Sunday, May 30, 2021

In Memoriam: Post-It Note Inventor

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 31, 2021] ©2021

I was genuinely dismayed to read recently in the New York Times of the death of a man who has had a profound impact on my life.  He was Spencer Silver, inventor of the glue that makes Post-it Notes stick. 

I would have gone to the memorial if I’d known.  

Anyone who has spent any time at all in my home knows that from the instant I first encountered a Post-it Note in 1980, my entire mental organization has centered around them.

Truly, I think Uber and yellow sticky notes are the greatest innovations of modern times.  I’m not sure what I did without either.

In 1968, the aforementioned Mr. Silver, was a scientist at 3M working on “pressure-sensitive adhesives.”  When I hear stories like this, I always wonder: did his high school guidance counselor bring him in and say “Your Myers Briggs test indicates that you would be ideally suited to a career in the glue industry”? 

Actually, Mr. Silver was attempting to create a pressure-sensitive glue strong enough to be used in aircraft construction when he inadvertently created one most definitely not suited for that use. You do not want to be able to pull the wings off the aircraft, even if you could quickly reattach them. 

But what to do with this amazing new product, this “solution without a problem.” It was another ten years before a potential application was found. The story, which sounds suspiciously apocryphal, alleges that one of the scientist’s colleagues discovered that the adhesive helped him to anchor his bookmarks in his hymnal. If you say so.

Post-it Notes are now produced in multiple sizes and colors, different strengths of adhesion for non-smooth surfaces, and even with lines on them.  We purists, however, only use the original canary yellow.

Personally, I’m only willing to try to keep so much information in my head at once.  This is why my computer monitor is ringed with sticky notes reminding me of all manner of info such as short cuts I use during word processing, passwords I use frequently but not quite often enough to remember them, what sequence of commands to use when my computer freezes up, and how to stop print jobs when I accidentally specified 100 pages instead of 10.


Sticky notes on my bathroom mirror remind me of the day’s appointments now that I am a senior.


There is no machine in our home that is not adorned with sticky notes advising me of its operational requirements. Some current and former residents of this house still need to be reminded to push the dial of the washing machine IN before turning it. 

At one point, my older son Rory sent me a birthday card depicting an old person holding a remote up to her ear and waiting for a dial tone. Rory noted: “Mom - I’m sure there is a sticky note in your house that addresses this.”  

Post-it Notes on the fridge remind me to thaw chicken or put the lasagna in the oven at 6:00.

I just have a Post-it note mind. Or, as it has been suggested by mean-spirited persons in my family whom I will not personally name, a mind not sufficiently memory-capable to avoid needing Post-it Notes. Take my Post-it Notes away and you’d have to put me in a Home.

A few times my Post-it note habit has had unintended consequences.  In 2009, during a weekend visit, my prankster older son Rory appropriated my 14-digit library card number sticky-noted to my computer and ordered me up a long list of books including The Book of the Penis (it came with an 8-inch ruler along the binding); The whole lesbian sex book: a passionate guide for all of us; Coping with Your Colitis, Hemorrhoids and Related Disorders; and The Rear View: A Brief and Elegant History of Bottoms Through the Ages.  He was aided and abetted by the public library website’s then-policy of announcing “your password is the last four digits of your phone number,” a policy now changed, presumably at the behest of other mothers with creatively-minded sons.

It’s comforting to know that after I’m gone, I’ll live on through Post-it Notes.

If Post-it Notes are to be my legacy, I think it would only be appropriate that when I die, the assorted assemblage should be issued with pads of sticky notes on which they could write farewell messages and stick them to my coffin. This could be in lieu of flowers. It would be especially appropriate since yellow is my favorite color.  The messages could run the gamut of, “I’m sorry I never returned your blender!” Or: “I hope those chocolates won’t melt where you’re going, ha ha!  Or even: “Inga – you really should have had that checked.”

But somewhere in the program, there should be an important announcement: Given Inga’s demise, go short on your 3M stock.


 Some members of my family continue to need reminding

Could not operate computer without sticky notes

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