The Miss Jobless Chronicles: The Invisibility Cloak

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

Unemployment can mean long, maddening days inside glued to the computer, looking for work and networking. And quite frankly, all this time alone and the unforgiving summer heat are having a rather interesting effect on my brain.

I’ve become fixated on an idea that’s as old as time: becoming invisible. An article on Discovery.com fuels my fascination:
It states that for the first time ever, scientists have created an invisibility ‘cloak’ made from silk, and coated in gold.

I become fascinated by the idea of such a cloak. How would it work? How much would it cost? Why a cloak? Why not, say, invisibility khakis? And if you wear the cloak, is it like wearing nothing? Is it like the Seinfeld of cloaks? Or does it make the wearer invisible, too? I clearly have a lot of questions.

I imagine the TV infomercial: “And if you act now, we’ll send you not one but TWO invisibility cloaks for the price of one. That’s right, TWO cloaks for $19.95 (plus the cost of shipping). And if you call now… we’ll also send you an set of invisibility Ginsu knives… the latest in cutting-edge technology.”

I imagine receiving this cloak in the mail.

Knock knock! Who’s there? UPS! So I open the door and a box is floating in midair, while a phantom voice asks me to sign. When I open the box, there’s nothing in it.

After I crack myself up with invisibility cloak jokes, I begin to wonder what other high-tech contraptions might be in our future. Equipment that can videotape dreams? A printer that attaches to the brain and prints out thoughts? (Instead of the brand Brother, it would be called Big Brother.)

My grandfather used to invent all sorts of things. He invented a little contraption out of tongue depressors that you could stick in the toaster to take out your toast. And an apparatus out of wire coat hangers that you put in the top of a garbage bag so you could stuff it with leaves while raking without having to hold the bag open. He was a smart man.

About ten years ago, I came up with this idea called “Worldwide Workout.” It was basically exercise equipment with TV screens attached that would take you on an exciting journey while you worked out. For example, as you’re on the Stair master, the screen shows the steps of the Statue of Liberty — which you are virtually “climbing.” As you’re on the rowing machine, you are part of a virtual world that makes it seem like you’re rowing down the Nile. Enter: the Nintendo Wii. I TOTALLY invented it. I TOTALLY did. Just like Al Gore invented the Internet.

Anyway, determined to make a buck, I come up with other inventions — since Nintendo clearly ripped off “Worldwide Workout”. One is a cereal bowl with two compartments — one for the cereal and one for the milk. That way, your cereal doesn’t get soggy if it sits for a while. The other is a product called “tan-toos”. They’re stencils that you put on your body while you’re in the sun. Then when you take off the stencil, you have a lighter image of a picture, or your name, or whatever the stencil is of. I figure you could get some interest from a skincare company, or Band-Aid company, like Johnson & Johnson. It will appeal to kids who may be too young to get real tattoos, but still want to feel cool.

I call the main number at an invention web site and speak with a man named Chris about the tan-too idea. Chris is very enthusiastic about it and feels that it could be a big hit.

“So, what’s the process?”

“Well, first, we send you a free kit and that’ll explain how to get started.”

“What’s in the kit?” I ask him.

“A video and a brochure.”

“OK, yes, please send it to me. I am desperate for cash.”

“What’s your line of work?” Chris asks.

“I’m a writer. In New York City.”

“That’s funny, my cousin is a writer in New York. I wonder if she could help you. Give me your email address and I’ll get back to you.”

Long story short… Chris came through. It’s strange how connections work. I have networked for months and a man on the other end of the phone at an invention hotline gets me a freelance job? Amazing.

I got the inventor’s kit and am working on getting my ideas out there. I’m also working as a researcher at a well-known women’s magazine (where Chris’s cousin works). The work is only temporary — about two weeks. But it’s something. Something…. until the freelancer’s blues kick in again.

caitlinotoole.pngCaitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Sesame Workshop Digital, Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour, People.com, Parade.com and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page, Tweets at @MsOToole, and blogs at Shits and Giggles.