When I was growing up in Indy, my mom’s youngest brother stayed with us on and off for a number of years. A career salesman, the last job I recall him having was wig salesman when I was in the ninth grade. In addition, my uncle fancied himself an inventor, and though he did have some original ideas, he never seemed to be in the right place at the right time, they (who had never met him and didn’t know him from Adam) had stolen his idea.
One day, after it had been clearly established that I could draw rather well, he asked me to sketch up his latest invention, a leather vest for motorcyclists with left and right turn lights, brake and hazard lights on the back. (No comment.) He had drawn a rough sketch of his proposed invention, but neither would he show it to me, nor explain, even briefly, what it was I was supposed to draw.
I told him repeatedly that unless he explained it to me in detail, it would be virtually impossible for me to draw what he wanted. No, no, he couldn’t tell me or show me, because of course, someone might steal his idea (as if were going to run out and peddle it to the highest bidder). This nonsense continued for several months, until eventually, in desperation, he broke down and gave me enough details to draw something vaguely resembling what he had in mind.
Not long after I completed a set of drawings, the inevitable occurred. While out on the road on his most recent wig sales circuit, he had seen the very invention he’d so carefully guarded advertised in a magazine! They stole his idea. He was inconsolable. Somehow, this had to have been all my fault, since the advertisement was exactly what I had sketched for him. There could be no other explanation!
I never did get to see the competitor’s product, so I have no idea whether it was even close to my drawing, but I can tell you this. Oscar Wilde was absolutely correct when he asserted that “no good deed goes unpunished.”