Look, in the Airport! It’s a Carry-On! It’s a Scooter! It’s Modobag!

August 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson said that (or at least something like that*) in the 1800s, a new-and-improved mousetrap was a suitable metaphor for innovation. I would submit to you that today’s mousetrap may very well be the carry-on bag, and the door is an Indiegogo campaign.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Modobag. (Sorry, I mean the Modobag!)

The Modobag, the creation of Kevin O’Donnell, with the help of Boyd Bruner, is a TSA- and FAA-compliant carry-on bag that you can ride around the airport. It has an electric motor, telescoping handlebar with thumb throttle and hand brake, and professional motorcycle-grade foot pegs—and it can carry your clothes, too.

Here are some of the specs from Modobag’s Indiegogo page:

  • two speed settings—5 mph indoors, 8 mph outdoors
  • ability to carry a person up to 260 lbs
  • 8-mile range (for a 180-lb person)
  • two USB charging ports

Pre-orders for the Modobag are available at Indiegogo for $1,000. The campaign was set up with a modest goal of $50,000, and with two weeks left, it has already blown past a quarter of a million dollars.

According to CNN, O’Donnell doesn’t want to limit his invention to the airport. He wants people to ride it to the train and  use it to navigate conference venues. And he takes it for spins himself in the bike lanes of Chicago.

It all sounds like a great idea to me, but I do have a few concerns . . . where the rubber meets the airport walkway, so to speak. But I think each one is fixable with the simple addition of an accessory.

First, there are the images in the video above of riders leaning into tight Modobag turns. I can imagine middle-aged travelers (like myself) wiping out on the way to Gate 26. Solution? The addition of fold-down wheeled outriggers—a fancy way of saying they need training wheels.

I’m also wondering about trying to pull two, or more, pieces of checked bags on your way to an international flight. A guy only has two hands, and one is already busy with steering, throttling, and braking. Solution? Some kind of proprietary linkage system to form a giant super luggage trolley.

And finally, I’m worried that airport authorities will step in to shut down Modobag riders in the name of safety (for example, see “wiping out” above), much the way that the anti-progress lobby has unfairly hampered the would be life-changing Segway revolution around the globe. Solution? A simple beeping mechanism and pop-up flashing light. Hey, it works for those airport carts.

The bottom line for me, though, is I’m not much of an early adopter. I’m more of a late follower. So just as with wearable luggage, carry-on child carriers and follow-along bags, and even pillow head coverings, to all you risk takers, you trend setters, you beta testers, I say, Lead the way! And as long as you don’t look too silly, I’ll be right there jumping on board. (I promise.)

(“Modobag: World’s First Motorized, Rideable Luggage,” Indiegogo; Matt McFarland, “You Can Now Ride Your Luggage around the Airport,” CNN, July 22, 2016)


*[and now, for quote geeks like me . . .] According to Garson O’Toole of Quote Investigator, the earliest form in print of

Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door

is from “Current Comment,” in The Atlanta Constitution. The passage, titled “The Value of Good Work,” is ascribed to Emerson and was published on May 11, 1882, a few weeks after his death:

If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.

Giving credence to Emerson’s authorship of the sentence, or at least the thoughts behind it, is a journal entry that Emerson wrote in 1855, under the heading “Common Fame”:

I trust a good deal to common fame, as we all must. If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house,though it be in the woods.

Sarah S. B. Yule and Mary S. Keene include the “If a man . . .” quotation above, crediting it to Emerson, in their book “Borrowings,” compiled in 1989 and published in 1893. The article “The Mousetrap Quotation: The Verdict,” from 1912, quotes Yule telling how she heard it from the lips of Emerson:

To the best of my memory and belief, I copied it in my handbook from an address delivered long years ago, it being my custom to write everything there that I thought particularly good, if expressed in concise form; and when we were compiling “Borrowings” I drew from this old handbook freely. It will seem strange to you, as it does to me, that Emerson never incorporated this in any of his essays. He did use the thought and similar wording, but never exactly the wording, of the quotation I used in “Borrowings.”

(Garson O’Toole, “If You Build a Better Mousetrap the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door,” Quote Investigator, March 24, 2015; “The Mousetrap Quotation: The Verdict,” West Publishing Co’s Docket, Volume 1, West Publishing Company, 1912)


[photo: “Surprising News,” by Edgardo Balduccio, used under a Creative Commons license]

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