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Now that I have, we believe, successfully beaten Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I thought the blog could take a detour this time for something that constantly occurs to me when traveling. I spend a lot of time on airplanes. Most of the time, I try to use this time wisely. I read books. I write. I download movies to my iPad. Sometimes I read the in-flight magazine. But only in extreme desperation do I reach for the Catalog of the Unneeded and Useless – Skymall.
In my flying career, I have known a grand total of one human being who has ever ordered something out of Skymall. And it wasn’t me. In fact, it was a frequent flyer more desperate than I: a constant international traveler who no doubt succumbed to boredom while on a fifteen hour flight, had a WiFi connection, and pulled the credit card trigger. That, and he needed something to make it up to his wife that he had bought a Porsche 911 without her permission. So what to buy? Why, something completely and utterly useless. Something you had no idea you needed until you saw it in that thin glossy in the seat pocket.
Let me give you, as they say, a “for instance”. I can’t say I have ever yearned for “The One Ring” replica from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Nor do I need a statue of a zombie escaping my flower bed. Or a library table that looks like a cross between a really bad bistro set and a left over set piece from Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. And don’t get me started on the embarrassing travel accoutrements. “Hey, I really should get a gigantic pillow that sits on the fold-down table in front of my airplane seat so I can sleep and drool in full view of my seatmates.” I can testify under oath I have never, ever, seen anyone lug one of those onto a plane. Or the neck brace that I am assured will allow me to sleep sitting up. Or the fold out light saber that they guarantee me will safely kill 99% of “targeted bacteria” (whatever they are). Really? People buy this shit?
And that’s just the innocuous useless stuff. There’s some downright dangerous crap in there, too. Case in point, the “Solowheel”. This precious item has all of the danger of a Segway with none of the safety features. Imagine a self-powered wheel about 3 feet across. On either side are little footpads that stick out of the hub for . . .yes, your feet. Apparently, you are supposed to stand on this and lean slightly forward, and it propels you at up to ten mph. Handlebars? Nope. Helmet? Well, I guess that’s up to you. The best thing, we are told, is that it is eco-friendly. Why? Apparently you can take this item on busses and trains much more easily than, say, a bike. It apparently never occurred to the manufacturers of the Solowheel that the majority of folks who travel on buses and trains can’t afford a 3 foot wheel that sells for a tidy MSRP of $1,799.
The stuff in Skymall I really want I can buy at Bed, Bath & Beyond, The Home Depot, or a furniture store (they have a lot of furniture for some reason), likely for cheaper. And it seems to never have occurred to the Skymall folks that most of us don’t live in a 5,000 square foot Colonial with a three car garage, because all the home improvement crap is tailor made for just such a residence.
Which brings me to the title of this little rant. Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in “The Fabulous Baker Boys” said that the Johnny Mathis song “Feelings” was like parsley on a restaurant plate: If it’s there no one cares and if it’s not, no one misses it. If they stopped printing Skymall, would you really miss it? Because after the first few times of paging through it for the sheer entertainment value of being able to say “who the hell would be stupid enough to buy this junk”, do you ever reach for it again? Hey, wait. I can really make my own beer at home with a small countertop keg? That will go so well next to my hot dog/bun toaster. Damn!

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