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In fourth grade my school participated in something called The Invention Convention. The idea was that every elementary school student in the country would dream up an idea, create a working model, and be ranked by an elite group of third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers who were stupid enough to volunteer to judge the competition. My invention was for a new type of mailbox that had a tray attached to the door. When you opened the door the tray would slide out with your mail on it, making it easier to grab. I got the idea after watching my dad struggle to reach into our mailbox from the car which, while funny, seemed like a setup that could be improved upon. One time he was struggling to reach so much that he farted, which was another reason my invention would be useful, as I, riding shotgun that day, was in the direct line of fire.

My father had also participated in an Invention Convention when he was a kid, but only came up with a device called the Egg Crusher, which was a hammer, secured to a piece of wood, that would drop and smash an egg. He did not place well for the fairly obvious reason that crushing an egg, should you ever need to do that, is easy enough without a hammer-wood contraption. I was determined to reclaim my family's good name with my sliding tray mailbox idea.

As I scanned the convention hall (gym), I was fairly confident. Most kids had egg crusher-level inventions on display: hastily made devices that served no real world purpose. Mine, on the other hand, was an improvement on a device everyone in my town used daily. When it came time for the awards I was defeated by the single stupidest one in the room: An automatic bed maker. The perfect invention for a stupid kid whose worldview consisted only of their own home. The winner, who shall remain nameless except that her name was Molly Bradley, proudly accepted the award for her foolish, impractical invention while I was left with nothing but a working prototype of a revolutionary device.

By the way, sliding tray mailboxes hit the market about two years later, leading me to believe that the Invention Convention is just a ploy to steal little kids' ideas and create them before they're smart enough to see they've been robbed. I still constantly think of inventions but now, many years older, I'm not naive enough to think I can personally benefit from my thoughts. As with the rigged Invention Convention, some huge corporation will just copy my idea and I will be stuck draining my savings trying to sue them. So now I invent for invention's sake, or because I just want these products and ideas to exist. So go ahead and steal them. I'll ask that you cut me in on the profits but you, like the thieves who stole my mailbox ideas, will probably just play dumb.



The Rolling Suitcase Seat

I travel a lot for shows and work which means I spend a lot of time standing around, miserable, draped in heavy luggage. Should I be lucky enough to score a seat somewhere, society dictates that I, as a healthy 20-something male, must give it up to literally anyone else. I don't want to be rude so I'm almost always stuck standing in terminals, in trains, in waiting rooms, anywhere, which is annoying because I generally don't like supporting my own weight. But what if I always had my own chair? What if my rolling suitcase could be turned into a little personal seat that I wouldn't have to give up to anyone? Dream no longer!

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All the elements are there: the top of the bag is the seat and the retractable handle is the back board. You don't want your chair sliding all over the place so there is a kickstand-like device that will deploy a small set of legs, similar to how you park a moped. Finally! A way to not have to give old ladies a seat!



The Couple's TV Pillow

If you ever have the privilege to come to my house at night you'll likely find me lying on my couch, spooning my wife while we watch TV. It will appear that we are perfectly content lying like this, but look closer. What do you see? I'm shifting, craning my neck and looking generally uncomfortable as I struggle to see the screen over my wife's head. That's because a normal couple arrangement looks like this:

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The female in the equation here has an unobstructed view of the screen, but the poor male behind her has to contend with his woman's head. God forbid she has curly hair. At that point, watching TV in this arrangement is like listening to the radio. The problem is both a horizontal and a vertical one. The man's head not only needs to clear hers in height for an unobstructed view, but must also be further along the horizontal plane so that her hair does not get in his face. You're often sharing a pillow, making it impossible to achieve any distance in either direction.That's why I've invented this.

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Using this couple's TV pillow, you can both watch TV or a movie while spooning in complete comfort. She will feel protected and loved while you can finally see the TV over her head and hair. And also feel loved or whatever.



Smart Plates

Toll booths on the highway will be one of those things that will make our kids crack up when they hear about them. "So wait, you had to wait in a line and give a person money to go through the toll?" It's like paying for Internet or phones with cords; it's going to be a relic soon enough. And since everyone hates tolls booths let me speed up that process.

Every car has a license plate, right? And every license plate is tied to a physical address and a name. So why not put whatever technology makes EZ Passes work into license plates? Then at the end of every month you just get a bill in the mail for the tolls you've passes that month (or you could set up auto-payments with a bank or credit card). Simple as that. Every license plate is an EZ Pass.

Plus, since license plates are made in prison by prisoners, the labor to convert the millions of plates in the country into smart plates will be essentially free!

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Stock photo from shutterstock.com