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Solo-operable seesaw


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.

Illustration: Sam Griffin

Inventors are lone wolf types, too often misunderstood and under-appreciated. So is it any wonder that their inventions sometimes reflect their sense of isolation and defiant self-reliance? It speaks to the credo: ingenuity conquers all (love is overrated).

Take US patent 6,872,145 (March 2005) – the solo operable seesaw. Now, I might be way off here, but I remember the joy of a seesaw as being intimately tied up in the interplay with the person on the other end of the plank. Seesaws are about so much more than just seeing and sawing; they are all about brinkmanship and cavalier assessments of your comrade’s weight, co-ordination and proclivity for mischief.

The solo-operable seesaw is to its more traditional two-person ancestor what hitting a ball against a wall is to a game of tennis.

So what could possibly have inspired Louisiana inventor Dale Bourdreaux to design this peculiar party for one? Well, a glance at his patent application reveals that Dale is a well-intentioned safety freak. After outlining the inconvenience (read trauma) of needing a playmate to operate a conventional seesaw, he gets down to business – to the nub of the matter.

“Third, a seesaw plank can be a dangerous object in the hands of a mischievous child, who may abruptly pull down on one end when another child is passing by the opposite end, causing the opposite end to rise quickly and potentially striking the passing child.”

Where I grew up, a lot of people called that “building character”. Let’s call it a formative education about life’s ups and downs.

Anyone for tennis?

If you have a business idea that you momentarily tried to pursue (but realise now that you should have known better), email [email protected] We’ll try to be gentle.

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