Five Simple Ideas that Changed Our Lives


Some ideas seem so obvious we wonder how we ever lived without them.  I am not talking about technological breakthroughs, like the TV/garage door/coffee maker/fan clicker, but elegant and clever ideas based on nothing more than common sense and an observant mind, the kind of ideas that make you slap your forehead and say, “Why didn’t I think of that!”

Here is my list of the top five.

1.  Bags on Wheels


The airport consists of a seething mass of people all dragging a wheeled bag behind them.   This convenience did not exist in the early days of air travel.  All bags were checked and I don’t think there was any such thing as overhead storage.  The weight and clunkiness of the bags were irrelevant; it was only a short distance between curb and counter and “redcap” porters were always available to help.

Wheeled bags are now a necessity based on the extra fee and time to check a bag, combined with the long trek to the remote gate Gate B62.  The remaining challenge is hefting these satiated bags into the overhead bin without dumping them onto the head of the vulnerable passenger in the aisle seat.

2.  Upside Down Catsup Bottle



Back in the old narrow-neck catsup bottle days, the advertising campaign for Heinz catsup was Carly Simon singing “Anticipation,” with a close up of a pendulous catsup drip dangling from the lip of the bottle.  But the reality was that consumers were merely impatient and madly spanked the bottle until the catsup splurted out.  French fries were drowned, shirts bloodied and stained.

Finally, a fresh-faced marketer challenged the entrenched wisdom of the “anticipation” enthusiasts.  “Hey nobody likes cleaning up catsup mess.  Let’s face it, catsup is a commodity. We need to market to convenience.”

A squeezable wide-neck bottle was introduced, so wide in fact that it could be stood on its end, spank-proof, with the catsup ready and waiting.  To make sure that consumers took full advantage of this reorientation, the label on the catsup was twirled around to make sure the bottle was positioned correctly on the shelf.  On a recent recon mission to the condiments aisle, I noticed that only Heinz chili sauce remains in a narrow-necked bottle, but this sauce is much thinner than catsup.

3.  Selling the Tops and Bottoms of Women’s Bathing Suits Separately


Okay, I realize the phrase “the drapes don’t match the curtains” is a crude (but creative) reference to whether or not a woman dyes her hair, but it could also apply to a size discrepancy between rack and booty.  Buying a bathing suit is humiliating enough, but even more so if one half of the combo doesn’t fit.  Selling the two parts separately is an elegant solution.  I also suspect that it allows marketers to up their prices so that the two parts are greater than the single whole.

4.  The Common Line


I again harken back to the early airport days where there was no such thing as a common line snaking through cordoned off alleys.  Instead the passenger had to pick one of many individual lines.  The selection became a practiced skill, calling on all sorts of subtle stereotypes.  I would routinely avoid any line with age extremes, i.e. parents with small children or the elderly, or anyone holding a passport who might not speak English, and anyone who looked slovenly, this being the era when people put on their Sunday best for air travel.  (My mother used to wear her pearls.)

The common line is now ubiquitous, and even if not explicitly cordoned off, customers will generally form one of their own.  While I endorse this equitable arrangement, I do regret having to shelve my extraordinary line-picking skills.

5.  Pants That Turn Into Shorts


This innovation might not qualify for this list because it involves the zipper, in my opinion a great technological achievement.  I have always wondered what goes on inside the zipper as the interdigitating teeth enter the movable slider and emerge firmly enmeshed.  All I know is that a misaligned zipper dooms a garment.  You might get the zipper on track one more time, but then you have to live with the certainty that it will splay open again, potentially at an unfortunate moment.

However, I am willing to grandfather the zipper and consider this brilliantly simple application.  Pants that turn into shorts, and shorts that turn into pants – as long you don’t misplace one of the idle pant legs.  Now I am waiting for the innovation to extrapolate to women’s skirts – the zippered tiered skirt that provides a business casual modest midi length that can seamlessly transition to the nighttime micro-mini by unzipping a tier or two, or transition to the floor length skirt suitable for evening wear.  The different tiers could be purchased separately creating multiple permutations of the look.  I am willing to give away this elegantly simple idea for free.





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  1. Cecil Grammatica on November 2, 2020 at 8:37 am

    love this site

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