Are travel accessory companies trying to make us look silly?

A few months ago I was flying solo from Orlando to California for a meeting in San Francisco when my seatmates did the strangest thing.

I was first to arrive, positioned in the middle of the three seat row, toward the back of the plane. Soon after, I was joined by a quiet gentleman who slumped in the aisle seat.

When the window passenger arrive, she had a number of colorful items attached to her roller bag, which she tossed past us into her seat before stowing the bag and sliding in. There was a huge hot pink neck support she wrapped across her shoulders, a long paisley tubular beany pillow she positioned behind her back and a dark blue blanket she snuggled under, complete with an eye cover.

She looked so utterly ridiculous, I had to smile.

You may have noticed that as travel gets more and more uncomfortable, businesses are introducing more and more products to ease the pain.

I just wish they didn’t seem as though they were going out of their way to make us look so stupid.

And I am not alone in this assessment.

Even the Wall Street Journal talks of the embarrassment factor when using these devices.

Where are the fashion police when you really need them?

Some of these devices better resemble torture devices. There’s one I call the head cuffs, also known as the neck pillow, worn in bright colors across the shoulders. I haven’t decided if the inflatable models are better than the fiber filled. Sure the air models pack into a smaller space, but you’ll eventually need to blow several gulps into the device to fill it.

Not the most elegant solution.

Then there is the more medical brace looking supports. I’m thinking of the travel halo, which looks a bit like a Grecian crown with horns that keeps you upright and away from falling on your fellow traveler. Others like the travel hoodie pillow are even worse. It looks like you’re headed blindfolded, directly to the gallows.

studio-banana-things_ostrichpillow_aeroportUnless, of course, you’re asking about this one. I cannot even start to qualify the ostrich pillow. It is like a portable solitary confinement. It’s good if you really don’t care about anybody else on the flight. I mean, it’s not like they’re going to see your face – at all!

The ones I like the best are the sleeper scarf which hides the inflatable and still manages to make comfort look fashionable. And the travel rest pillow which is so obviously part of the seatbelt system – especially in the car – it is ideal for long drives or bus rides.

As I said before, most other devices look like something straight out of a science fiction novel. That’s code for making us look out of place and down right silly.

Sure, my travel mate on the window side was comfortable. Still, it was the silliest thing I’d ever seen, until I turned and witnessed in shock as the gentleman in the aisle seat started gulping in air to breathe into an enormous inflatable.

It was so big, I was sure it must be a travel hazard.

What he had filled with air is known as the sky rest pillow. It’s about the size of a swimming float and I worried that it would be a problem when my window seat-mate and I needed to use the restroom.

But actually it was incredible, for a former college student that was often bored in the classroom. The blow-up was like having your very own lectern to lean over and rest. And my neighbor couldn’t say enough about how much he loved it.

That flight was quite the lesson in comfort, style and grace. Sure I was trapped between two expert fliers for several hours, with all the devices to prove it. But the lesson I learned was, fashion be damned, comfort is king.

At least on the long haul flights.

Don’t you agree?

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