As an American, I am blessed with inventiveness. As everyone knows, everything worth being invented was inventd here in America. Yes, I know that some great inventions are claimed by other nations but, as a loyal American, I am dubious about such claims. Besides, America's inventiveness extends to finding such inventions and buying them up as quickly as possible so that we can lay claim to bringing them to market.
Because we are inquisitive, we also improve existing inventions. Consider the washing machine. At one time, women (always women, I suspect, since men couldn't seem to care less about cleanliness) pounded clothes on rocks after wetting them in a stream or pond. This was bad as it damaged careless fingers and chipped nail polish. Eventually, someone figured out a washboard where you pushed them along the slats, and then hand-cranked machines with tubs of water. The first motorized ones use primitive (and often balky) gasoline engines. It was an American that first used an electric motor to do the hard work. And that led to the Spin Cycle. Before the spin cycle, clothes were squeezed through two rollers to wring the water out of the clothes. A dangerous practice for the clumsy who would get hands caught between the rollers. I am sure that small children would get caught up in the wringer if not closely supervised. Hence the phrase, "run through the wringer."
While we did not invent the gasoline engine nor the automobile, we did invent teh assembly line in order to make them cheaper and in such great quantities as to give birth to the [insert automobile name here] Sales Event in order to unload the excess. This, of course, led to the greatest American invention, Planned Obsolescence. This was accomplished by making parts that barely lasted through the warranty period and not much beyond. And also caused the invention of automobile fins which would vary by size, shape, and orientation each year. The purpose of these fins was never revealed outside the industry, buyers just assumed they made the car go fast or something.
All of this led to the emergence of a uniquely American creation, the mindless consumer. This creation allowed the growth of small businesses into the huge corporations of today. It is also one of our most important exports. The concept of mindless consumption has spread throughout the world creating prosperity for businesses everywhere and empty pockets and savings accounts for the rest of us.
People needed a way to pay for all this consumption. So the credit card was born. Before credit cards, most people just ran up tabs with various businesses. The oil companies and department stores realized a way to make it easier for consumers to buy things without actually having money in their pockets could be profitable in itself. Borrowing (if you will forgive the pun) from the concept of usury, they charged huge interest rates on any balance.
In 1946 (the very year I was born!), a Brooklyn banker invented the bank card. This was the first card that could be used at multiple stores. All bills went to the bank, which then "loaned" the money to the consumer by paying the stores. It wasn't until 1949 that one could pay for a meal with a credit card. Yes, that was the Diner's Club Card and it became widespread for use in travel and entertainment. It was probably the first card recognized by call girls but we won't go there.
It was 9 years after the introduction of the Diner's Club card that American Express introduced the first plastic credit card.
All of this led, eventually, to the Great Banking Crisis of 2010. Which may lead to our going back to washing clothes by pounding them on rocks in a stream.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago