Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Nov. 4, 2004

Shopping in the sky

I love traveling to new places and flying gets me to destinations quickly. However, the waiting - in the airports and on the planes themselves - can drive me nuts.

On one recent trip, my flights were delayed two hours going and coming. By the time I was on the plane home, I had read the magazines I'd brought along. What was I going to do? All the passengers around me were dozing so my options were to either join them - I don't sleep well on flights - twiddle my thumbs, or read the materials in the seat pocket in front of me.

Deciding against sleeping or twiddling, I pulled out the 2004 Sky Mall Holiday Gift Guide, published by American Airlines.

A few pages displayed items which seemed to be logical choices for people on the go - travel alarms, leather cases for passports and tickets, rolling duffel bags, cameras, maps, special bags for lap-top computers, pocket-sized translators for international travelers and more.

But then I came across more unusual items. The "Komfort Kollar," designed to help people sleep sitting up, came in two styles and prices - $24.85 for the inflatable version that stows in a pocket-sized pouch or $49.85 for the one made of "memory foam" - whatever that means.

The "Relief Band" - a band worn on the wrist like a watch - touted its usefulness in relieving motion sickness and claimed to be the only FDA-cleared device for such use. "Gentle electrical signals to the wrist convince the brain that all is steady." Personally, I found the $99.95 price a bit unsteadying.

The "Auto Exec," for those whose business keeps them on the ground instead of in the sky, included a slide-out non-skid writing surface with a clipboard, a hanging file section and storage for lap-top, books, phone and more. The work station cost $179.95. It came with the admonition, "not for use while driving."

The catalogue also included many other items, most of which had nothing to do with traveling.

I was especially fascinated with the pet supplies - marbleized stone-look dog dishes for $24, rattan-like pet quarters ranging from $155 to $295 and the "Humunga Tongue - a ball with a large tongue attached to it to get laughs from onlookers when your dog retrieves it - a steal at $9.50.

Even more interesting were two items advertised on the same page: a vibrating pet trainer with an alarm to keep pets off the furniture and a "Paw Step Ramp" to "give your pet the ability to get up on the couch or the bed - all by herself!" Talk about mixed messages!

And then there was the King Tut life-size sarcophagus cabinet. Katie might have a spot for something like that since she loves Egyptology, but I'm not sure where I'd put it. "Measuring taller than most men, the Sarcophagus of King Tutankhamen replica opens to reveal 14 storage shelves." It could be had for a King Tut-size price of $895 plus a $145 freight charge.

Of the hundreds of items advertised, I think I liked the snowshorts the best - and they were only $29.95. "Why carry a sled? Slide downhill on snowshorts. Pull these shorts over a snowsuit and schuss downhill, lickety-split! Much more fun than pulling a sled - sit down, and you're off! You steer by shifting your weight. Foam-padded PVC seat is fused to the shorts, six 'runners' steer like a sled."

I arrived at my destination having passed on every one of these wonderful purchasing opportunities. But I have to presume that someone buys these items, perhaps just to have something to take their mind off the flight. Maybe when you're checking in and you're required to put anything sharp in your checked baggage, they should require you to check your credit cards, too.

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