If necessity is the mother of invention, then Mike Turner struck the mother lode.
About 2½ years ago, he needed to go.
He really needed to go.
He needed to go so much, he kept waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. And he kept waking up his wife as he stumbled around their Smiths Station bedroom.
"I thought there's got to be a better way to do this," said Turner, a regional human resources manager for ServiceMaster.
So he invented one.
The result is the Bathroom Eliminator, which allows urgent urinators to relieve themselves without getting out of bed.
"It's also good for people confined to wheelchairs and pilots and truck drivers who travel long distances without a bathroom," said Turner, 62.
He estimates he has sold about 125 of them online at $49.95, plus shipping and handling. His patent is pending.
Turner also has brought a different kind of relief to a different group of people with another invention: the nonprofit Columbus-Phenix City Inventors Association. He started it two years ago after inspiration turned to frustration as he tried to bring his Bathroom Eliminator creation to fruition.
"I figured there must be plenty of people in the Columbus area who have invention ideas in their minds but don't know how to take the next steps," said Turner, who counts 92 members who pay the $35 annual dues in the association.
Turner said he has met too many inventors burned by Internet companies that claim they will help bring their products to market.
"Those websites get you to spend thousands of dollars with them, and all you get is a nice three-ring binder," he said. "That's why they should come here."
Five folks gathered Saturday at the Mildred L. Terry Library for one of the association's workshops. They ranged from pros to novices.
Pelatyah Hawkins, 60, is retired in Columbus after working for the Veterans Administration. She now runs a management consulting business.
Her invention, Bible 'N' Hand, is a board game that teaches the Bible and sign language at the same time.
"I need to get a professional prototype done," she said. She hopes to reach Jake Lark's level one day. The 74-year-old retiree from Callaway Chemical said he has 26 patents, primarily to improve production in the textile industry. He laughed and said he has been working in that area since nanotechnology "was merely microns."
Despite his experience, Lark said he attended the workshop because "you never know everything, and I'm looking for a new project to work on. I can't stay home and do nothing." Angel Walker, a 33-year-old maintenance clerk at Fort Benning, said she is mulling a couple of ideas but didn't want to be more specific.
Turner emphasized the fine line for talking about your idea: Share enough details to garner help, but don't disclose too much and risk having your idea stolen. The association can give members templates for disclosure statements as well as legal and marketing advice.
"We help them think through their idea and expand their thought process," Turner said. "You need to do your research first before you spend any money, because your idea already might be out there, even if you don't see it."
The group brainstormed ideas for two other inventions: how to keep a drink safe at a nightclub, and how to clean trucks between the cab and the bed.
"If you think of something, act on it," Turner said. "If you procrastinate, you might read about someone else making millions of dollars with your idea."