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Holy union

Like chicken? Like chips? Do we have a treat for you …

Like chicken? Like chips? Do we have a treat for you …

Peter Vegas

[Inspiration]

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Burger King in the early hours of the morning. Like a flame to a moth, fast food restaurants hold a strong allure for drunken people. It occurred to me as I waited for my Whopper that a complimentary breathalysing service could be a cool thing for a place like Burger King to offer after 10pm. Maybe you could get one blow for free when you supersize your meal.

But what hit me harder than the bar tab I had confronted 15 minutes earlier was the poster advertising ‘Chicken Fries’. I was struck by the genius of melding two popular food items to form a whole new snack category. I bet the guy or girl who came up with Chicken Fries isn’t working in front of the deep fat fryer. Straight off to a senior lecturer’s position at Fast Food University, I’m guessing.

My booze-fuelled inspiration has a tendency to get burned off with the rising sun the following day, so I cunningly put a chicken fry in my wallet to remind me to mull over other holy unions the next day.

One of the biggies has to be the cameraphone. Who knew we all need to carry a camera with us wherever we go? My dad only ever took one on holidays—and not every holiday, only destinations of pictorial importance. We have a lot of photos of pancake rocks and a pond full of ducks in Nelson.

Is it a cigarette lighter added to a car? Or did the cigarette industry pay for the development of the automobile so its customers would have somewhere sheltered to sit while they smoke?

But someone decided that if you stuck a camera in a phone, everyone would feel the need to click more often. And we’ve all risen to the challenge. How did the team at Kodak feel when they realised that the days of the camera as a stand-alone device were fading faster than the light on Muriwai beach while you’re trying to take an arty shot of your girlfriend and fit the old guy with the surfcaster in the background?

I wonder why they didn’t respond to the cameraphone with a phonecamera. A bit like the way KFC and McDonalds went to war with chicken nuggets and burgers. I don’t know who fired the first shot. I seem to remember it was McDonald’s and its McNuggets, which allegedly contained traces of chicken. So the Colonel fired back with chicken burgers.

The holy union isn’t a new concept. Ever seen pictures of a pistol dagger? You’re not supposed to bring a knife to a gunfight, so some genius created a way to take both at once. Or the walking-stick sword—there’s an idea that has helped more than one seemingly frail old man out of a potentially dangerous situation in a dimly-lit back alley.

Fast-forward to the motor age and you have one of the most popular holy unions: the car cigarette lighter. Is it a cigarette lighter added to a car? Or did the cigarette industry pay for the development of the automobile so its customers would have somewhere sheltered to sit while they smoke?

A holy union can bring people together. I’ll never forget, when I was seven, seeing an ad in a magazine for a hotel in Fiji. The photo showed a smiling bartender working behind a pool bar. I was stunned. Was it a pool? Was it a bar? The answer was yes! A heavenly cocktail of delights. Of course, back then cocktails weren’t on my mind—just lemonade, or maybe a traffic light if the old man was feeling generous—but I couldn’t believe that someone had come up with such an amazingly decadent idea. The pool bar is proof that the concept of a chemical they put in the water to detect if someone has had a wee is an urban myth, but despite that I was thrilled to be able to share the magic of this idea recently with my five-year-old daughter. At a pool bar she is nearly the same height as the bar so she can float up and order her own drinks. Normally lemonade. Sometimes a traffic light if I am feeling generous. In a normal bar Frankie would never have the chance to strike a conversation with Mary, 45-year-old insurance rep from Ontario.

But sometimes it is people coming together that form a holy union. Take Posh and Becks—a match made in branding heaven, or maybe in Simon Fuller’s office. Together they’re bigger and more useful than they were apart. Ironically, as they got bigger Posh actually got smaller, but Brand Beckham has become massive.

A holy union doesn’t have to be big and complicated. Like many great ideas it’s the simple ones that really have the power. An all-time favourite is my dad’s barbecue fish slice. Made in Taiwan and available in the bargain bin at your local petrol station, it has a hole just above the handle. Simply decoration? That’s what mum thought. But no: it’s a bottle opener. A simple, cost-effective modification that transformed Dad’s meat-burning weapon of choice into a perfectly weighted, easy-to-hold beer-liberating device that won’t get lost under the paper plates and serviettes when you put it down.

For me this is the holy grail of holy unions. I hope Tom Cruise has one and uses it to its full capacity when he invites David Beckham over for a few beers and gives Posh a good feed of Church of Scientology-approved sausages.