Ugly Bags of Mostly Water

There was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where our plucky heroes encounter a planet with crystalline life. Besides being part of a poorly studied arc across the Star Trek franchises that explores the limits of humans’ ability to make friends with sassy rocks, the episode used this post’s title to describe human nature. This post explores how literally we sometimes take that aspect our humanity.

For example, consider the Portable Bath Capsule:

USP 3,677,263, FIG. 1 — Moist

In case you were wondering why a person might want to zip themselves into a gigantic hot water bottle, this was designed with bedridden patients in mind, to save the hassle of sponge-bathing them. It isn’t clear to me how it would be less work to maneuver them into the bag, and I expect getting them out would be particularly messy. But hey, the 70s were a wild time, and we can never truly understand the mind of another.

The next example is the Rocking or Oscillating Bathtub:

USP 643,094, FIG. 1 — DIY sea sickness

I’m going to let the patent speak for itself for a moment here.

The essential object of this invention is to provide a tub that will fill a long-felt want in hospitals, sanitariums, and other institutions, as well as in private residences, which will by a simple rocking motion agitate and throw the water with more or less violence against the body of the person in the tub for a purpose well known in the art of medicine.

USP 643,094, p. 1, lns 34-41

You may think that being shaken inside a soggy bag would be therapeutic enough, but our friend Otto of Pittsburgh, PA, did one better!

Connected at either side of the tub 1 and at points below the water-level are two copper conductors 27,(see Figs. 3 and 6,) which project through the walls of the tub and are in contact with the water contained therein. These conductors are each fitted with a binding-post 28 for the reception of wires leading to a source of electrical supply, such as a battery 30 or other generator. In circuit with these wires are suitable well-known devices 29 31 to regulate the force of the shock or to cut the electrical current off entirely.

USP 643,094, p. 2, lns 24-35

The patent doesn’t spend much time talking about why someone would want to be shaken in an electric bath. I guess that much would have been obvious to someone in 1900, working in the medical arts. I am particularly curious how they kept the apron 19 from strangling the victim/patient during oscillation.

Finally, here is a sampling from the Korean Patent Office, the Portable Sauna Apparatus:

KR 200328150, FIG. 3

I provide this example because it relates to actual products that actual people actually buy and actually use. These personal saunas are often made from insulating fabric that you zip yourself into. Then an infrared lamp gets you toasty. There are often holes to let hands out or legs in, for, I’m not sure, manipedi purposes? Anyway, don’t these ladies look happy?

So warm…

In case you doubt that this is a real thing, here’s an affiliate link to a one-person version: If you buy one… let me know if it’s nice?

Is there a moral to this one? Nah. People just like to be warm and soggy, and that’s gross, so we zip them up into bags. Not everything has a deeper meaning.

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