The refrigerator, as happens with many major and important discoveries, came about by happy accident.
One day some guy searched for room to plunk the 32,437th novelty magnet onto his collection box. Finding none, he wondered if there was room inside the box.
When he opened the door, a blast of cold air smacked him in the face.
''Wow!'' he thought. ''This would be a great place to keep the ketchup!''
That is how refrigerators were invented.
What I don't know is where the world's supply of artwork committed by 5-year-olds hung before refrigerators. I suspect parents poked drawings onto tree branches. In winter, the tree had to be carted inside. That's how the Christmas tree came to be.
Pay attention, kids. You're learning a lot of history here.
According to the history books, the common household refrigerator came into regular use in the 1930s. Magnets date back to at least the first century B.C.
The history books remain mum on the obvious question: What was the natural habitat of magnets before the 1930s? Were they duct-taped to wooden pantries?
One scientific mind theorized that magnets could have congregated on pot-bellied stoves.
Nature itself refutes this theory. When herds of magnets nest upon household appliances, they give birth to voluminous collections of postcards, rummage sale notices, grocery lists, recipes, family photos, bills, cartoons and the artwork of 5-year-olds. Stoves - pot-bellied or domestic - provide a less than ideal environment.
Of course, since TVs also had not invaded homes back then, if the family wanted to gather around an appliance to watch a good disaster, the family had to create its own. Paperwork magnetized to stoves invited this sort of excitement. But after a while, it became impractical.
Thankfully, the refrigerator box came along as the perfect magnet for magnets.
I admit that I, for a time, was pulled into the magnet craze like iron shavings to a, well, magnet.
There are magnets of Coca-Cola bottles on the outside of my fridge, even though no actual bottles of the carbonated goodness are stored inside. There's a birdhouse with a bird on a spring, an owl with a thermometer in its belly and a flying pig.
From zoos and aquariums, I trotted home magnets in the shape of gorillas, elephants, rhinos, tigers and dolphins. Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse fought for room among magnets shaped as exercise bikes, garden plots, guitars and chickens.
Plus, I sport so many magnetized ads that I ought to be able to live for three years on the royalties. The only reason glints of white surface peek through the flock of magnets is that I don't know enough insurance agents.
One day, when I no longer could fight my way through the swarm of magnets to reach the ketchup, I knew it was time. I began peeling away the layers.
The fridge door wobbled. The walls quaked. The freezer groaned and sagged toward the crisper.
That's when I discovered the symbiotic relationship between refrigerators and magnets - magnets act as the glue that bond fridge pieces into a whole. And that, kids, is why we refer to the power of attraction as - you guessed it - magnetism.
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