These days, it seems there's a quirky product for every type of traveler: the germaphobe, the security freak, the easily bored, and many, many more. "Odd gadgets have always been with us," says Carol Mangis, senior editor at techie PCMag.com. "But since consumer electronics of all sorts are booming, manufacturers work at standing outside the norm just to grab a piece of the attention."
New York City-based Hammacher Schlemmer has been selling quirky products to the American public since 1848, and many that were initially perceived as wacko are now commonplace (the pop-up toaster, steam iron, and microwave oven, to name a few). And with approximately 20 million copies of SkyMall catalogue tucked into seat pockets on 32 airlines and Amtrak trains, it's clear that people are not only perusing the countless odd gadgets, tools and contraptions that fill its pages but purchasing them too.
In fact, the catalogue is so popular it's developed a cultlike following by passengers who read it more for entertainment than for retail therapy. There's even a send-up spoof of the publication; Kasper Hauser's SkyMaul features such hilarious and ludicrous products as a Llamacycle and Pepper Self-Spray.
It's possible that many of these items will one day be as widespread as the once-oddball toaster, but we wouldn't bet on it. --Kathryn O'Shea-Evans