Meant To Do That – Really
IMAGINE WHAT A DULL AND BORING WORLD it would be if there were never any accidents. I don’t mean those accidents like plane crashes or ships sinking – no, those kind of accidents we could do without. I’m thinking more in the line of “I’ll be darned. How did that happen?”
Some of those small, seemingly innocuous, accidents can bring about world shaking changes. Others just elicit a giggle, a snigger, and a chilled bottle of wine – things important in their own way.
One of these accidental discoveries I recall using before it was “discovered.” When I used it, as a child, it was handed to me and I was given the chore of cleaning the wallpaper in our home with it. I enjoyed using it a great deal more when the manufacturer added bright colors and a better smell, put it into little plastic containers and started selling it under a new name: “Play-Doh.”
As I and other Baby Boomer Babies aged many of us took advantage of a high blood pressure medication – even if we didn’t have high blood pressure. The medication was called Minoxidil and it had a most unusual side effect: It caused balding men to regrow hair.
When the Upjohn Company learned about this amazing side effect they began to market a topical version of the drug under the name “Rogaine.” And millions of men and women worldwide regrew hair and sprouted ear to ear smiles as well.
Viagra, the Little Blue Pill, has a similar history. Originally created to treat Angina (without any success) it had its own special side effect. It didn’t do much for hair growth, but it sure did a lot in the ear to ear smile department.
It seems that a lot of the “Accidental Discoveries” that have gone on to Fame and Fortune started out in the kitchen.
Chocolate Chip Cookies, a staple in my diet, came about when the butterfingered kitchen help spilled the little chip things into the dough. And “Voila!” Mrs. Fields and Famous Amos made a lot of dough of another flavor.
Potato chips (one of the basic food groups) poured out of the bag as part of a feud between a chef and his boss over how thick to slice the potatoes.
“You want ‘em thinner? I’ll give you thinner!”
I have no idea whose idea it was to put in the little wavy ridges – probably the inventor of Onion Dip.
Teflon was the result of a screwed up experiment – when the lab assistant forgot to turn off the power and cooked some bizarre chemical compound overnight – and the George Foreman Grill was born.
The list of truly accidental discoveries could go on and on:
Saccharin – Made Diet Mountain Dew possible I’m afraid.
The Microwave Oven – Salvaging Orville Redenbacher from anonymity.
Penicillin – saved millions of lives.
LSD – thereby making the 1960s both memorable and difficult to remember.
Post-it Notes – You should see my desk.
Super Glue – Cheaper than really fixing broken stuff.
And my personal favorite – The Slinky.
In 1943, during World War Two, Richard James, a mechanical engineer, was trying to develop a new style of spring to be used onboard ships at sea to stabilize delicate equipment. He accidentally knocked one of the springs from a shelf, and watched as the spring “stepped” in a series of arcs to a stack of books, to a tabletop, and to the floor, where it re-coiled itself and stood upright.
Over 300 million Slinkys have been sold since then and our house was never without one or two. I’ve always been a sucker for cheap entertainment.
I was tempted to add Justin Bieber to this list of accidental discoveries, but I decided I really didn’t want to try to explain the biggest mistake of them all.