April 27, 2003

Remember The Big Firestone Controversy?

Remember The Big Firestone Controversy?
"Reinventing the Wheel" c. Ryan Rhodes, Sept. 9, 2000

It was a cool evening in Olduvai gorge many, many, many, many (and I mean many) years B.C. As twilight descended, radiating the last fainting rays of light through the dense foliage, a male figure could be seen tending to a small fire.

His name was Keldar the Hunter, a muscular hominid with a stout jaw, protruding cranium, and exceedingly bad body odor. Propped over Keldar's fire was some sort of dead animal he found while walking earlier in the day and, as Keldar's next meal, it was fitting that it smelled much like him, even as it cooked.

As Keldar watched the grease spatter from his meal into the firepit below, he noticed a strange smooth stone amongst the glowing goals. Boredom and curiosity prompted him to reach in and pull the stone out. In that same instant, Keldar remembered the oft-forgotten lesson that fire causes pain.

The stone quickly became a source of amazement to Keldar because, unlike all the other jagged stones he'd pulled out of fires in the past, this one, with it's smooth edges, rolled a considerable distance before coming to rest. In a flash of creative inspiration, Keldar found a large boulder and began chipping and shaping it into the same smooth and round fashion. The wheel was born, although it would initially be known as "the thing Keldar did."

Although Keldar was certain his invention had the potential to transform the lives of his 15 other tribe members, reaction to "the thing Keldar did" was lukewarm at best.

Undaunted, and possessing a keen mind for primitive marketing, Keldar renamed his invention "Firestone," in tribute to how he discovered the fantastic rock. He then sought out Follgorth, a neighboring tribesman who ran the only moving and postal service throughout the gorge. Follgorth's company, "Follgorth's Oduvai Relocation and Delivery" (FORD for short), was a successful venture, but Follgorth was desperate for a means by which to reduce the incredible number of employees required to stay in business.

Like Keldar, Follgorth saw the limitless possibilities of "the thing Keldar did." After a drawn out business negotiation in which Follgorth gave Keldar four of his best child-bearing daughters, a lucrative deal between FORD and Firestone was born.

Follgorth's first task was to dispose of his "dragging logs," which were more or less just logs tied together and dragged by teams of four to six men. Although they were good for moving and delivery, there was a high rate of turnover among FORD workers. However, once the "dragging logs" were equipped with four Firestones, a magical transformation took place. The "dragging logs" now required far less labor and FORD was able to reallocate its personnel and expand its service to the tribal community.

Likewise, Keldar was kept exceedingly busy, what with four Firestones required for each of FORD's "dragging logs." Indeed, Firestone eventually had a large number of employees of its own turning out an incredible number of "the things Keldar did."

The fame of Keldar and Follgorth spread throughout the land, and their wealth, likewise, seemed to know no bounds. A rough count estimated that the two men had fortunes exceeding 52 good child-bearing women, a remarkable display of wealth by any standard.

But, trouble was brewing on the horizon. Faced with an increased production quota and an upstart company started by the Goodyear tribe three gorges down, the Firestone company started cutting corners. Rather than cutting their stones from the solid gorge wall, Firestone started pulling the more accessible rock from around the river bank.

For their part, FORD knew that Firestone quality had declined, but the executives were blinded by the appeal of building their own fortunes of good child-bearing women.

However, the companies, much the like the wheels that brought them fame, began to crumble. The unstable Firestones, hewn from the cheaper but less reliable river rock, started to fail at the most inopportune time. Stories abounded about tribespeople being seriously hurt or killed while they took recreational downhill rides on FORD's "dragging logs," only to have the Firestones disintegrate from under them. One truly horrifying story circulated about Tribal Elder Morgoth careening into a tree and being flung headlong into the Olduvai gorge.

No one knows for sure what became of the FORD and Firestone companies, but one thing is certain: of all the people unearthed from Olduvai gorge, none have been found alive.

Posted by Ryan at April 27, 2003 09:25 PM
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