Most people who hear the phrase “Lazy Susan” think of a rotating tray placed on a countertop to aid in the distribution of food. They don’t think of Susan Carmichael, the flat, spinning woman who inspired the invention. “I was lonely growing up because I rarely left the house,” recalls the 10-inch-tall Carmichael. “Most doorways can’t accommodate my 6-foot-diameter, disc-shaped head, so I couldn’t go anywhere unless someone picked me up and tilted me.”
Asked why she spins, Susan explained that the extreme flatness of her skull caused her eyes to be pushed to opposite sides, similar to those of a hammerhead shark. “I see things in front me by constantly spinning clockwise then counterclockwise, alternating which eye points forward,” she says. In addition, Susan’s abnormally short arms are unable to reach objects outside the 3-foot radius of her head, resulting in what her practitioner calls vestigial hands.
“She was of no help to anybody, as harsh as that sounds,” says her mother Deborah. “Hands or no hands, no man wants to marry a woman who doesn’t spackle the drywall she dents.”
Her father George says the discovery that lead to the invention happened by accident. “We were about to set the dinner table when Susan crashed head-first into it and splintered the leg. I was so sick of her breaking furniture that in a huff I put a salad on top of her head and yelled, ‘Here Susan, why don’t you make yourself useful for once?’ As Susan turned away from my outburst, I noticed that the salad conveniently spun right toward Deborah.”
“We drew up blueprints immediately. Susan was better than any table on the market at the time. After the Lazy Susan’s success, we stopped using the original Susan in favor of the new armless models that only spin when you want them to and don’t complain when you spill hot fondue sauce on them.”
Deborah and George kept the initial prototypes around to occupy Susan while they ran their new enterprise. “The prototypes are my brothers and sisters,” says Susan. “We enjoy that special kind of family bond that only occurs between things that share the exact same geometric shape.”
Susan, now 55, still lives in her home town of Aberdeen, Maryland, under a tarp in her parents’ garage. To date, she hasn’t received any royalties.