The sun was just dipping into the pacific ocean in a phantasmagorical display of fiery colours as only seen in southern latitudes. Like every day since we arrived in Zihuatenejo Clare and I usually celebrate this free display of natures power and arrogance with a couple of margaritas. Today we were joined by Will, who by his own account is “a solar refugee escaping the northern rains and a couple of ex-wives.” He is also a bit of a local celebrity, a role he gladly lives up to. His walks for miles every day along all the local beaches and can be spotted for a long ways off thanks to his canary yellow shorts, T-shirt and cap with the iconic Corona label emblazoned on everything except his sandals. He claims to be sponsored by the beer company which basically manifests itself in us always paying for his beers. Nevertheless I think it’s a great act, true or imagined. It doesn’t take away from the character he portrays with full conviction. After all everybody plays a part in the charade and parade of life, some are just more colourful than others. With his long grey hair, bushy eyebrows and pointed Don Quixote beard, clad in bright yellow he makes quite the picture
“Beer in hand, toes in the sand,” Will proclaimed toasting our health and raising his bottle towards the spectacular sunset.
“Spoken like a true member of the one percent club,” Clare said dryly winking at me.
Will just laughed and took another swig from his bottle while we slurped our margaritas the size of fishbowls.
“It’s not the sun sinking into the ocean that we see, it’s actually us spinning backwards at a 1000 miles per hour, give and take a few miles depending how far away from the equator we are.”
“You’re a scientist now too. How to spoil a perfect ordinary sunset,” I said and added: “but of course you’re right. What we see is not always what it is.”
“While we’re on the subject of trivial knowledge I have a question for you two wise men. What do you think are the 3 most important inventions or innovations that mankind contributed to life on earth ?”
Will immediately answered: “Ice cubes !” while stirring them noisily around in his empty glass.
“Great, what about you ?” Clare asked me.
“Ok, I guess the wheel has got to make it into the top three.”
“Alright that’s one,” Clare said.
“Who invented the wheel ?” Will asked.
“That’s a loaded question,” Clare said. “I think the wheel was first used as a pottery wheel but as a transportation device it needed a stabilizer. The axel was the real invention to make use of the wheel. A stroke of genius there for sure.”
“The Mayas knew about the wheel but since it had religious and symbolic significance it was not used in mundane tasks like transportation but they probably didn’t know about the axel,” I said.
“The Tibetans had the prayer wheel,” Will said and I countered: “The Americans have the wheel of fortune.”
“And since we’re on the subject: “How about another round ?”
“Ok you two clowns, what about number 2 ?” Clare said.
I already had the answer ready: “The roman keystone at the apex of the arch which made buildings so much grander.”
“Didn’t the Greeks have that knowledge ?” Will asked.
“I don’t think so,” I said, “all their buildings are columns and flat beams and peaked roofs.”
“I think you’re right,” Clare said, “without the key stone there would be no cathedrals and vaulted ceilings or for that matter domes.”
“Exactly, look at the Pantheon in Rome built by Agrippa 2000 years ago. I think it’s still the largest concrete dome, even bigger than Michelangelo’s St. Peter’s dome.”
“These days any such facts and arguments can be solved by instant Google. Makes guessing irrelevant,” Clare said. “Okay we got 2, what about the 3rd most important innovation of mankind ?”
“How about penicillin ?” I said.
“Nah, what about fire,” Will said.
“I don’t think so, the first came about by actively searching for a solution and the other was kind of serendipitous, like coffee and liqueur.”
Both Will and I scratched our heads and proceeded to concentrate on our drinks.
“I’ve got a suggestion,” Clare said.
We both looked at her expectantly. “Let’s have it.”
“How about the hammock,” she said.
“The hammock ?!” Will cried, slapping his skinny thigh.
“Yes the hammock, it probably was invented by the Mayas. It’s a portable bed, airy, a space saver, a cradle, a storage device, used by sailors and hippies, natives and travellers the world over and it can be hung anywhere between two points. I think the hammock takes No. 3 in all time world inventions.”
We didn’t argue with that.
“Salud !” Will offered standing up, taking the last swig of his beer and then took off down the beach while Clare and I were once again his beer sponsors.
“How about the invention of 0 or writing itself, what about Tesla’s and Steve Jobs’ inventions ?” I asked Clare just before drifting off to sleep that night. Surely, the hammock can’t beat the iPhone ? I thought.
“Of course you’re right,” Clare said but don’t worry we’ll revisit this subject tomorrow at happy hour, at least it keeps us thinking, not only drinking.”