Why?:Reinvent the wheel

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What a sight to behold. The pure sound alone makes the heart yearn to live on its silver shore forever. (photo & caption reprinted from the prospectus, courtesy of SeeYa'round Inc., all rights reserved)

Reinventing the wheel isn't as easy as it sounds, as I learned the hard way. When you find yourself on an earth other than the one you grew up on, just keep calm. There's usually a good reason why you're there. You don't have to be religious to believe in a just God, or cheat yourself into a winning streak in Vegas to know when Lady Luck smiles upon you. You just have to hold on and ride the lightning to fame, fortune, and fast frauleins.

Step One: Wake up on an alternate-earth

Home sweet home?

As soon as I opened my eyes that morning I knew something was amiss. The first thing I noticed was that my room didn't have as much stuff in it. In fact it was almost bare of stuff. The mattress, resting on the dirt (dirt? where was my floor?), was lumpy and pokey. I think it was a deer skin filled with dirt, crushed leaves, sticks, and more dirt. The marble paneled walls looked rougher and rockier than when I had gone to sleep. And my expensive teak dresser from Spain, polished to a rich finish with separate drawers for my socks, underwear, and that top drawer where the important stuff lives, was now a rectangle shaped box made of twigs with a squirrel's tail hanging off its side.

This was too much. I got out of leaves and hit my head on the top of a cave. A cave? That's when I noticed that my light source wasn't my Mickey Mouse lamp or the recessed lighting, but was actually the sun itself, shining through the cave's entrance about ten steps to my left. Quickly glancing around to find my Mickey and my other important stuff, I instead saw lots and lots of wood furniture. In fact everything was wood. There were tree branches stacked in weird configurations which I took to be a table and chair, eating utensils made entirely of twigs and bark, and other larger pieces forming clearly functional shapes on which lay--what are those, bones? There was even a wooden diety of some sort wearing a monkey shaped Halloween mask, which upon closer inspection turned out to be the dried head of a large ape with the most angry expression on its face.

And then I saw a woman and two children cringing in the corner, pushing their backs up against the stone like they were afraid I was going to whallop them. I spoke to the woman, not an unattractive lass, in the King's English.

"I say, my dear, could you tell me how I got here?" She pushed herself and her brood further into the corner of the cave, this time trying to hide behind a bear-fur. "Did I have an accident? Did you find me on the side of the road?" She was still unresponsive and cringy, so I gave up and walked towards the cave entrance.

Step Two: Leave the cave and look around

Gaining the native's trust isn't nearly as important as scoring a quarter-pound of that mushroom.

Once outside I saw that my cave was on a small hill, and that an entire community of people and bonobos were living in other caves, in the forest surrounding the hill, and in things I can best describe as nests in the trees. The sky was very blue, and the air, lacking its normal petro scent and urban haze, smelled oddly healthy (I coughed, but only from habit, as not one speck of yellowish nicotine gunk emerged). Multi-colored birds sailed overhead, human and bonobo children playing together while emitting laughs and hoots of childhood pleasure, and trusting butterflies and bumblebees landed gently on my shoulders before lazily flying off again. It all seemed very unreal, but also sublimely familiar. Luckily I knew my quantum physics, and quickly realized that I had awoken on an alternate earth. Here I was, aware of my past and cognizent of my surroundings, but now occupying an unfamiliar body in another part of the multiverse.

As I got used to my predicament, and actually began to enjoy my surroundings, I took in more of the sights and sounds of this exotic environment. That's when I started to notice something truly odd. Looking from each dwelling to the next, I saw that these people and bonobos had no pushcarts or buggies, let alone proper transportation. By jimminey, they didn't have anything round! They didn't have wheels!

I felt like Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, and Wernher von Braun all rolled into one. My mission here was obvious.

I was going to invent the wheel!

My next emotion, surprisingly, was disappointment. I saw a bonobo warming herself next to a small fire, and realized that I wasn't going to get to invent that too.

Step Three: Find Materials

I decided right away to build a simple wheelbarrow. First, I needed to gather wheel-building materials. I walked past my tribemates (who seemed to know my parallel universe self quite well, judging from the distance they kept combined with their expressive snarls) and at the bottom of the hill I began to search for a round boulder or a piece of circular tree trunk. Something solid and round that I could cut or chip. I was really getting into this project, and had already walked a mile into the woods and high grass near the waterfalls and scenic ponds, when the first hint of trouble came.

Step Four: Evade your predators

A saber-toothed tiger attacking a village elder

JESUS CHRIST SHACKED UP WITH SATAN, WHERE DID THESE THINGS COME FROM??? Big cats everywhere, there must be a half-dozen saber-toothed tigers lying in the grass and spread out among the trees. The bonobos up in the branches are hooting and hollarin', and seem to be encouraging the cats to attack. Now the tigers react to my presence, although most of them busy themselves by licking their paws. I figure they must have fed earlier because I see a carcass of, what is that, a Mastodon?

