My father-in-law, Basil, was in the earlier stages of dementia and my mother-in-law was determined to find fun events we could enjoy together as a family that Dad would still like, too. She arranged for us to meet at an agricultural museum near their home in Alberta. Dad grew up on a farm and spent most of his adult years farming in one form or another, so it seemed like a great fit.
As we wandered the grounds, I tried to stay at least mildly interested in the seemingly endless display of old vehicles and farming equipment. It was a gorgeous summer day on the Canadian prairies, and I knew Dad would have been in his element in his healthier days. He didn’t say much and it was hard to tell what he was thinking, but I chose to believe he was relishing this time with two of his sons.
When we got to an antique fire engine from the 1930’s, my husband and his brother were studying the chain-driven rear axles—no doubt innovative for their time. Dad took a good look at what they were admiring and chuckled. Then, with all sincerity, he said, “What will they think of next?”
This week marks two years since Dad’s passing. Though we miss him, this little story continues to give us a laugh and will remain one of my fondest memories of him.
I’d love to show my father-in-law a few recently thought-of inventions in answer to his question. Volkswagen has initiated something called The Fun Theory. Have you heard of it? The theory is that fun can change human behavior for the better. In Stockholm, they observed a side-by-side staircase/escalator and asked whether they could make more people take the stairs by making it more fun. You can observe the “before” video footage, where the stairs remain nearly empty while the escalator is packed with people.
Overnight, they turned the stairs into a giant piano keyboard. I can’t imagine what this engineering feat cost, but the next day cameras rolled as folks discovered the fun new stairs. As you watch the video, you can see more and more people take the stairs until the escalator sadly rolls along by its deserted self. 66% more people than normal chose the stairs, proving their theory that fun can change behavior for the better.
In Norway, they asked whether installing a special trash bin would make more people place their litter in the appropriate place instead of throwing it on the ground. When you toss in a piece of garbage, the bin produces a long whistling sound as if the trash is falling from a high cliff in a cartoon, complete with a crash when it “hits bottom.” 72 KG of trash was collected in that bin in a single day.
In Mexico, innovators wondered if they could coax more students to use a foot bridge rather than jay-walking through traffic. They crisscrossed the bridge with bands that make funny squeak-toy sounds when stepped on. Within two hours, traffic flow doubled on the foot bridge.
You can watch these and more fun videos on You Tube or go to www.thefuntheory.com .
Now if someone could figure out how to make filling out tax returns fun, we’d all have it made. Would some smart person out there pleeeeze think of this next?