BI-GOODNESS is a bi-monthly column dedicated to the quirky, generally funny and often dangerously impractical inventions and business concepts that occasionally come our way. It is a tribute to the one-eyed entrepreneur, the nutty professor and dotcom jockey in each of us.
People of a certain vintage will remember the first truly shocking series of ads to screen on Australian television. The macabre grim reaper/bowling alley commercials promoted safe sex by scaring everyone witless with the looming spectre of AIDS.
The resulting hysteria eventually subsided as the facts became known. For instance, you can’t contract HIV by kissing – or, rather, you would need to ingest one and a half litres of infected saliva to be in with a chance.
This information was common knowledge by the 1990s. Regrettably, by 1998 it still had not filtered through to the small patch of Salem, Missouri that Deloris Grey Wood called home.
Ossified for abashed posterity in the form of US Patent 5,787,895, Ms Wood’s ‘Kissing Shield’ combined the worst elements of puritanical morality, late 20th century paranoia and a shameless opportunism worthy of Joe McCarthy – all in a heart-shaped sheet of spandex on a stick!
It’s best to let Deloris explain her invention, in her own words.
The present invention proposes a method and device in which a flexible membrane is used as a kissing shield to lessen one’s chances of becoming infected by disease from casual contact. In the alternative, if a person is infected, the chances of transferring the infectious disease from one person to another could be reduced by use of a thin, resilient, flexible, impervious membrane … stretched over a frame or holder. This would lessen the spread of bodily fluids from one person to another when kissing, with the end result of preventing the spread of viruses and diseases, such as canker sores, fever blisters and AIDS.
No. She wasn’t joking. The US Patent Office says so.
The kiss is one of the first forms of affection that we display to another. It seems only natural that we would start at a fundamental level and teach ‘safe kissing’ before we teach ‘safe sex’.
You get the picture. Give and receive affection without risking infection. But wait! There’s more …
“A kissing shield is for casual kissing. It can be used especially by a politician who kisses babies.” Day after day on the campaign trail. Never know where those babies have been. (Or those pollies!)
But if politicians viewed the kissing shield as electoral poison, imagine how love-struck teenagers felt about their chances for a first date snog when Deloris Wood’s disposable membrane was slipped to them by a well-meaning parent.
It is unclear whether the Kissing Shield ever made it beyond the patent board. Perhaps the returned stock was offloaded to First Aid instructors for use on CPR dummies. It surely would have broken Deloris Wood’s heart to see all the romance sucked from her sensible smooch screen.
After all, what’s a disposable membrane between friends?