Okay, I'll play nice.

Saber toothed tiger.jpg
Hello kittens, good kitties, pretty babies

. I throw pebbles into the underbrush, and, in my steep saber-tooth tiger learning curve, find that this ruse--augmented with various yelps and chirps--distracts them from placing their complete attention upon me. And even as one comes close enough to rub its back and tail against my pants leg, by moving slowly backwards I'm able to ease myself out of their line-of-sight (the bonobos' disappointment is obvious, and they express it by wetting me as I edge my way along the treeline). In a couple of minutes, figuring I'm out of the tiger's range, I pick up the pace and quickly jog back into the village.

Is this what happens when the wheel never gets invented? Saber-toothed tigers, mastodons, and heaven knows what else still prowling the earth, never having gone extinct? This shit-my-pants lesson given me by Mother Nature has shown me the truly wonderful impact on this timestream that I'm going to have.

Step Five: Invent the wheel

Gather wood from near the tree trunks and chip it into a wheel. Or polish a large round boulder.

Just invent the wheel. It's not that difficult, it's just a wheel for Christsake.

Step Six: Use the Wheel

This pre-development landscape used to give me the willies. Just imagine the disquieting sounds coming out of there when the sun went down.

Now do what I did. Haul your wheel out to the middle of the town square in full daylight. Then spring it on the natives and bonobos without warning. Because if you do a big build-up, history shows that expectations are liable to overtake reality.

I pushed my wheel (a large piece of wood, fastened through its center hole to a sturdy branch which formed the axle), which was attached to my wheelbarrow (made from slabs of wood and slate rock bound together by my own special mixture of sabre-tooth tiger and bonobo sinew), right into the middle of the crowd. Then, in my loudest voice, I yelled "BEHOLD!". The bonobos jumped a mile and the natives scattered like pigeons. I walked over, grabbed a baby bonobo, plopped it right into the middle of the wheelbarrow, and started wheeling it around. Have you ever heard a bonobo scream? They open up their airways and let loose, loud enough to shake the ground and wake the dead. The baby bonobo started to wail, and its mother had a healthy pair of lungs on her too, and then all the rest of them joined in. Carnival time in Rio, that's all I could think of.

Right in the middle of this cacophony I saw a middle-aged (19?) native get a glint in his eye. I shook my head "Yes, Yes" like Helen Keller's exhausted teacher, and pushed the wheelbarrow towards him. He roughly removed the bonobo baby, threw it aside, and dollars to donuts, jumped into the wheelbarrow himself! Grunting and pantomining "Push me", the native stood up in the middle of the garden-utensil as I slowly pushed it about twenty feet towards the forest. He looked back at me and actually smiled. I had my first ally!

Step Seven: Change the World

One of our deluxe high-end models

Gumshoe and I (I called him Gumshoe because of the sticky pinkish fungus-growths covering his feet) put together a few more wheelbarrows, as well as a large rolling platform, before the others began to join us. Soon I had a staff of ten humans and four bonobos manufacturing scooters, hand trucks, pallet dollies, and things I can only compare to shopping carts. My entire village quickly joined the project, as did several surrounding villages after Gumshoe and I traveled to them to show off our inventory (you should have heard their bonobos scream when we rolled into town with a corpse of a Giant Sloth propped-up in a shopping cart!). Within weeks we had cleared out the larger animals so we could use their burrows for storage, and cut down much of the forest to put in the highways and make room for development.

Now I sit, King of my world, in a cave lined with gold surrounded by wives of many species. A bustling industry producing all the things a lad and lass could want lays before me, and the world is my oyster (we have a line of oysters if you'd like to look at a brochure). Some of our artists will sell you paintings of what the area's forests used to look like--they must have been beautiful when the leaves changed. Our crackerjack condominium salesmen professionally reflect the excitement of our exclusive, more well-to-do clientele, whose grunting affirmations while touring the units adjacent to the waterfall is music to our ears. And Gumshoe, who now owns a cavern down by the I-45 turn-off, is the Governor of the region and "fasttracks" our permits with a wink and his warm smile.

So that's why you do it. Because when you start in with one wheel and a winning personality, you too will be a big man or woman in an alternate universe. One last tip: when you jerry-rig your machines for maximum efficiency, always hold a little bit back for next year's model. This gives the customers an incentive to work overtime, so they can save money in anticipation of your next innovation to the pushcart. Never hurts to dangle the carrot in front of them like that. It keeps the bonoboes punching-in at 6 in the morning and the grumbling on the night shift down to a minimum.

Just break a few heads when they start to invent unions, and you should do just fine.

We store the broken-down Go-karts out back by the scenic pond. Building a few design and production flaws into the merchandise assures yearly inventory turnover and a maximization of customer uncertainty, creating an intentional spike in the secondary alcohol sales market which, in turn, precipitates data-point input on traction resistance of forested glens.

See also

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