If the title of this post or the image above seem familiar, then you are likely from, or have had the chance to visit, New Orleans. "Throw me something" is a common call of the throngs of parade-goers trying to get prized trinkets from the riders on the Mardi Gras parade floats. Parades in NOLA are very different from other places. Being along the parade route is not just a spectator sport, it is participatory and sometimes extremely physical. Caught up in the excitement, people are jumping and bumping and waving their arms frantically. Accidents do happen. But it is also very much a family activity, so there has to be a way for the smallest and youngest to enjoy the fun and participate in a safe way. And so this starts to explain the image of the ladders, lined up shoulder to shoulder along the parade route.
Many years ago someone figured out that they could create a perch for their kids atop a ladder. This makes it easy for the kids to see over the crowds and also gets the cuties eye-level with the parade riders, helping the kids to be visible and reap the rewards of extra goodies tossed their way. The way it usually works is one or two kids sit in a little wooden box-like seat with a safety bar on the front that has been afixed to the top of a ladder. Think of it as a ferris wheel seat on a ladder. A parent or responsible adult stands on the steps of the ladder behind the kids to keep an eye on them, and help them navigate catching the deluge of things being tossed their way.
It started out as a simple wooden box. But like everything Mardi Gras, creativity took over. In the years that followed, the boxes were decorated. Some added carpeting or other cushioning for the kids' tushies. Innovation after innovation happened. Need help moving the ladder to parade-side, add some wheels. Someone then realized that you had to have a way to store the goodies you caught. Most of us bring bags to the parades to dump our booty into, but when you are atop the ladder, what to do? Hmmm, add some PVC pipes to the side of the box and make a shoot to drop things down into a waiting box, bag or wagon. Clever. Tons of ladders along the route, no problem. Add your name or other imagery to make yours stand out. And the most recent addition to many of the ladders is the drink holder. Such an obvious feature that was lacking from earlier models.
But isn't that always the way with innovations. How did we live with suitcases without wheels? Or cell phones? Or velcro? Innovations solve problems. Sometimes it is a big problem, sometimes small. Sometimes we didn't even know we had the need until it was fulfilled. Sometimes it means making something entirely new and sometimes it mean tweaking what we already have. Repurposing. Transforming. Like our humble ladder. I can't wait to see what new features pop up on the 2017 models.