"No muss," the man was saying to me. "No fuss. Clean. Washable. And it provides a humane death."
Right off hand, I could not think of a better definition of the American Dream.
I was standing in the Hall of Goodies, better known as the National Housewares Exposition. Every year, manufacturers from all over the United States gather together to show off their newest gadgets, inventions, and luxury items.
The public is forbidden for one good reason: Once inside, the people would never leave.
The convention hall is piled high with food processors, convection ovens, tooth polishers, juice extractors, egg cups, bath mats... and that one special item that can revolutionize American life.
And I had found it. Tucked away at Booth 1607, manufactured by a company with the innocent name of Hal Industries Inc. of North Chicago, Ill.
The ultimate product of a country that worships electricity like the Egyptians worshipped the sun:
An electric mousetrap.
That plugs into the wall.
And when the mousie crawls in the trap, he gets zapped. Hall Industries also makes things like garden bulb planters, but what's a garden bulb planter compared to an electric chair for mice?
Demonstrating the mouse killer was Joel F. DeWitt, vice president-marketing. The mousetrap is just a steel tube, nicely painted with a picture of a mouse and with a little knob on the side. It has a regular electrical cord running out of it. It comes packaged on a piece of cardboard that says in huge black letters: GET EM!
DeWitt had a very nice little booth and as people came up he would say: "Can we plant a bulb for you? Or kill a rat?"
I asked for the rat, please.
"First, a mouse will go in to these things without bait," he said. "But we put bait in there because nobody will believe us."
But why would a mouse just saunter inside a strange steel tube, one that contains enough electricity to make him into a mouse cutlet? I asked.
"Curiosity," DeWitt said as if speaking to a child. "Your mouse will just walk right in there. Now your rat will never do that. Nope. A rat would starve to death before he walked in without bait.
"Now you're asking youself, 'How do I keep my kitten or my baby from crawling in there,' aren't you?" he went on. "Well, no worry. Your largest mouse in North America is 32 grams. He's got a flexible spine. We've got baffles in there to allow the mouse in, but not anything else.
"The mouse goes in, hits the two electrodes, and gets three seconds of juice at 15 amps.
"It doesn't burn him, but it boils his brains. And there is absolutely no smell from electrocution."
Terrific, I said. So now I've got a fried rat with a boiled brain. Now what?
"Then you pick it up and shake him out," DeWitt said. "I demonstrated shaking out dead rats for a whole day, recently. I think that was the low point of my career."
DeWitt sent on to explain that his company made both an electric mouse trap and an electric rat trap, the only difference being the size. And there must be a lot of rats and mice out ther, because sales are booming.
Do you have something personal against rats? I asked.
"Yes, I do," DeWitt said firmly. "A rat can fall five stories and keep running. He can tread water for three days. He eats 20 percent of the world's food supply. If there are any other reasons to hate rats, let me know."