A while back I wrote a Public-Service article called Fellowship of the Carpool, and Other Small Groups with a few thoughts towards forming your own FotC (pronounced “fot-see”). Here’s a brief excerpt apropos of, well, nothing really:
Have you ever been in a carpool? I’m in one with three others (names have been changed to protect the
guiltyinnocent: there’s Joe, Fred, Sherry, and what the heck, since everyone else gets a new name – call me Steve).
Well, the other day in our FotC we started an interesting discussion about technology, and I have to say, it was a particularly zany conversation. Sherry wasn’t riding with us that day so it was just the three of us: Joe, Fred, and me (Steve).
Fred instigated the whole thing as we went through one of the EZ Tag lanes at a toll gate, wondering out loud if there were any way to circumvent the EZ Tag system.
I suppose the testosterone level must have been rather high that particular day, kicking off a wild and whacky discussion about various ways we could think of to fox the sensors. (Brings to mind a list I saw once entitled “Why it’s good to be a guy”. #1 on the list: “We know stuff about tanks.” ‘Course, the words, “- or we’ll make something up” remain, er, unspoken.)
Two of the most interesting ideas included:
- Make a fake EZ Tag (the part of the system – the tag itself – that rides in your car with you). However, since this was rather too blatantly illegal, we quickly discarded it.
- Build a “null” tag that causes the sensors to not “see” your car passing through the tollgate. (Not that this would be any less illegal – just more, um, devious.) After all, the best solution would be for there to be no record of your passing. Sortof like Tiny Tim tip-toeing through the tulips.
Someone (actually, it may have been me) noted there are also cameras pointed at each lane, so even if the sensor wasn’t triggered, your license plate would still be recorded (no doubt resulting in one of those thoughtful greeting cards from our fine Men or Women in Uniform with a request for a donation).
This naturally steered the conversation toward ways to thwart the cameras. Ideas abounded. (Is that what happens when ideas bounce more than once?)
Let’s see… there’s always the ever-popular “cloak of invisibility” (who says J.K. Rowling hasn’t made her mark on the world?). The fun part about this one is that it would trigger the sensor that a car was there, but none would be visible.
Much hilarity ensued at the thought of the imagined confusion of the operators (hey, give us a break; it’s a long drive). That idea led to others, like a holographic projector that can overlay the camera’s lens with the image of an empty lane as your car passes through.
Alas and fooey, the technical challenges seemed at least temporarily too formidable to solve, so we had to think a different direction. (Well, for now, anyway. But hey, we’re optimistic about the future, so you never know…)
So we came up with a few ideas that were decidedly much more low-tech, and actually (theoretically, at least) possible. Thus were born the following (patent-pending) ideas:
- Train 10,000 chameleons to sit on the top half of your car and mimic the color of the pavement. (Hey, I did say theoretically possible.) Don’t forget to take the time of day into account so they can adjust for shadows. (See – we think of everything!) You may also need a lot of, uh, glue to keep the frisky little critters in their places. Oh, and flies – you’ll need lots of flies.
- In order to avoid talk (what would the neighbors say?) and a visit from PETA, paint the top half of your car to look like pavement. Again, don’t forget to take the time of day into account so you can adjust the paint job for shadows.
- If you really don’t like the idea of driving the world’s only Lizardmobile, or of having a truly unique paint job, how about this one? Buy, beg, borrow
or steala piece of sheet metal a bit larger than your car. Then, paint THAT to mimic the concrete. Mount it on top of your car with removable clips, and Voila! (which is French for Hey, lookit that whack job idiotsilly goof!) you’ve got yourself a plan!
Just as we got to our dropoff point, Joe (our driver for the day) just shook his head sadly, saying, “Keep thinkin’ y’all…”
OK, before you go running to the authorities to alert them to a series of potential misdemeanors, allow me to point out that no actual laws were broken during the writing of this post (other than the laws of sensibility, propriety and common sense – but what the hey). However, this does serve to illustrate an important principle we can all use every now and then.
When you find yourself in need a new idea and you’re, well, stuck – hey, get help! And I don’t mean a psychiatrist, silly (at least not for, uh, this) – no, I mean get a few more brains working on it with you. The fact is, there’s nothing more powerful to give creativity a kick in the backside!
It serves two purposes.
First, they can help “prime the pump” so to speak. Ever seen or heard of “story starters”? Writers use them to help get past the dreaded blankpageitis disease. These usually consist of anything from a few word to few sentences, on virtually any subject. The trick is, once they see something – literally anything – on the page, it becomes easier to pick up and go forward.
Another great benefit: they can provide a springboard for even more ideas. For instance, you can sortof follow the progression of our thoughts in the story above. I mean c’mon – there’s no way I would could have made up half the stuff we talked about – it was too far outside my own experience (not to mention level of
insanity sanity). But by playing ideas off each other, we were able to come up with far more than what we could have on our own. Works nicely that way, don’t you think?
Besides, it can be ‘way more fun that trying to figure it out for yourself. I’m tellin’ ya, the three of us made one heckuva brain that day!