Pretty Precarious Pillows

I don’t take issue with many things, but these are an exception.

Travel neck pillows —the ones that resemble overstuffed, oversized lima beans allegedly manufactured for “neck relief” — are honestly the worst invention of all time. There’s something suspicious about people who feel inclined to purchase these pillows, let alone use them during travel. Contrary to public opinion, most likely resulting from advertisements featuring perfectly-made-up models snoozing peacefully with smiles on their faces and huge pink polyester tubes around their necks, these so-called “pillows” clearly epitomize discomfort.

Prior to this past year, I admittedly hadn’t actually tested a neck pillow. Yes, I had walked through airport terminals many times, and no, I had not failed to observe the pillows hanging idly on their spinning racks in every single newsstand and Brookstone kiosk. I guess I was just content with my everyday average rectangular cotton pillow, or the occasional balled-up sweatshirt. Throwing away thirty useful dollars on an oddly distorted pillow that wasn’t even the least bit squishy had never occurred to me.

The lumpy discomfort of my makeshift sweatshirt pillow soon took its toll on me, as fifteen hours aboard a flight to Austrailia left me doubting my disregard for the objects. I wondered if perhaps my neck would actually thank me for purposefully constricting its movement. Maybe it wasn’t without reason that these pillows were equally as abundant for sale in airports on the opposite side of the globe. Maybe — just maybe — travel neck pillows actually held some merit on the comfort scale.

Taking the plunge, I waited in line at the foreign airport, half hiding the atrocious pink lima bean beneath my folded arms, ashamed of the purchase I was about to make. When it was my turn at the counter, I reluctantly handed the pillow to the cashier, his heavy accent blatantly disapproving as he asked “will that be all?” 39.59 Australian dollars. 30 US dollars. I was the typical tourist purchasing the typical unnecessary item. I foraged through my wallet, struggling to extract the correct amount of currency to pay for the stupid thing. I could not buy this. But buy it I did, and as I struggled to finagle its awkward shape through the airport bathroom and the boarding line at my gate, I knew the decision would haunt me.

My travel neck pillow suspicions were confirmed shortly thereafter, as I attempted to settle into the flight. I watched in disgust as two rows in front of me, an excessively obese man struggled to force a orange-and-black-striped child neck pillow with little flaps — which I guess were intended to resemble tiger ears — around his son’s tiny neck. I watched as the expression on the boy’s face transformed from excitement to distress and finally into an all out contorted sob as he communicated to his father that the pillow was physically choking him. So they’re useless, uncomfortable and dangerous, I thought to myself.

I wore it for eight minutes and forty-six seconds before returning with relief to the comforting lumpiness of my balled-up hoodie. When I de-planed hours later, you better believe that disaster of an object remained on seat 24C.

I just don’t get it. Why would somebody deliberately choose to squeeze her neck through the restricted opening of an unnaturally shaped item while trying to sleep? That’s the thing — there is really no chance travel-neck-pillow consumers are actually sleeping when they’re pillow-adorned. I’m inclined to suspect it’s part of a dramatic production meant to prove to the world — and to themselves — that they did not, in fact, waste upwards of $30 on the world’s most uncomfortable attempt at comfort.

Or maybe it just looks like they’re sleeping when they’ve actually died of neck pillow suffocation.