My baby brother, Tim, and his family flew in to spend time with us recently, and after I picked them up at the airport, we sat down late at night to catch up on old times.
That's when they noticed that their suitcase, which they had packed in New Mexico that morning, wasn't their suitcase at all. Although it was an unusual shade of blue and oddly shaped, it had a twin somewhere, and that twin was in our hallway.
We called the airport, but everyone must have been outside welcoming in new suitcases and seeing off Tim's suitcase on its way to someone else's hallway.
At the airport, Tim turned in the bag he had mistakenly picked up hours earlier. A woman took it past the door where passengers are not allowed and returned with the correct bag. We left, tired but happy, pulling the bag behind us on its little wheels.
Travelers today wouldn't be caught dead flying with a bag that actually had to be carried. The invention of the luggage wheels has made traveling accessible to everyone - much the way the Model T did. If I had invented that first rolling bag, I'd be rich enough today to pay the fees that airlines charge for luggage.
I'm always coming up with great ideas for inventions, but too late. Take shoes, for instance.
My co-worker Jennifer took her 2-year-old son with her recently as she shopped for shoes. Ethan picked up a woman's shoe and turned it all around. He didn't seem impressed.
"Does it light up?" he asked. Then he started throwing Cheetos.
To a kid, straps and heels don't count. Lights, though - the lights that flash on toddlers' shoes when they walk - those are what make walking worthwhile.
I wish I had invented those lights. In fact, I wish I had lights on my shoes. Is it too late to invent kids' shoes for adults?
I do have some original ideas. For example, why don't they make key fobs that work on house doors instead of car doors? Beep! Beep! That would prevent a lot of fumbling in purses and pockets.
Why not have closed captions for movies in theaters like those available on television? When thoughtless clods are babbling on their phones during the show, that's when we really need the captions to know what was said by the actors.
I have an idea that would appeal to fans of the BBC America science fiction program Doctor Who. The Doctor is a time traveler who, when asked what he is doing in a particular time or place, flips open an I.D. case that shows the questioner what he or she expects to see. If the person thinks the Doctor might be a health inspector, that's what the badge shows.
Why not, then, market an electronic device that flashes a different title each time it is opened, sort of like a flat Magic 8 Ball? One time, it might say you are minister of defense, and the next time, director of the interstellar council. It might come in handy at parties, or maybe traffic stops.
I actually invented something as I was showing Tim, Cecilia and Matthew around town. While awaiting our shrimp at an oyster bar, I idly shook a few drops of Tabasco sauce into my Diet Coke.
My first response was, "Yikes! My lips are burning!" because I had sipped from the cup. After switching to a straw, my second response was, "Yikes! This is a tasty combination!"
And it was. You wouldn't think it, but Coke and Tabasco pair up well, much like movie popcorn and sliced jalapenos. (Try them.)
Feel free to invent any of my ideas and keep the profits for yourself. If you market Tabasco Coke, though, I insist that you require anyone drinking it to raise a toast to me - the inventor.