Thursday, March 29, 2012

Superfluousness in the Sky

My late, great friend Mark was once riding on an airplane when he spotted a product he wanted in the SkyMall catalog. The experience ended, as many experiences with SkyMall must end, in humiliation.

At the time, I think it was circa 1999, Mark picked up one of the seatback phones and dialed SkyMall's phone number to place an order. Those otherwise extraordinarily expensive phone calls were free, as long as you were calling SkyMall. Anyway, Mark tried to tell the customer service representative which item he wanted. The rep couldn't hear him and asked Mark to repeat the item by name, louder. Embarrassed, Mark did as she asked, but the rep still didn't understand him. Please say it again, she asked, and this time, even louder.

"I want to buy your nasal hair trimmers!" Mark finally was forced to blurt out, for all to hear.

I think of Mark every time I spot the SkyMall catalog beckoning from the seatback pocket, that bastion of bacteria and the occasional baby iguana. In those moments during takeoff and landing when my iPad must be put away, I can't resist opening up the catalog and, once again, being amazed at the superfluous and silly products being paraded before my disbelieving eyes.

On a flight yesterday, here are a few things I saw in the current SkyMall catalog. And all of these were in just the first few pages, mind you.

A $500 "luxury pet residence," aka, a cage for your pooch. It's made of "solid hardwood with integrated roller shades" and a "plush foam mattress." A Tempur-Pedic mattress for your terrier, in other words. And get this: Assembly is required. Seriously? I pay you $500 for a dog cage and I still have to build the thing?

Does this luxury residence come with a doorman?
A $40 cream, DermaTend Mole & Skin Tag Remover, promises to "remove your unwanted moles and skin tags at home" using "a natural herbal remedy." In just a few days, "you will be free of your ugly moles or skin tags for good!"

First of all, the marketing copy sounds a bit judge-y. How dare they assume all moles are ugly and unwanted? Haven't they ever heard of "beauty moles," like Anne Francis used to wear?

Anne Francis and her mole. Did she and Peggy Lee get them from the same supplier?
Second of all, those pictures they offer as proof--how in the heck can I be sure that's the same nose, before and after the mole? Is it me, or do I detect some slight deviation between the nostrils?

Most importantly, what exactly happens to your mole? Do you suddenly wake up one morning and it's lying on the pillow next to you? Or does it slowly shrink, like Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman?

Then there's Thundershirt, a "rugby" style shirt costing $40 to $45 that's designed to calm a dog's anxiety. I realize dogs, like people, get anxious. But honestly, that's what Xanax and cosmopolitans are for.

Anyhow, the Thundershirt's "gentle, constant pressure has a profound calming effect for most dogs when anxious, fearful, or over-excited. It is similar to swaddling an infant or to people with autism using pressure to relieve persistent anxiety." The shirt is supposed to calm dogs during thunder, fireworks, separation anxiety, general fearfulness, barking, jumping, and more. Oddly, there's no mention of coyotes or bears. I mean, if I were a dog and suddenly encountered a hungry coyote, I don't think a pressurized rugby shirt would relax me.

The "Thundershirt"
But about the thunder. As I was reading about this shirt on the plane, the captain announced we were facing thunderstorms ahead. "Fasten your seat belts," he advised. Suddenly, I wondered if the Thundershirt came in my size?


Have you ever bought something wacky from SkyMall? If so, did it do what it promised to do? Or did it leave you wondering where life went wrong? 

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  1. OMG Jim You Are The Best Ever!! I Only Wish I Could Write Half As Good As You Do!!

    Let's Try To Have Dinner Soon. I Miss You And Nick..

    By The Way I Did Buy The Pet Cage(Luxury Pet Residence) For Mr. Monarch But He Die!! So I Had To Return It.

    Love To You Both!!

  2. Jim,

    Obviously, the items in the Sky Mall catalogue are for those folks with way too much money.

  3. The lower lip definetly looks more full to me on the second male mole model.

  4. I love reading that catalogue and laughing at it until I can't breathe. I have never bought anything from it. Maybe one day on a long flight with too much wine, I will finally do it and then say wtf? when the product arrives.

  5. OMG, we have a Thundershirt for our dog. But, we bought it from the pet store. My husband does a lot of volunteering for the spca, and they swear they work.
    Not so much on our neurotic dog.

    As for the mole--I'm with you, totally different dude.

  6. If the dog owner assembles the crate, I'll bet the dog when hungry will unassemble it end up eating you out of his house and your house!

  7. The mole is starved of oxygen and falls off like a scab! uh...maybe the wrong product, sorry :)

  8. Great observations, Mr. Mahtin! I cannot embarrass myself on the interweb, but when I see you next, I will tell you my shout of shame while on an airplane. It involves alternative medicine and that is all I will say.

  9. You have met my sweet dog, Jack. He's not afraid of storms or skittish but he goes crazy with happiness when people come over. He forgets he is an 80 pounder and jumps like a bucking bronco. I'm wondering if it would help calm him? If so, I'll take one in every color!