I have been feeling inexplicably gloomy the last few days, so I was quite relieved when the Harriet Carter catalog arrived in the mail. It has an uncanny knack for cheering me up.
If you’ve never seen a Harriet Carter catalog, I will do my best to describe it for you. On the front, the title reads “Harriet Carter” and the subtitle says “Distinctive Gifts Since 1958.”
In it you will find the most perplexing array of items ever assembled. Many of them have some health benefit, geared toward folks with failing eyesight, arthritis, or hearing problems. These are the more mundane items.
Then it just gets weird.
You can order personalized, plastic headstones for your pet. A booster seat/basket for your pet to ride in the front seat of your car safely. A solar powered bird feeder. Faux-fur lined cups for holding your glasses. Facial hair removers in the form of bent coils of stainless steel. Cheap wall decorations with clichéd sentiments inscribed on them. In short, it feels like someone walked through a flea market and made a catalog of the weirdest items they found.
There is no pretense of trendiness with any of the items. These are things for people who have long given up caring what people think about the weird item they’re wearing, and have, instead, opted for the benefit that item provides, whether it takes away their neck pains, soothes their plantar fasciitis, or helps their elderly pet find a place to do their business.
Looking through the catalog, I feel a bit like I’m wandering through my great, great aunt’s house, which was full of strange items with inexplicable purposes. I can see a number of things that would’ve fit right in with her décor.
And yet, regardless of how useful many of these products undoubtedly are, I can’t see any of these items as being appropriate gifts.
I don’t know about you, but, I’ve never known anyone that has mentioned that their life is been incomplete without a coin bank shaped like a bare bottom. It’s probably because they don’t know that it actually makes a flatulent noise when coins are slid into a vertical slot between the buttocks.
I couldn’t even bring myself to buy it even as a “gag” gift, for fear that the recipient might actually gag upon seeing it.
It’s the strangeness of the collection that draws me in, and I admit, I spend hours looking at every page and every item, over and over again, trying to fathom how such an item even made it to market. I enjoy even the eclectic layout of each page. Where else will you find cow-shaped egg cups on the same page as a microwave pressure cooker, a weasel ball, a microwave corn on the cob steamer, and an LED-lit hummingbird and butterfly garden stake?
Seriously, I dare you to browse the catalog and not crack a smile.
If you’d like to get Flying Solo, (and just Flying Solo) on Sundays via e-mail, you can Subscribe to Flying Solo