Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, way back in the days of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, there lived a guy named Max.
One day, Max was traveling on business, and he had a layover between caravans. Stuck with time on his hands, Max got to talking to a few of the locals, and they told him all about this big Pyramid that was under construction -- it was the largest stone structure ever attempted in the history of the world.
"Where is it?" Max asked them.
"It's right on the edge of town," they said. "You can't miss it."
"What the heck," said Max, "maybe I'll go have a look."
So he rented a camel, rode it to the edge of town, and sure enough, there in the distance were the sloping foundations of what would someday be the very first Pyramid. And everywhere Max looked, he saw thousands of sweaty workers cutting big, heavy stones with hammers and chisels, and then dragging the huge stones into place. To move the heaviest of stones, they had elephants, dozens of them, but even with the help of elephants the work was hot, backbreaking, and slow.
Man, it's going to take them forever to build this thing, thought Max.
Impressed though he was with what he saw, he was very glad that he wasn't working there.
When Max got home, he couldn't stop thinking about that huge Pyramid and all those workers dragging the stones around. He even had a dream one night that he was one of the stone-dragging team, toiling in the sun, and after tossing and turning for half the night, he awakened with a terrible thirst.
He got out of bed to get a drink of water -- and lo! He had the most brilliant idea he'd ever had in his life.
As he sipped his drink of water, he thought about his idea. He went back to bed, thought about it some more, and the more he thought, the more he was convinced that his idea was really something.
At last, Max nodded off to dreamland, but in the morning when he woke up, his idea was still with him. And it still seemed brilliant to him. So he went downstairs to the workshop he had in a spare room at the back of his house and he set to it.
Years later, after many disappointments and failures, Max had done it. He had turned his idea into a real thing. Very proud of his accomplishment, he rolled it out of the workshop and into the kitchen to show his wife.
"Look, Minnie!" he said. "Look what I've invented!"
"What the heck is that?" his wife asked.
"It's the Wheel!" said Max.
"It's the what?"
"The Wheel. This is what I've been working on all these years."
"Yeah? What's it do?"
"What's it do? You just watch!" And Max rolled the Wheel across the kitchen floor. "See, it goes 'round and 'round!"
"That's...interesting. Does it do anything else?"
"Well, no, that's pretty much it. But, Minnie, I think the Wheel could turn out to be a very useful thing."
"What makes you think that?"
"Because people won't have to drag things the way they always have. With the aid of the Wheel, you see, heavy objects can be made to roll."
ar"So?" asked his wife.
"Don't you get it? The Wheel is going to make it possible to move things much more quickly -- and with far less effort! People will get more work done in less time!"
"Well, it sounds good," said Minnie, trying not to look skeptical.
"And you know what else?" said Max. "The Wheel is going to make us lots of money!"
"Someday, millions of people all over the world will use the Wheel. And we will own the patent!"
"Uh-huh. Well, that's nice, dear. You keep at it, and let me know when we're rich."
Max did keep at it. He built more and more Wheels. He filled his whole workshop with them -- and each Wheel he built was better and more refined.
One evening, Minnie came into the workshop. She stood perplexed amidst Max's vast inventory of Wheels, and asked, "So, um, how's it going?"
"Not bad," said Max. "Take a look at this one. See? It's rounder!"
"Very nice, dear."
"And take a look at this!" said Max, holding up a thick wooden pole. "I call it the Axle."
"Oh? And what does an Axle do?"
"Well, you see, Minnie, with an Axle, I can join together two Wheels, one on each end, and place the object to be moved in the middle! This is eminently more practical than using one Wheel by itself -- and just think of it -- I can sell twice as many Wheels!"
"I'm glad you brought that up," said his wife.
"Brought what up?"
"Selling these things. It seems to me that if we're going to get rich, you're going to have to go out and sell these Wheels of yours, aren't you?"
"Sell? Me? Minnie, the Wheel is a brilliant invention! One does not have to sell brilliant inventions; brilliant inventions sell themselves!"
"Uh-huh. Well, I haven't been seeing the Wheels rolling out the door on their own. I don't think they know how to sell themselves. I think you're going to have to do it for them."
This suggestion gave Max a modest anxiety attack. Because while he now knew a great deal about Wheels, he knew almost nothing about selling.
"You just wait, Minnie. When word of the Wheel gets around, and the idea catches on, there'll be people lined up outside our door begging me to sell them a Wheel."
Weeks went by, but nobody lined up outside Max's door.
Finally, Max could not fit any more Wheels into the workshop. He wanted to start storing them in the living room, but Minnie laid down the law.
"Absolutely not!" his wife said. "You've got to get rid of some of these Wheels. Either start selling them or roll them into the river!"
At last Max had to face reality. After grumping about the house for a few hours, he picked out his two roundest Wheels, rolled them into the street, attached them to his best Axle, and pushed his contraption through the neighborhood.
"Look," Max would say to anyone who would give him the time, "aren't these terrific? I call them 'Wheels.' They're my own invention. You see, with Wheels, you don't have to drag things, you can -- hey, wait a minute! Come back!"
Unfortunately for Max, no one was interested. After weeks of pushing his Wheels up one street and down the next, knocking on doors, introducing himself, explaining these great things called Wheels -- nothing! Nobody wanted them.
Some even laughed at Max's suggestion that they might want to purchase Wheels of their own.
"You want money? For those? Ha! Ha! Ha-ha-ha!"
It was embarrassing, even humiliating, for poor Max. He began to doubt that he could even give away his Wheels. Finally, very depressed and disappointed, he turned and rolled them toward home.
"All that time and effort I put in! And for what?" he asked aloud as he removed the Wheels from their Axle.
Disgusted, he gave one of the Wheels a kick. It rolled to the wall, bumped it hard enough to make a crack in the plaster, and toppled over. Plop.
Minnie looked at her husband and felt bad. She sat down with him on the sofa, put her hand on his arm.
"I can't believe it!" Max lamented. "Here I come up with what might possibly be one of the greatest inventions ever, and nobody wants it!"
"Max, there are millions of people in the world. Surely some of them must have a use for the Wheel."
"But how do I find them? And if I find them, how do I sell it to them?"
Minnie slowly shook her head. "I don't know."
They both thought for a moment.
Then Minnie said, "Hey, what about the Oracle?"
"What, you mean Ozzie the Oracle? What about him?"
"He knows everything about everything -- politics, history, the mysteries of the universe. He must know something about marketing and sales. Why don't we go talk to him?"
"Aw, Minnie, come on! It's a pain in the neck getting out to see him. He lives in the middle of nowhere, and you've got to bring him a burnt offering, and...I'm not so sure he really knows everything."
"Well, he does know a lot," said Minnie. "Surely he can give you a few tips on how to sell your invention. Besides, I'm not sure what else to do."
In truth, Max did not know what to do either. Finally, he got to his feet. "All right, all right. Let's go hear what the old codger has to say."
Copyright © 2000 by Jeff Cox