Arthur Lloyd was 80 years before his time. The fact that no one’s ever heard of Arthur Lloyd is a real shame, but that’s why you come to me for enlightenment.
If you’ve ever seen an episode of “America’s Got Talent,” then you know something about the theatrical world that produced Arthur Lloyd. The audience watches a show with multiple performers, each with a different gift. Singers share the stage with jugglers, who exit to make way for acrobats, who come on before tap dancers, who yield the floor to ventriloquists, who take their bows while the dog act is warming up. And on it goes.
Today we put it all on television and give prizes and Vegas contracts to the winners. A century ago, they called it vaudeville. Arthur Lloyd was one of the thousands of specialized talents who traveled the country appearing in one live variety show after the next.
He walked onto the stage like a college professor, wearing an academic robe and mortar-board. Introducing himself, he asked members of the audience to call out the names of playing cards. Someone shouted out “the King of Clubs,” and without looking, Lloyd reached in a coat pocket and pulled out the very card. “Eight of Hearts,” someone else yelled, and, with his eyes closed, Lloyd knew exactly where to reach for the card in his pocket. This went on for a while, just long enough for the audience to realize two things. First, that Arthur Lloyd had cards stashed all over his body and knew where each one was. And second, that he needed a better hobby.
But that’s when things got interesting. Lloyd then asked the spectators to call out ANY type of printed item that could be kept in a coat pocket. A laundry receipt. Alimony papers. An insurance policy. A bill from Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City. A ticket from the night the White Sox won the World Series. And believe it or not, Arthur Lloyd pulled every one of these items from a hidden pocket without looking. He specialized in membership cards. The boy scouts, the Elks lodge, the Audubon Society. If a person could belong to it, Lloyd had a card, and the more obscure the organization, the more amazed audiences were that he was a member.
He once was asked to produce a card from the Society for the Prevention of Disparaging Remarks about Brooklyn. He had it. And not a moment too soon, since the Society eventually folded, unable to stop the disparaging remarks. Which is so typical of quitters from Brooklyn.
He was billed as the “Human Card Index.” So what was his system? Actually, he had no system. His coat had 40 pockets containing 15,000 items and weighed over 100 pounds. He just knew where each item was located and could find it—without peeking—in seconds.
But now, a century later, you too can amaze your friends with the contents of your clothing. Last week I saw a TV commercial for the Scott-e-Vest. It’s a light-weight, zip-up jacket that has plenty of specially designed inside compartments for your stuff. Since the average 21st century American carries around enough electronic equipment to coordinate the invasion of a small country, the Scott-e-Vest replaces the backpack as the new way to tote what you need.
One pocket is perfectly sized for your iPad; another snugly fits your smart phone. Your keys have their own space, as do your ear buds, as does your money, your water bottle, your pen, your sunglasses, your granola bars that you think are healthy but that have, like, six layers of chocolate, and so much more.
Now parents no longer have to hitch a trailer to the SUV to carry around all those pounds of baby supplies. Mom and Dad can simply stash the wet wipes, sippy cups, bibs, binkies, diapers, Vaseline, chew toys and whatnot—all hidden in discrete bulges around their upper body.
Yes, you will walk around like C-3PO. Yes, it will take you 45 minutes to de-vest for airport security. Yes, you will essentially become a traveling kitchen drawer. But, the sleeves are detachable. Which will help you more easily grab your back when the pain hits. And if you visit Niagara Falls wearing a loaded Scott-e-Vest, try not to lean forward.
The real benefit, though, is that you can finally say goodbye to the fanny pack, that fashion statement for Disneyland tourists that might as well have “Please rob me” printed on it.
The people at Scott-e-Vest are serious about their paramilitary gear. I visited the website, and within seconds an email popped-up, asking if I had any questions about the product. It was signed “Jim Doolittle, Pocket Professional.” Yet another career opportunity for college grads.
So eat your heart out, Arthur Lloyd. Now everyone will be walking around like Mary Poppins, pulling random objects from their jackets to dazzle bystanders. The only thing left will be for all of them to compete on a new show called “America’s Got Baggage.”