Rube Goldberg machines, which Goldberg himself described as the way to solve a simple task in the most overcomplicated, inefficient and hilarious way possible, have always fascinated me. They involve creativity at its finest and encompass all aspects of learning STEAM – that is, science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – in a fun, inspiring way.
I thought about that famed American cartoonist’s contraptions the other day during a discussion with a colleague about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout across the country. It often appears we’ve taken a Goldbergian approach to our biggest contemporary challenge.
I’m not suggesting the complex vaccine rollout doesn’t brim with multiple variables and thousands of moving parts – it does. But it does also seem we’ve created a system that makes it almost impossible to get the results we seek in the most efficient and timely fashion.
Consider, say, a 60-year-old couple who drive 300 miles to get vaccinated because that’s the closest they can get an appointment, a 67-year-old with cancer somehow standing in line for an appointment behind healthier people just because they’re over 70 or states that allocate more vaccines to rural areas than such areas have residents.
Friends of mine have registered on as many as 10 different websites, in hopes of getting to the front of the line somewhere. Surely, wouldn’t one national or state registry make more sense than the present arrangement? What happens when more vaccine doses do become available, but people don’t show because they’ve already been inoculated elsewhere?
In addition, what are we doing to change the minds of the many Americans who have no desire to be vaccinated? How can we end the coronaviral pandemic if a large number of us don’t participate in the vaccine rollout?
No simple answers exist, I recognize, and local, county and state officials are toiling to make things work. But it certainly does seem as if Goldberg’s approach to inventiveness has infiltrated the process.
This time, though, given the grim context, that approach isn’t entertaining.