Wild, bold, and twad-pocryphal
Another Marecian fable with Edison and Einstein
“Most quotations of famous people are apocryphal.”
I awoke in the land of Marecia, and not for the first time.
The earthen path I was following took me through fragrant greenery and past busy thickets, until I arrived at a relatively cozy house.
Inside, Albert Einstein grumbled softly while dismantling some equipment. There were wires, metal plates, and a large glass bulb.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him.
“Oh, nothing,” he replied wistfully. “Most inventions don’t pan out, and this one’s no exception.”
“What is it?”
“It was to be a light bulb, but it didn’t light. Now it’s a pile of wires, metal plates, and a large glass bulb.”
“You only tried it once?” I asked in surprise.
“Yes, my dear boy,” he replied with the kind face of a patient teacher. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.”
I had a funny feeling, as if trying to narrate a story from a script with a missing page, but that was to be expected in Marecia.
“Now I must clear my head,” he said, taking up his violin. Soon beautiful music was soaring through the rafters.
“That sounds wonderful,” I exclaimed.
“Thank you,” he replied over his dancing bow. “It’s a very special piece. I generally make it through the first page, but I’ve never been able to play the second without a mistake.”
“Maybe this time you’ll succeed,” I said encouragingly.
“Indeed,” he replied, steeling his brow and pursing his lips.
Sometime later, I was back outside on the path again, enjoying the scent of moist earth and fresh leaves all around, until I arrived at a nice little house with a bright disposition.
Inside, Thomas Edison whistled cheerfully while blotting a thick sheet of stationery he had just finished writing with a flourish of his fountain pen.
“What’s that?” I asked him.
“This is my one-thousandth submission of my seminal theory on the nature of space and time,” he explained. “I call it relativity.”
“You’ve submitted this paper 999 times before?” I asked in surprise, peering at his penmanship.
“Yes, my dear boy,” he replied. “And every one rejected!” He said it almost proudly.
“Are you sure it’s E equals mc CUBED?" I asked, feeling funny again. “I have the strangest hunch that you might have better luck with something else.”
“Not to worry!” he declared. “The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.”
He invited me to start his car for the drive to the post office while he folded his papers and licked the envelope. I turned the car’s antique crank and pressed its weathered button, but it only sputtered and died.
As I grabbed the crank again, he said, “Careful! Once more and you’ll drain the battery completely.” He peered into the engine, tightened a belt, and jiggled a coil. Then he nodded to me, and I cranked and pressed. The car roared to life.
“That was very illuminating,” I said to him as we settled into our seats.
“Excellent,” he replied. “I’m always glad to shed light on things.”
Sometime later, I was back at home, seated at my work table and pondering the small metal spray can that I had labeled “WT-39.”
I sprayed a puff into my hand to remind myself of its strong scent, earthy and fresh and slightly tangy, but somehow not complete. It was my 39th formulation of a fragrance to be known as “Wild Twadpockle,” and it was just missing… a little something.
To be openly a twadpockle, and wild, now that was a bold thing, and this 39th iteration was not yet living up to the name. I had some ideas, more spring leaves for body, another aldehyde compound to deepen the base note, perhaps simmering the extract longer before combining.
Einstein would dismantle it, saying it was already 38 tries too many. Or would he clear his head with a stroll in the garden, finally noticing the right leaf as surely as passing the second page on his violin? Edison would mix the ingredients again, in case it might come out better this time. Or would he tighten and jiggle the recipe first?
Then Abraham Lincoln strode confidently into my room. “If I had six hours to chop down a tree,” he declared, hefting a large axe in his hands. “I would spend the first four sharpening my blade.” He pulled up my spare chair and straddled it facing me intently.
“I don’t have any trees that need chopping, thank you, Mr. Lincoln,” I replied.
He was sniffing the room, twitching his nose, and he asked, “What is that… interesting… scent I discern?”
“That is ‘Wild Twadpockle,’ sir,” I answered. “Or at least it would be, if I could perfect it. Have you ever heard of Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison?”
Mr. Lincoln had not heard of either genius, so I related to him their lessons of the day and my new dilemma: should I scrap my project after 39 failures or continue on to WT-40?
“Well,” mused Mr. Lincoln wisely. “It seems you already have all the words of advice you need, from this Edison and Einstein.” He shifted in his chair. “It remains only to discern which of them is the more applicable to the situation, and then we will have your answer!”
He stood and pulled a pipe from his pocket as he began to stroll around the room. “Einstein’s advice is very wise. Many situations call for carefully cutting one’s losses or taking a radical new direction.” He paced regally, his bushy eyebrows choreographing each thought. “Edison’s advice cannot be beat when good old-fashioned determination is in order, and let me tell you,” he said, stabbing the air with his pipe. “It is a dwindling virtue!”
“So,” I summarized. “If I sit here on the cusp of WT-40, needing only the next burst of determination to succeed, then I should follow Mr. Edison. But, if instead I teeter on the brink of throwing another good effort after bad, then I ought to follow Dr. Einstein.”
“Yes, my boy!” declared Mr. Lincoln. He straightened his hat and collected his axe. “I think my work here is done.” He strode out of the room as confidently as he had entered.
At first, my heart sank. I was nowhere nearer an answer than before! I couldn’t tell which genius to follow, any easier than I could tell whether to try more spring leaves and aldehyde compounds in the first place.
Then my nose twitched. There was a most intriguing scent fading from the air, like an echo through time of battles lost and won, a grand proclamation, and a tragic overstepping to a dramatic end. It was tobacco from Mr. Lincoln’s pipe and felt from his hat. It was the leather of his boots and the steel of his axe.
And it was bold. It was wild. It was WT-40.
Be as bold and wild as a twadpockle drenched in WT-40!
The famous chemical formula WD-40 stands for “Water Displacement 40” and was perfected on the 40th try.
If anything is truly the mark of insanity, it is repeating the apocryphal Einstein quote about repetition and insanity—and expecting it to be true.
Lincoln’s quote about sharpening the axe is also apocryphal.
Edison really did say his famous quote about trying one more time.
Edison is often claimed to have tried 1000 different light bulb filaments before succeeding, sometimes 10,000. The real number seems to be about 1600.
Perfumes: The fragrances of chemistry
The Harpo Marx character never spoke.