To invent or to uninvent

Nina Fridman, Staff Writer

Recently, I read a series of essays published by the New Yorker called “Uninvent This,” in which writers described what items, concepts or technological advancements they would uninvent if given the chance. That got me thinking: what would I uninvent if I were given that same opportunity? This is the non-exhaustive (and only slightly sarcastic) list that I came up with.

Silent letters. 

At five years old, I had my first intellectual challenge: the word “gnat.”

Or rather, figuring out how to spell the word “gnat.” Infatuated by my newfound ability to string letters together and form words, I would excitedly point to the swaths of tiny bugs crowding the sticky August air and exclaim “N-A-T!”My parents, not wanting to confuse a child’s rudimentary spelling skills, showered me with praise and led me to develop quite an ego. Needless to say, when I finally discovered the horror of silent letters, my newfound confidence came crashing down. I’ve been reliant on spell check ever since.


It’s a parent’s worst nightmare.

I only had my driver’s permit for a week when I smashed my car into a barrier in a Walgreen’s parking lot. Somehow, in the midst of attempting the near-impossible task of pulling into my first parking spot, my foot found the gas pedal instead of the brake. And I slammed on it. Hard.

To say my seatbelt saved my life might be a bit of a stretch, but it definitely protected me against some sort of physical harm. And yet, given the chance, I’d uninvent it.

Think of it this way: if there was a dagger attached to your steering wheel, threatening you every time you drove your car, I suspect you would drive significantly more cautiously.

Seatbelts remove us from the thought of immediate danger, thereby lessening incentive to take preventative measures. They create a moral hazard.

The Tooth Fairy.

When I lost my first tooth, I was ecstatic. I was already behind the majority of my friends in the race to dentures and had yet to experience the bloody, cash-filled joy that came with losing teeth.

But, being the anxiety-ridden child that I was, when it came time to put my tooth under my pillow that night, I had a full-blown panic attack. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that this mythical creature was going to fly in my room, pick up my tooth, leave me money and fly back out.How is she going to get in my room if my window is closed? What if she flies up my nose and I suffocate? Is she going to wake me up? My mother couldn’t handle my endless line of questioning and eventually coughed up the truth.

Not long after that I realized that all the other mythical creatures that my classmates still believed in — Santa, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns — were all a sham too.

Small talk. 

Nine times out of ten, when asked “How are you?” I am not doing so hot. Yet, nine times out of ten, I shoot back an unconvincing “Good! And you?”

Why I feel compelled to do so is probably 50 percent due to socially constructed norms of human interaction and 50 percent because I don’t feel like having a conversation with whoever asked the question. Whatever the reason, it’s stupid. Everyone asks the question “How are you doing?” but no one actually expects you to respond with an honest answer. In fact, responding with anything other than “good” is seen as out of the ordinary.

Bottom line? Stop asking me how I am. Just look at the bags under my eyes and blank expression on my face, and I think you’ll get the picture.

Indecipherable public bathroom signs. 

I’m at a Mexican restaurant, and the beans have just begun to kick in. So I need to go to the bathroom. Now. I round the corner, desperately looking for signs bearing names like “Men” and “Women,” but am instead greeted with the impossible to decipher “Taco” and “Burrito.”


I do not know if I am a taco or if I am a burrito. And right now, I really do not have time to figure it out.

I start laying out my options. I could ask a restaurant staff member if I am a taco or a burrito, but that seems far too embarrassing. I could take a guess, but that’s far too risky. I could walk back to my table, but that isn’t such a desirable option either at the moment. Luckily, as I’m trying to decide my next move, a taco steps out of the women’s restroom, and I’m able to exhale a sigh of relief.

While turning back the clock is an invention still yet to be discovered, I’ll keep hoping for a world without all of these inconveniences. Maybe, if I try hard enough, people will stop asking me how I am.Graphic By YuLian Leshuk