Instant noodles: Better than a Walkman

Who doesn’t love a cup of noodles?

Whether you’re a poor college student unwilling to spend more than $5 for a week’s worth of food or you’re at a shady truck stop and assume the only thing capable of disinfecting your meal is a torrent of boiling water you can always find what you’re looking for with a cup of noodles.

The good kind, the kind that comes in its own cup. I know there is the big, brick kind of noodles but I don’t want anything that requires dirtying a single dish to make my dinner.

And it isn’t just collegiate cheapskates and truck stop connoisseur that share my love of instant noodles, so does the entire Japanese archipelago.

Ok, maybe not the entire archipelago; I’m sure somebody over there just hates instant noodles and eats only free-trade, artisanally hand-crafted noodles.

But the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Japan love them some instant noodles; so much so that, according to a national poll conducted in 2000, the peoples of Japan selected “Instant Noodles” as the greatest Japanese invention of the 20th century.

Think about that for a second. This wasn’t some kind of dubious Internet poll that is instantly hijacked by a few users to inevitably name the winner Stephen Colbert. This was a real, honest to goodness, sampling of Japan’s citizens.

Think about what instant noodles beat. Notable Japanese inventions of the 20th century include the Walkman, CDs, DVDs/Blu-rays, digital cameras and those stupid Tamagotchi digital pets that are currently starving in the back of your closet.

Is instant noodles really better than a Walkman? Certainly now, but what about when you first got a Walkman? When you needed your funky-fresh tunes to get pumped about the break-dancing competition to save the youth center?

Yes, the noodles are still better.

Ok, but Blu-Rays? It’s the only way to watch high energy action movies without getting kicked out of the theater for screaming along at the screen … also, vaping; theaters look down on vaping, not so much in my own home.

(Wait, does the theater here in Marshalltown allow vaping? Only one way to find out … )

The Japanese are right, instant noodles are the greatest gift they have given the world since the Samurai.

But we all know that, while the Japanese have contributed greatly to the last 100 years, the 20th century belong to the United States.


Mandatory nationalism aside, we really did churn out most of the great stuff of the 20th century. Lasers, the artificial heart, the Internet, the integrated circuit, video games, and the automatic bread slicer, invented right here in Iowa.

But therein lies the problem. Look at the list from Japan, everything on there is a winner. Now, sure, we have an impressive list. But what you don’t see are the inventions that we know we created, but really don’t like to talk about.

Such as …

The Segway: Invented in 1994 by someone we wish was from another country, this two wheeled contraption provided zero practical travel solutions and all the warning women needed to stay far, far away.

Spinning hubcaps: Invented by Death Row Records in 1992 “spinners,” as they came to be known, are hubcaps that spin independently from the wheel of the car. Legend has it that Death Row president Suge Knight commissioned their creation under the false assumption they make his car go faster.

The Torino Scale: This is just useless. The Torino scale is a method of determining the impact danger that comes with near-Earth objects. You know what that means? It’s like that Homeland Security color-coded terror chart we all cared about for a couple months, except instead of a terrorist attacks it’s talking about a giant asteroid hitting Earth. Guess what? I don’t think you need a whole scale when talking about space objects slamming into our planet, all you really need is two categories: Everything is fine OR We’re all dead.

Bait cars: Invented by cops who needed a good laugh, the bait car is a simple concept. It’s just a car with a GPS, a remote kill switch for the engine, and a hidden camera in the dash. They park the car somewhere that has a lot of auto thefts, turn on the dash cam and watch the magic.

Artificial snow: This high powered hose and compressed air combo was invented by people that don’t have to drive in winter. It is used primarily to make snow at ski resorts where there is no snow. No snow … at a ski resort. Maybe try not building a ski resort in Abu Dhabi? Or just don’t ski when there is no snow? How did we ever make it to the Moon?

So we Americans play a quantity over quality game with regards to inventions, that seems fine by me. We may have to wade through disasters like the Segway, but who can complain when that same spirit of invention gave us the TV dinner or the electronic cigarette?

That reminds me, time to head to the movies for a good vaping; I wonder how long I’ll make it before they throw me out?