The Lure of Sky Mall

It was with the best of intentions that I loaded my Chinese reader into my carry-on bag, determined to schlep it through multiple airports so that I could dutifully work the homework that I have neglected for the last week and a half. Carrying the rather large paperback meant my fruit snacks and Thad’s Combos had to be rearranged to save them from becoming balls of chewy goo and pizza-flavored crumbs, but if I were to get caught up on some of my classwork, the new packing arrangement would be well worth it.

I started the trip sticking with my study plan.  No sooner had I eaten my ritual pre-flight pancakes at the Boise Airport, than I dug my Chinese reader out of my paisley clad shoulder bag and picked up on chapter seven, where I left off yesterday. (I would have made it farther in the book yesterday, during my bonus-vacation day, but my focus was diverted by one tiny three-year old dancing around the living room singing “No king, no king, lalalalalala!” as she watched her newly acquired Lion King DVD yet again. It is pretty hard to concentrate on passages about percentages of Chinese people in the American workforce when a pack of laughing hyenas and a sprite of a child are available entertainment.)

So now, seated in the second row of a Southwest Airlines flight from Salt Lake City to Baltimore, enjoying my more than ample legroom and Plane Cookies (seriously, they are shaped like tiny airplanes!), I should once again pull out that never-ending mass of semi-decipherable characters and try to get through another chapter or two. I have the will-power to resist peering out the window, watching the fly-over states drift beneath us. I have the will-power to resist watching an episode or two of Sheldon’s antics and Penny’s marvelous outfits on The Big Bang Theory. I even have the will-power to resist the new book I recently downloaded to my Nook from the Arlington Public Library about women entrepreneurs trying to make their way under the banner of the Taliban in Afghanistan. What do I not have the will-power to resist? Sky Mall!

That’s right. Flying through the air in what is essentially a tin can filled with my fellow humanity, I have put off studying the mother tongue of the country that I will soon, once again, call home for two years, all in the name of browsing what has to be the world’s most eclectic, most random catalog to ever grace the seat-pockets of any form of transportation.

Just as my easily diverted attention span’s luck would have it, during our westward flight home for the holidays and the eastward one post-New Year’s, the Sky Mall magazines transitioned from the Late Winter 2011 edition to the Early Spring 2012 one, providing not only all the same useless fare in an updated format, but also some new and improved accompanying rubbish.

Rather than add to my dismally small reserve of recognizable Chinese characters, I have spent the last hour of my flight perusing such fabulous finds as the toilet seat that automatically raises and lowers. The accompanying blurb states that “Some men have a hard time remembering to put the toilet seat down after use.” Apparently, thirty seconds after a bathroom user walks away from the commode, the seat self-closes, “preventing germs and diseases from spreading.” While wanting to slow the spread of nasty germs is a valid undertaking, for me, the issue has less to do with microorganisms than it does with not wanting to wander in to the bathroom in the middle of the night, half awake, and end up not on the seat, but rather stuck in the bowl! Sadly, my Wi-Fi-less flight does not allow me access to skymall.com where I would find a video of this lovely product in action.

Sky Mall magazine contains solutions to such age-old problems as early balding (via a head covering that looks as though it could double as a means of contacting aliens) and bunions (via a plastic contraption that might possibly double as a means of torture). Through the 111 pages that make up the Early Spring 2012 edition of my favorite in-flight catalog, I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to Tuddles the dog and his special bedding needs; I’ve been offered the chance to own my very own video screen microscope; and I’ve discovered my life just may not be complete without an eight foot tall pop-up banner for all my advertising needs.

Not to be alone in my time wasting, Thad also took a break from his even larger and heavier Chinese reader to explore the wonders of the Sky Mall world. He seemed to gravitate towards a strange looking plastic contraption that claims to use UV rays to disinfect shoes. This ground-breaking device avoids chemicals in its quest to kill 95% of foot bacteria. Again, if only I had internet access, I could be sitting here, enjoying a video view of the workings of the Sh-UV-ee Shoe Deodorizer. Oh, for want of the internet…

In just a few more hours, I’ll be back on terra firma, shuttling towards the mo-partment, contemplating tomorrow’s return to the Chinese classroom and seriously wishing I had used my flight time more wisely. I can already picture it, and yet, Sky Mall is still persuasively calling my name. It seems I will have to just consider the consequences of unfinished homework a problem for Future Michelle to tackle.

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