Sunday, February 6, 2011


The other day, we had a cryptic message on our answering machine. The first surprise was that the message was for Alex, who rarely receives phone calls. The other mystery was that the caller identified himself as being from an invention resources company that Ed and I did not know. According to the message, Alex had apparently requested information regarding an idea he was currently working on and which the caller felt had “marketing potential.” Since Ed and I were unaware of any work Alex had been doing on an invention, this call came as a surprise to us. However, we knew that he’d probably been online and left his name and number with some unsuspecting customer service representative. A few years ago, we discovered that Alex had been researching cars and auto loans online when we started receiving calls from car dealers and insurance salespeople wanting to speak with Alex. Because Alex was only fifteen at the time, I told the callers that Alex did not have a driver’s license or the money to buy a car and apologized that he’d wasted their time. We also took away Alex’s computer privileges for a while to make sure he wasn’t making any online deals.

After this latest call, Ed suggested that we check Alex’s online history to see what he’d been researching and how he’d found this invention company. Going through the list of websites that Alex frequents is always an interesting journey that reveals his interests. Primarily the websites he seeks revolve around Alex’s three C’s: clocks, calendars, and calculators. After wading through all those measuring device searches, I finally found where he’d discovered the company who called him. Apparently, he had to submit a name for his product idea and a brief description of the invention. Since the caller thought it had “marketing potential,” I was very curious as to what he had submitted along with his name and our phone number. When I asked him if he’d come up with any new inventions lately, he told me no very earnestly. Apparently he doesn’t remember what he’d entered, or maybe he’s worried I might steal his brilliant idea and try to pass it off as my own. Ed thinks it probably had something to do with a device that changes voices, which has been a recent obsession. I wonder if they thought he was a crackpot and were just curious to talk to him. Anyway, I guess we’ll have to keep a closer eye on what websites he’s visiting, especially if he’s going to leave his name and number.

While we don’t know what this recent invention might be, Alex has come up with some creative inventions in the past. Several years ago, he created a series of stories about a character named Bill, who lived with his wife Pam and their son Carlos. Since we don’t know anyone named Bill or Carlos, I always wondered where he came up with those names. I guess I should feel honored that he named Bill’s wife after me. Bill worked for our local newspaper, just as my sister’s husband does, until he decided to move to New York, where my in-laws live, so that he could take a job working as a stockbroker on Wall Street—Alex’s dream job at that time. He would type up these stories, which was unusual for him because he really doesn’t like to write stories. Nonetheless, he had a pretty good idea of how to develop plot and character, which made his English teacher parents proud. Another pretty clever invention Alex created was “Kitchen Soccer,” a game in which he would kick a small ball around our kitchen, trying to knock down barriers at the three doorways of our kitchen. He’d line up small paper cups between the kitchen and family room, dining room, and foyer, and he developed a point system for knocking over the cups. Other than the disappearance of Dixie cups from our kitchen dispenser and tripping over them, this was a harmless game kept him amused over several months' time. Maybe like cup stacking games that sell for $14.99, kitchen soccer will become a fad and make Alex rich. I might just keep that invention resources company’s phone number in case Alex decides to become an entrepreneur. Wouldn’t that be something if someday he had a company of his own that sold stocks on Wall Street, where his imaginary friend Bill found the job of his dreams? On the other hand, mothers would be tripping over kitchen soccer cups, just as I did; I’m not sure I’m ready to let Alex share his inventions with the world just yet.

“Then I sent to him, saying, ‘No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.’” Nehemiah 6:8

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