Stupid is as stupid buys

I really love this column, mostly because a photo of my dog appeared with the column It's pretty goofy, but I really enjoyed rereading it, seven years later (Archive.org version is here).

Feb. 6, 2004
My favorite thing about flying is SkyMall. If you are unaware, SkyMall is the catalog full of things no one needs and most people don't even want. Most flyers look at SkyMall and think "Who the heck is this thing catering to?"


SkyMall caters to me. I love buying stupid, stupid things. Every time I see SkyMall, I see things I could use. A cabinet shaped like a mummy's sarcophagus...why not? A giant, plastic elephant's head? Sure, looks good to me. If it's silly, useless and (most importantly) funny, I'll want to buy it. (Luckily, I'm not rich enough to buy this stuff).


While I save my money relatively well, I have bought a lot of things that make my friends and family say things like "Why did you do that?" Where did you get that?" and, the most common one, "Are you on drugs?"


I am not on drugs. I like stupid things. It's very simple. Some people spend their money on nice furniture or fancy food. I prefer to buy at Ikea and Costco and save money for the important things.


I have had, at one time or another, a set of ninja swords, a fake diamond and silver 3 inches -wide star of David pendant ("bling-bling"), a 3-foot-tall suit of armor, a 5-foot-tall suit of armor, and an autographed photo of Scott Baio (my favorite actor).


The suits of armor bear some explaining, I guess. The first 20 years of my life, most of my money was spend on music. I currently have about 1,600 CDs and approximately 250 records on vinyl. It's not as though I was spending my money wisely before. But, sometime in my 20th year on earth, my spending habits took a turn for the weird. This is when I bought the original, smaller suit of armor on eBay. Finding it insufficient, I bought the 5-footer nine months later and sold the smaller one. (The 5-foot knight currently resides with my sister in Chicago)


After the suit of armor (which, my roommates, in a bit of overwhelming creativity called "Sir knight"), the floodgates opened. I then purchased the fake bling-bling out of an ad I saw in Vibe Magazine, a baseball signed by former vice president Al Gore on eBay (the George W. Bush one was too expensive) and the ninja swords on another Internet site. I was hooked.


Let's be clear; I don't like useless things that purport to serve some purpose. I have no interest in the pancake flipper thing or the Egg Wave or a plasma-screen TV. I don't particularly like pancakes, I can cook an egg in a pan and my TV is fine, thank you very much. I don't need these things. I need things like a glass head (available at a local home furnishings store for $15).


My mother has harassed me since I moved here in July to buy a bed frame. As is, my mattress and boxspring sit on the floor, next to a milk crate serving as nightstand. Occupying my nightstand, of course, are a clock, my glasses case, a lamp and a baseball autographed by Al Gore.


(Al Gore, unlike former Yale first baseman George H.W. Bush, does not play baseball. I don't know if Al Gore ever played baseball; he certainly didn't look like it when he threw batting practice -- and almost beaned a guy -- to the Detroit Tigers in 2000.)


What is more astonishing is the stuff I want but don't have. I've wanted a massaging chair for about six years now, but can't bring myself to spend between $200 and $2,000 on a chair that is akin (in my girlfriend's words) "to sitting on a clothing dryer." But, I love massages and I love massage chairs.


Again, because of my age, I like to buy things on the Internet. My mother, like many women her age, has reservations about security while shopping on the Internet. I, however, have gotten to the point that I only shop on the Internet.


The Internet is the bastion of stupid, stupid things. Amazon.com, the Internet's largest retailer, used to be simply a bookseller. Then, it acquired CDNow, a music retailer online. Then, it partnered with Target Online, the online wing of the nationwide department store chain. Now, it has seemingly partnered with every retailer under the sun to produce the greatest (and most profitable) Internet department store ever.


Amazon is deadly for me, because there are so many crazy, useless things on there that strike my fancy. I recently saw an ad on Amazon for the Roomba Intelligent Sweeper Vac. According to the product description, one can "push one button and this self-propelled, self-navigating sweeper-vac covers your entire floor, freeing you to work or relax elsewhere. Because it works around obstacles as it sweeps, it provides a truly effortless way to stay on top of daily touch-up floor care."


I live in a one-bedroom apartment. There is no reason for me to have anything other than the tiny vacuum I currently own. But... Can you honestly think of something cooler than a robot vacuum? What an amazing society we live in. Wow.


There are, of course, two things keeping me from buying the Roomba. The first, of course, if the price. I don't think spending $200 on a vacuum I don't need is a wise way to spend money. The second prohibitive factor is my dog. My dog freaks out whenever I try to use the normal vacuum. I couldn't imagine how berserk he would go if I weren't controlling it.


Speaking of him, I recently bought him a pair of tinted dog goggles (Doggles, they're called) to protect his eyes. Buying them before winter was a stupid idea (there's no sun out), but he had to have them.


I found them originally, in SkyMall.

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