When you see "SKIP AD" on YouTube, you usually click because you're impatient for free entertainment and are prone to think: "Tough luck, suckers trying to make a living." But I was oddly fascinated by an ad for a pillow. A new pillow. An important pillow. A patented pillow unlike any pillow in the history of pillows. The voice-over made compelling arguments:
"Our special design keeps your neck level with your spine. Old pillows jack it up like a dog's hind leg! Ours keeps your airway open so you don't choke — unlike other pillows that give you pillowtosis and neckbroksis, potentially fatal conditions!"
Or something like that. The ad showed people using old-style pillows. They scowled as if they were dreaming of lobsters clawing their extremities; they woke and punched the pillow, which no one has ever done in the history of sleeping, except perhaps someone who dreamed he was mad at bread dough that didn't rise fast enough.
Then we saw people sleeping on the new and improved pillows; they beamed the beatific unconscious joy you see only in mattress commercials. (In truth, a good mattress will produce a slack-jawed face leaking spittle, but everyone in mattress ads looks like they just took a hit of nitrous oxide and opened a tax refund envelope.)
Then the ad brought up something I'd never considered before: The pillow adjusted to my temperature so I wouldn't wake up with a sweaty head. That made me stop and think: Had that ever happened? There was that one time when I had pneumonia and a 104 fever and dreamed Osama bin Laden was chasing me through the Ye Old Mill ride at the State Fair. But generally it's not a problem.
After watching the ad, I went to the website. There were hundreds of testimonials praising the pillow, because we live in an age where a pillow can be friended on Facebook. This is how the inventors of computers intended things to be, by the way — when the eggheads at Remington Rand finished the UNIVAC computer, one of them said, "Someday this massive device will be the size of half a ham sandwich, and people will use it to simulate an emotional relationship with bedroom furnishings."
The other scientists scoffed. "There's no way people would carry around a triangular computer," one said.
"No, the ham sandwich is cut down the middle. Not diagonally. But what matters is using the device to befriend innovative pillows and rate them. That's the future!"
He was right. Anyway, I was reading reviews on the site about the world's most incredible pillow when I realized that something had not happened. There wasn't a pop-up box that asked for my e-mail in exchange for 10 percent off and demanding that I select one of two options:
YES, let me save money and enjoy neck-aligned slumber.
NO, I want to pay more money and have bad pillows, jerking awake every 20 minutes like a fish tossed on the dock.
The ad promised that it was possible to consider the pillow without signing up for e-mails. This reminded me of the slipper company I've been trying to shake for months. In early 2017 I clicked on an ad for a company that was disrupting the slipper industry with its paradigm-shattering slippers. The loading page asked for my e-mail, promising a discount code.
YES, I want my stylish feet to be happy in a domestic context for less money.
NO, I will pay full price because I jam my hairy moist fungus-dogs into filthy Crocs.
The slippers were cool, but I declined to order because the sizes were in centimeters and my feet are not sized in centimeters. My feet are sized in feet. Hence the name.
Anyway: The slipper company sends me an e-mail every day, with a promo code. I have attempted to unsubscribe, and I always get the same huffy message: "You have been unsubscribed to our e-mails. It may take several business days to process your request." Uh-huh. Like someone has to find the hard drive where my e-mail address is located, remove it from the rack and physically scratch the bits off the drive with a sharp tool.
So, if I buy a pillow from these guys, there's a chance they won't send me an e-mail every day telling me I can get 10 percent off another pillow? I took the plunge. It's now my pillow, although it's not My Pillow, if you get my drift.
Anyhow, the pillow showed up a week later, and it's awesome. It's the best pillow I've ever had. And so far, no e-mails. Not one. Not yet, anyway. But when?
The suspense is agonizing. Some nights I lie awake thinking about that, and wondering when they'll finally start the e-mails that I can never stop. It keeps me from sleeping, but at least my neck's aligned.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks