SMOKE: Bond Gadgetry Required
Originally published: 10 February 2003
I read about this brilliant gadget the French police seized in a raid on a suspected gangster's house - a cellphone which fires four bullets through a fake aerial, by pressing buttons on the keypad.
Apparently it's lethal from a distance of 10 feet, and while I'm sure the victims of this weapon wouldn't necessarily agree, I think it's brilliant.
The phone looks no different to any other cellphone, but instead of containing technical wizardry in its innards it has a secret compartment which opens up to reveal four chambers, each of which which fits a .22-calibre bullet.
When you press "Send" it sends all right, but the recipient gets more than an earful.
What delights me about this gadget is not that it's intended to kill or maim some unfortunate junkie who can't get his debts together, but that it's real, and there are Bond-like gadgets out there in reality.
I've always wanted a collection of spy tools designed to help me out when I really need them in a tight situation (happens often, believe me, and I'm getting tired of attempting my Vulcan Grip only to find that once again the TV lied.)
I know that genuine Bond gadgets do exist and it's the trickery of them that delights me.
I always wanted a boot with a retractable blade which flicks out of the toecap to inflict a terrible kick upon my supposed assailants, preferably with sharp, arrow-like barbs to catch in the flesh on the way out. I have a lot of anger.
And it all got me thinking as to what gadgets would be useful to the common man and woman in South Africa, as an answer to crime or boredom, and here's a few I came up with.
The most obvious choice would be an invisibility watch, like the one that dude had from that eighties dubbed telly programme (Die Man van Intersek? - something like that). He pressed a button on his watch and - poof! - gone. How brilliant is that?
As a teenager I always wanted it so that I could hang out in the girls' changing room after swimming on a Wednesday morning, but in recent times my motives have changed somewhat.
For starters I'd have to do all the childish stuff, like drive around invisible and cause accidents and queue-jump in supermarkets, but it would be really handy in those tight situations you find yourself in Woodstock sometimes, at half past three on a Thursday afternoon, involving an ex-28er and an albino rasta called Marley at the "fruit-sellers" market.
You're out of there with one press of your watch, and Whitey and Ma Kashiefa are going to have to wait a little longer for that promised interview.
Then you need something that allows you to scale buildings - brick, metal or glass. I'm not sure why, but it's always been a matter of grave importance to me.
I remember being 10 years old (not often, but occasionally) and I contructed a pair of such boots using everyday household articles.
I got two fish magnets and taped them to the underside of my shoes and got another two magnets by unscrewing them from my sister's bedside cupboards. Then I went into the garage and got a sheet of metal, which I propped up against the fence adjoining Mr da Joia's house.
I had a whole subplot going with da Joia - he was a gold-dripping Pretoria fatcat who didn't appreciate the fact that he lived next door to rank poverty in the form of Us, and I had to get inside his place for some reason and do some Stuff.
So I put my magnet boots on and approached The Wall and of course the cheap things didn't even stick without sliding down, much less support my weight.
The idea was great but the technical wizardry wasn't, and I'm sure this incident had a huge part to play in my avoiding a career as an inventor.
But it would be great to be able to scale buildings and walls - imagine how pissed off your boyfriend would be if you argued with him from the ceiling. Or to demonstrate to your boss how he's "driving you up the wall".
You could scale tall buildings to watch cricket for free and freak goths out by sitting perched on the walls of their nightclub in a raven costume, saying nothing. The possibilities are endless.
An obvious addition to my gadget arsenal would be the curare-tipped umbrella, which converts into a deadly poisonous rapier which can also fire deadly darts, giving you more than an arms-length distance.
Particularly useful when facing a samurai or Gojin - I'd like to see you face a four-foot katana wielded by an expert.
The same umbrella would have to have Mary Poppins-like characteristics, allowing you to leap off the buildings you've scaled with your sticky boots, and float gently to earth as your maniacal laughter fills the dark city.
You'd be surprised at how often I find myself in a situation requiring just such a gadget, although just about everything is negated by the invisibility watch.
The final gadget I have to have is x-ray goggles - I remember them being advertised at the back of those A4 Archie comics in the eighties, and they were the perfect wind-down from the Betty/Veronica fantasy: "See thru clothing! See thru walls! See thru human flesh! We ship directly - only $2!"
I pity the poor bastards who were never to see either the goggles or their two dollars again, but the idea was always great.
See through the walls for when Mom is Coming, and discover precisely who's pretending they're not at home. Watch the Boss and the Tart, and see where Wilma's been hiding her yoghurt - that nice one with the nuts which you mix in.
And add little mirrors to the corners of the goggles so that you can see anyone coming up from behind, and you just can't be surprised.
Nobody likes surprises.
Those are a few things I would like to see added to the modern Bond's arsenal and adapted for personal home use. Just in case.
All Smoked Out,