blueprint of pizza box

PIZZA DELIVERANCE: Carmela Vitale termed the device the "package saver," which was an injustice to the device since it was intended to save the pizza and not the package.

Patent Number 4,498,586 and its Contribution to Civilization

Exceptional Parents don't expect services to be delivered, they are happy to go out to get them.

It's Saturday afternoon and, after a hard week of slugging it out in the non-profit world of developmental disabilities, I'm in my sanctuary, the garage. Surrounded by antique cars, parts, grease, rags, tools, lathes, grinders, dirt, rust and cans of magic elixirs it's where I try to spend my weekends rejuvenating. Here there are few compromises, power gradients, bureaucracies, deadlines or unfunded mandates. It's a place where hard work, ingenuity, experience and true collaboration can actually get done. For over 50 years, my brother Phil and I have shared a passion for old cars, the noises they make and the head scratching needed to figure out how to keep them going. It's Saturday afternoon and we are struggling, trying to make a car part fit into a place where it was never designed to fit in the first place. It's frustrating and agonizing, and it's lunchtime. We're covered with grease and can't justify the time to clean up and go out to get something to eat. We punch some keys on a cell phone and, 15 minutes later, a nondescript car pulls up with a non-descript college kid walking towards us with the famil iar flat cardboard box containing a pizza. Pizza delivery has come to the rescue, and not just for my brother and I on a Saturday afternoon. Today, more than $10 billion dollars are spent annually on delivering pizzas. Pizza delivery has become a staple of modern culture for seven billion people worldwide.

In 1889, King Umberto I of Italy and Queen Margherita of Savoy were visiting Naples. After eating some specially pre pared food for the royal occasion, the Queen became sick and requested to eat some traditional Italian food. They summoned a local chef, Raffaele Esposito, to prepare something that would delight the Queen. To honor the Queen, Esposito made a pizza into the colors of the Italian flag, red tomatoes, green basil, and white mozzarella cheese. Kings and Queens weren't expected to frequent the local pizzeria shops, so Esposito took the pizzas to them. This event gets credit for being the first-ever pizza delivery recorded in pizza history. Margherita declared it the best dish she had ever eaten and it gave birth to the authentic Margherita pizza, the pizza that was introduced to America by returning World War II soldiers that were stationed in Italy.

We are not only enjoying the pizza but remarking on the concept of being able to have it delivered.

have it delivered. Before we declare "pizza delivery" to be one of the greatest inventions of all time, we decide to see how it stacks up against some other notable game-changing inventions. So we go back and forth, noting the "other" top inventions that changed the world. In no special order we start with the compass, then the printing press. Since we're in a garage, we of course throw in the internal combustion engine. We had to include the telephone, it's how we got the pizza delivered in the first place. We certainly didn't forget the light bulb or the internet. My brother throws in the nail (we sweep a lot of them up each weekend). Since both of us come from medical backgrounds, we had to recognize "penicillin" as both a lifechanging and lifesaving invention (for our purposes, discoveries are included with inventions). And as much as we were enjoying our "delivered pizza" it was hard to include it with the emerging list of the greatest inventions of all time.

Moments later, almost in synchrony, we both notice and point to the little white plastic gizmo sitting in the center of the pizza. We believe we have identified this small ingenious device as a contender for consideration as an invention that changed civilization.

Casey Chan, writing on "Pizza's Guardian Angel" sums it up. "A piece of plastic? Yes, that circular plastic thing that goes in the middle of a pie to prevent the pizza from sticking to the top of the pizza box. It's called a pizza saver. And it was invented over 30 years ago on February 10, 1983, when Carmela Vitale got her patents issued for that piece of plastic.

That little structure prevents the top of the pizza box from caving in onto the hot pizza, rendering it into the realm of unappetizing goo. There is a complex thermody namic reaction that takes place in the pizza box involving the heat from the pizza impacting on the corrugation process which acts as a space insulation layer. The design flaw of the pizza box causes the top center of the box to soften and sag and (heaven forbid) attach itself to the cheese topping. Vitale termed the device the "pack age saver," which was an injustice to the device since it was intended to save the pizza and not the package.

Chan provides more information on the "saver" than you probably need to know. "The tripod look was created to keep the footprint of the pizza saver small which kept the damage to the pizza minimal while also being rock solid in preventing exorcised pizzas. Three dimples on your pizza is much better than splattered guts everywhere. It's basically every pizza's guardian angel."

One could argue that Exceptional Parents have been looking for a similar device to prevent their goals, dreams and aspirations from being crushed from "cardboard thinkers" lurking above. They are constantly looking for allies, legislation, champions, fairness, compassion and sensibilities to prevent the top from caving in on their efforts and energy. Exceptional Parents don't expect services to be delivered, they are happy to go out to get them.

We finished the pizza and got the part to fit; and so, life is good in the garage.•

Rick Rader, MD

In his 87th year, the artist Michelangelo (1475 -1564) is believed to have said "Ancora imparo" (I am still learning). Hence, the name for my monthly observations and comments. — Rick Rader, MD, Editor-in-Chief, EP Magazine Director, Morton J. Kent Habilitation Center Orange Grove Center, Chattanooga, TN