About halfway through our recent vacation, my wife and I realized that our mad packing skills left little room for all the amazing useless junk that we still needed to pick up. How else would we memorialize our trip, but through random souvenir trinkets with the name of the place we visited stamped on them?
As it turned out, we visited a beach, so we did pick up a bunch of shells. Shells are a perfect souvenir and are great for transforming any ordinary bathroom into an enchanting island getaway. I just glued ordinary seashells all over my sink, bathtub and toilet, sprinkled some sand on the floor, and got a Glade Island Escape(tm) air freshener, and every trip to the bathroom feels like I’m peeing in the ocean again! How romantic.
We visited a lot of gift shops along the way too. I had forgotten (somehow) how much Americans like to fill their homes with souvenirs. And I had forgotten just how much souvenirs represent that irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit of selling people stuff they don’t really need. Here’s my top five ways to clutter your home after a vacation.
I really like those TV ads that tell you to go visit different U.S. states. They always show a lot of really exciting things you can do in Wyoming or Idaho…really…really interesting things. And no matter what state it is, even if it’s one that grows potatoes, virtually every commercial highlights a romantic looking winery, or failing that, a really nice looking liquor store. Ever since that movie, Sideways came out, everyone thinks drinking wine rules. So all these states are desperate to let us know that we can, in fact, see beautiful sights, go on exciting adventures, and get plastered and not remember any of it.
The places where people actually go on vacations though really up the ante. They don’t just tell you that drinking is in fact available, but they want you to remember the fact that you drank Budweiser in their tourist trap. Every place wants to be a party place, so commemorate your vacation by highlighting the boozing you did. Anything that you can cram a slogan onto, it will be something about drinking. How many towns do you think call themselves a “little drinking town with a fishing problem?” Turns out, a lot.
The fact that these products still exist blows my mind. The whole reason people visit places in the summer is because we don’t care what any place looks like with snow all over it. We know what snow looks like. If you’re wondering what your vacation spot looks like in winter, just picture white everywhere, and you complaining about it.
I understand the idea of having a little collection to represent all the places you’ve visited. But why would you buy a collection of baby spoons? Babies can’t appreciate them. And who still uses thimbles? If you hadn’t noticed, people buy their clothes from stores now, pre-assembled, usually. I guess you could use a souvenir shot glass to recreate that time you got drunk at Six Flags. Sure, you could go to every state to collect a souvenir spoon. Or you could go to one gift shop and realize they sell spoons for all fifty states right there. Then, next time your nerd-friend is boasting endlessly about his amazing original edition Batman comics, you just bust out your pocketful of amazing collector’s edition baby-spoons and ask which one he’d like to use to eat it.
No one has ever driven several hundred miles on vacation, arrived to their destination, and then said, “I can’t keep track of all these blasted car keys! They’re falling all over the place, and they won’t stay in my swim trunk pockets! If only there was some sort of device that would keep them together in one convenient place! Some kind of ‘ring’ or ‘chain’ that might bind them together. If only there was a nearby gift shop which had such a product, preferably attached to a very large piece of colorful novelty plastic that won’t fit in my pants pocket without making me look terribly awkward.”
Like the noble Native Americans who wouldn’t waste any part of the buffalo they had hunted, modern American tourists will waste their money on virtually any souvenir that reminds them of animals. People love stuffed animals, especially if they are wearing festive T-shirts. Of course, some people opt to buy real dead animals to remember their trip by. Not just rabbit’s feet, but frog purses, fish hats, Burmese tiger pants, or this…
…Or you could buy a souvenir that the animal actually made for you. Everyone likes pandas, right? Well, it turns out that pandas make lousy souvenir sweatshop workers, so you won’t be buying any panda-made presents any time soon. But pandas do make some special gifts that you just might like. They’re made of bamboo and looks a lot like panda poop…because they are panda poop…shaped into picture frames. That’s a really crappy souvenir.
Do you get souvenirs, or just pictures and postcards? What’s your favorite souvenir? If you missed it, be sure to check out Saturday’s surprise post to get your free Church of No People souvenirs!