Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Maxim's Trap

The filthy vermin which afflict us must be exterminated. Animal-lover or not, the human extinct is pure: to pluck from our scalps the bulbous, blood-filled ticks; to drown in baths the dust mites that feast on our skin; to chop in half the tiny rodents that so delight in perching on our upper lips while we slumber and meticulously squeeze dropping after dropping into our snoring mouths. As they do.
But mice and rats are a canny lot. How to kill them, not only with ruthless efficiency but with negligible pangs of guilt? In 1894, William C. Hooker of Abingdon, Illinois received a patent for his design for the first spring-loaded bar mouse trap. It was later perfected by Hiram Maxim to be the mouse trap we all know today: a simple plank of pine, attached to which is a clamp triggered by a spring and depressed with a slice of cheese. When a mouse or rat pokes its plaguey snout at the cheese, the spring depresses, the clamp snickersnacks and the mouse has its neck cleanly broken.
What the guillotine is to the French, the mouse trap is to unhygienic Americans. A spring-loaded mousetrap is (usually) a clean way to kill a mouse. But spring for a non-lethal trap out of the kindness of your heart and when you release that mouse, you'll see it poking out of your Cheerios the next morning. Try a glue trap, and you'll hate yourself for years as you torture a cute, fuzzy animal to death. And poison is a painful crapshoot.
Oh, sure. It's a cruel gizmo. But it is perfectly designed: "build the better mousetrap" has become an ironic cultural shorthand for "waste of time." (from"10 Perfectly Pure Gadgets")

No comments:

Post a Comment