Traveling back and forth from East Texas to Chicago as often as I do, I am overly familiar with the contents of SkyMall. The tagline for the inflight catalog should be “Because useless crap looks irresistible at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet!”
SkyMall is filled with stuff that’ll get you beaten up if you actually use or wear it. There’s the Brobdingnagian (that’s literary speak for “big-ass”) Sport Chair that “elevates your stature” at any outdoor event, thereby blocking the view of everyone behind you. There’s the “Germbana,” a “one size fits most” face gator that repels germs when you enter a hotbed of infection such as an airplane, a kindergarten classroom or a leper colony. The “soft, breathable” fabric kills cooties “on contact” and it only costs $19.99 plus your dignity.
But scattered throughout SkyMall are items I actually covet, like a “finely crafted and tastefully decorated” Christmas tree ornament that’s “sure to become a family heirloom” and is shaped like a pierogi.
I also found the perfect Christmas gift for my dad, which I would have realized even without the helpful icon next to the product photo that says “Makes a Great Gift.” I can’t tell you what it is, though, because there’s a chance he will read this. (And to test whether he does or not, I’m going to embed a confession: Dad, it was I who drank your E&J Brandy.)
Seeing this gift brought back the memory of a Christmas past, when my dad ordered something for me out of SkyMall and then tortured me with hints like “It’ll come in handy in college”; “It’s a pair of things that are alike but not exactly alike”; “You can use it for ideas”; “You can use it as a doorstop.” It turned out to be a book titled “Great Quotations by Great Leaders” and a slimmer companion volume of “Great Quotes by Great Women.” I did indeed use those books in college and as a writer and would still be using them today were it not so easy to look up quotes on the internet.
There’s a pleasing symmetry to my buying Dad a SkyMall gift, as he did for me all those years ago. It just goes to show that not everything in life — even SkyMall — is corn-filled crap.
Dad, if you’re reading this, here are your clues: It will come in handy in retirement; you can use it for your travels but not during your travels; you can use it for ideas; you can use it as a doorstop though I wouldn’t recommend it.