Sky’s the Limit

By Rob Bloom


Show of hands, guys. How many times have you been sitting in your living room, beer in one hand, backup beer in the other, watching TV, when out of the corner of your eye you notice that old bookcase of yours and suddenly realize what’s been bugging you for months—maybe even years—but you’ve never been able to properly articulate it in a clear, succinct statement.  Namely: “If only I had a gigantic wooden replica of a World War I propeller to prop in front of this bookcase!”

And ladies, I’m sure you’ve lost count of the times you’ve finished a workout at the gym only to remark, “Treadmill schreadmill! What my thighs really need is the Giddyup Core Exerciser Horse Riding Simulator!”

Lucky for us all there’s SkyMall, the catalog of random merchandise that is to airplanes what dirty sheets are to interstate motels. Along with a partially completed crossword puzzle, you’ll find SkyMall in the pocket of the seat in front of you—nestled snugly among the barf bag, the crumbled pretzel package left by the passenger before you, and the safety brochure with the illustrations of people who, despite the fact their plane just made a crash landing in the ocean, are all smiles. (Probably because they used SkyMall’s Escape Ladder. Pg. 59. Some assembly required.)

Though I’m a longtime SkyMall reader, it wasn’t until recently that I learned to fully appreciate the power of the catalog. And like most life-changing situations, my sudden appreciation came not from planning, but rather survival. You know, like when a father displays superhuman strength to lift a car off his son or when a brilliant collie rescues a dopey little boy from the bottom of a well or, in my case, when you pretend to read an airline catalog to avoid even the chance of conversation with the passenger beside you who insists on taking off her shoes and socks, stuffing them (the socks, not the shoes) in the seat pocket, then demanding the flight attendant bring over a blanket because she’s “chilly” (Talk about someone who needs a pair of Herbal Booties. Pg. 106. Operators are standing by.)

So with the scent of feet in the air, I willingly escaped into the world of SkyMall, a glossy paradise where glossy models demonstrate this season’s must-have products. You know, the ones that help you achieve something extraordinary like a better night’s sleep, the perfect pushup, or a hunk of steak branded with your initials. Just a heads up, though. Because every product in the catalog costs roughly the same as a minor surgical procedure, be prepared to pay top dollar for your SkyMall purchases. See, a long time ago, two airline execs named Dick spent many hours huddled around a conference table trying to think of ways to capitalize on the vulnerable brains of airline passengers.

DICK: You really think this catalog’s a good idea?

DICK: You kidding?!? Folks’ll be cranky, cramped in a tiny chair, and light-headed from the smell of feet! They’ll buy anything!

DICK: While we’re at it, maybe we should keep planes delayed on the tarmac longer.

DICK: Have I ever told you that I love you?

No question, SkyMall is certainly seductive. But as I flipped through the attractive-yet-overpriced-yet-useless-yet-ridiculous products on those delightfully slick pages, I just couldn’t stop thinking about RIP, or as he’s more commonly referred to around my house, “The Skymall Disaster of ’05” (Haven’t heard of it? Try the Orbitor Electronic Bionic Sound Technology Microphone Listening Device! Pg. 85!)

RIP was a combination Microwave/Toaster Oven I saw advertised in SkyMall. He was a “space saver.” He was the “answer to more convenient cooking.” He was “two hundred bucks that would’ve been better spent had I invested it in something longer-lasting, such as one hand of blackjack on the High Rollers table in Vegas or, better yet, a ceremonious flush down the toilet.”

In all fairness however, RIP did work great at first. Of course, a week later, he decided to stop working so he could perform other helpful tasks like shooting out pretty sparks and growling like Louis Armstrong. But like any gigantic disappointment, time and a few swings of a hammer heal all wounds. Actually, I’m happy to report that RIP has mellowed in his old age and is now resting quite peacefully in a storage unit. Right beside my Flying Alarm Clock, remote-controlled Dragonfly, and collection of neon flamingo and palm tree lawn ornaments.

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ROB BLOOM is the Arts & Culture Editor at TNB. He's also a comedy writer, screenwriter, copywriter, somewhat decent juggler, pro wrestling historian, former Disney character, and, perhaps most impressively, a connoisseur of all things deli. He has written for the Cartoon Network, McSweeney's, Opium, CRACKED, Fresh Yarn, Monkey Bicycle, Funny Times, NPR, and the Travel Channel. Last year, Rob’s original screenplay was produced by the Upright Citizens Brigade and shown with the trailers in movie theaters across the country. Rob is also the writer of a regular humor column, which has been praised by the Erma Bombeck Writing Institute as well as his parents who proudly display it on their refrigerator with magnets shaped like fruit.

Rob grew up in the sunny Orlando ‘burbs but now lives in Philadelphia with his wife, newborn son, and Shih Tzu badass. You can contact Rob at [email protected]

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