Shiny, crazy people fumble at the feet of magazine racks everywhere

February 27, 1997|By Kevin Cowherd

THEY SAY NOBODY reads for pleasure anymore, but the question I ask myself more and more is: When did magazines become so annoying?

It starts with the 47 subscription cards that flutter to the floor as soon as you pick up the magazine from the rack at Rite Aid or 7-Eleven or wherever.

Dropping quickly to your hands and knees, the harsh fluorescent light bathing your shiny face, you frantically gather up all the stupid cards.

Then you put them back in the magazine, place this magazine back on the rack, pick up another magazine -- and this time 26 subscription cards flutter to the floor.

So you drop to your hands and knees again and begin rooting around feverishly for these cards, cursing softly as you pick up each one and gaze at its overly cheerful message. ("Yes! Please send me 12 issues for the incredibly low price of just $12, plus $3 for postage and handling!")

By now, a thin sheen of perspiration is forming on your forehead and your breathing is coming in quick, labored bursts.

Other shoppers are beginning to stare at you there on the floor ("What's he doing did he faint?" And the young woman behind the cash register with the eyebrow ring and painted black fingernails is beaming looks of quiet disapproval.

But finally you collect all 26 subscription cards, even the two that fluttered into the Miss Clairol display, and you place them back in the magazine and place this magazine back in the rack as well.

And now, if you have any brains at all, you leave the store.

Because believe me, there is nothing in any of these magazines worth all this aggravation, especially not something with, say, Florence Henderson on the cover and the headline "15 Surefire Ways to Spruce Up Your Summer Salads!"

Of course, almost as annoying as the subscription cards in magazines are the scent strips.

The other day I was in a convenience store thumbing through Vanity Fair when I was literally knocked backward by a blast of Eternity, the Calvin Klein parfum.

Apparently an earlier reader had torn open the strip, and now the smell of Eternity was everywhere, billowing up from the page and clinging to me like mustard gas.

"I...I can't breathe!" I gasped to the future convict behind the counter.

But he was on the phone with his girlfriend, so he just scowled and looked away as I lurched into the Slurpee machine.

I quickly turned the page, only to come upon another scent strip, this one for a fragrance called Guerlain, with the typically cryptic slogan ("Life is best played without a script") these perfume people love.

By now I was hyperventilating and the room was starting to spin, so I fled the store and staggered out to the parking lot, drinking in the cold night air until all traces of the horrible smells were washed out of my lungs.

Another annoying thing about magazines these days is what's happened to the table of contents.

You used to be able to find the table of contents simply by turning to the first page.

But apparently this was too convenient.

Apparently this made too much sense.

So the Prozac-addled Ivy League dandies and sullen expatriate Brits who seem to run every magazine began putting the table of contents deeper and deeper into the magazine.

Now it's so deep in some magazines you need a miner's helmet to find it.

In this month's Esquire, for instance, the table of contents starts on Page 11.

This means you have to wade through 10 pages of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger ads featuring wan, pasty-faced models staring gloomily at their shoes before finding out what the hell is in the magazine.

Do you know how many subscription cards can fall out of a magazine as you thumb through 10 pages?

A whole boatload, I can tell you that.

In the new Vanity Fair, the table of contents doesn't appear until you've flipped through 23 pages of ads and arrived at Page 24.

At least, I think it's Page 24. It's hard to tell for sure, because the page has no number on it. This is another annoying trend among some of the slicker glossies: leaving page numbers out whenever they feel like it.

Let's say, by some miracle, you actually manage to locate the table of contests in a magazine.

And let's say you're interested in an article on page, oh, 86.

The way it works now, you'll probably thumb your way to page 85, then suddenly find 12 pages of ads with no page numbers, then a 7-page "special advertising supplement" with its own page numbers (1-a, 2-b and so forth) before picking up Page 86.

This is why you're better off sticking with Reader's Digest and articles like "I Am Joe's Spleen."

There's a lot less stress involved.

Pub Date: 2/27/97

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