“Let’s go shopping!” someone says. One type of person says “yes!” The other asks a sensible question: “For what?”
“I don’t know. That’s not the point.”
But it is. If I need a pair of pants, and I know where I can get them because I bought the same pair at that store a year ago, I will go there and buy them and leave. It’s not shopping, it’s buying, which seems to be the point.
To some people this is like going to the Louvre to see the “Mona Lisa,” taking a quick glance as you enter the room and leaving. But what about the rest of the Louvre? What about “Winged Victory”?
“Isn’t the Greek name of that statue ‘Nike’?”
“So I don’t need shoes.”
Some people cannot fathom the idea of not needing a pair of Nikes, and I suspect — just a wild idea, mind you, based on sheer speculation — that it might break down largely on gender lines.
In other words, I am not inclined to watch home shopping channels. It’s like being strapped to a two-wheeled cart and pushed around a shopping mall. I am not seduced by commercials for incredible new products that will change the way you drain pasta.
Until recently, that is. I became engrossed one night in an ad for a new breakthrough in cooking skillet technology. Something that eluded humanity from the days of the ancients to last year. A new miracle coating that prevented all sticking. I’m not sure how — perhaps some advance in nanotechnology married with quantum physics, channeling the properties of another dimension where nothing stuck to anything else. Not even atoms could form. Just an infinite expanse of matter that could never cohere, but also washed up without scraping.
The spiel-reader was breathless: “Are you tired of nonstick pans that promise eggs won’t burn, but look like this?” (Picture of hideous breakfast residue that made your elbow ache with the thought of taking 11 seconds to remove it.) “What if your omelets slid out of the pan like this?” (Video of an omelet apparently made with silicon and motor oil.) “Well, now you can enjoy true nonstick performance!”
I would like to enjoy that, I thought. I’m so damned tired of things sticking. I deserve a life of frictionless omelet transference. I’ve suffered long enough.
And then you see the price, which isn’t bad. Shipping and handling is extra, of course, and the price suggests the handling is done by a neurosurgeon working on overtime.
But wait. “If you order now, you’ll get this small additional pan free!” No, they assure us, they didn’t factor the cost of this item into the original price. It’s free! That seals the deal, doesn’t it?
I remember back to the early days of infomercials, which seemed to be entirely about knives. They’d invented a super sharp knife that could cut through a tomato and saw a shoe in half, then bisect a tin can, which made you wonder what recipe called for those items. And the message ended with “but wait” and an offer of a super sharp cheese grater that could shred a pair of wingtips in 20 seconds.
The show I was watching resumed and I forgot about the pan; it seemed like a brief, intense fever dream. Days later, another ad came on for an anti-glare sun visor for your car. And I was intrigued.
When you flip down the smoked-glass pane, glare disappears. At night, the yellow pane makes the road look like high noon on the Mojave Desert. My wife has trouble with night driving, so I thought: This might work.
You know how I knew it was legit? There wasn’t any “but wait.”
The next ad was even more astonishing: a light panel that screwed into any bulb and produced light equivalent to a supernova. It showed a woman who put the Crazy Light in her small closet, and when she turned it on you expected her to burst into flames. At the very least, her epidermis would be toasted.
“Look! Other bulbs merely illuminate a room! The new Crazy Light turns the upper layer of your flesh to a fine ash! Perform simple X-rays at home! Signal words of encouragement to miners trapped miles below the surface of the Earth with the handy Morse Code key!”
The ad made me unhappy with all the insufficiently bright bulbs in the house: I could be making a nonstick meal and really see what I was doing, but no, I’m just trudging through dim, sticky life like everyone else, disappointed with my omelets and lumen counts.
I should note that these products usually arrive in a box that says “As seen on TV,” as if that makes it special. I mean, you can say the same thing about Hitler.
Well, the light visor arrived, I installed it, and it didn’t seem to do anything. The yellow pane made the evening glare ... yellow. My wife told me not to buy anything else I saw on a commercial, and I kept quiet, thinking: I can cut out the plastic from the non-glare visor and make some glasses, so those lights I ordered don’t make us blind.