After the postive response I got to my post on collectible barf bags, I couldn't help but do an interview with Paul Mundy, dedicated baggist and the man behind bagophily.com, one of the leading websites for the hobby of airsickness bag collecting and trading. Thanks to Paul for doing this interview and allowing me to post an image of the beautiful and odd design of the Finnaviation bag.
So the first thing everyone is wondering is: why barf bags? How did you get into this?
Do you have children? If so, you probably know that as soon as they get into your father-in-law’s car, they will throw up. We started to collect bags to cater for such emergencies: they’re good at protecting the interior décor of luxury cars. After a few years we discovered the chemical alternative – Dramamine – a simple pill prevents carsickness and has the added advantage of making the child drowsy. Just think of the benefits – no more splatter on the seats, and no more “are we there yet?” every three minutes. Our modest collection of bags went into a box.
A couple of years later my wife was clearing stuff out, and she wanted to throw the bags away. But some of them were pretty – I remember a very decorative Air Afrique with Yoruba masks. So I started to collect them.
What's the prize of your collection? Are there any rare bags you're still trying to get?
Finnaviation is every baggist’s dream bag. It shows a stylized reindeer barfing ice cubes. And I have one!
The Space Shuttle bag is probably the most sought-after bag on the planet. It’s a sturdy bag made of canvas that fits over your face like a horse’s nosebag. Can’t be too careful in zero-gravity. It has a clear plastic base so you can inspect the contents. A lot of thought went into its design. And doubtless the price pushes up the cost of the shuttle by a couple of million. I wish I had one.
Air Force One? Got one of them, but they’re pretty boring – a plain white plastic bag that comes in an envelope with instructions: "Motion sickness bag (For use during moments of stomach upset): If an upset stomach is anticipated, remove bag from this container and keep ready for use. Do not be embarrassed by this precaution as even veteran travelers are subject to occasional motion sickness.”
I hope that once Obama has dealt with the financial crisis and health care and Iraq and Afghanistan that he will find time to have a better bag designed.
Do you dream about barf bags?
No. But it sounds like a good idea. I’ll let you know if a bag features in my next dream.
Have you ever used a bag for its originally intended purpose? Was it a rare one? (I promise to tell my own air sickness story if you tell yours, or even if you don't)
No, but my wife and son have often done so. On one ferry trip from Denmark to Norway , my son and I were decorating some plain white bags with crayons. We hit a big wave, and he threw up. I’m happy to say that he had the presence of mind to miss the bag and puke on the floor. What’s your story?
Well, I didn't blow chunks myself, but I came close. I was in an eight-seater Cessna in Peru. We were on a special flight over the Nazca Lines and the plane kept banking hard from left to right so everyone could get a clear view. They'd supplied us with bags, boring little plastic baggies, not real airsickness bags at all. I was doing fine until the Dutch girl in front of me grabbed her bag and filled it. The smell of vomit filled the tiny cabin, and I nearly lost it. Luckily that was near the end of the flight so I made it back to Earth with my stomach and bag intact.
Have you ever gotten in trouble for swiping a bag?
I was at passport control once when the bags I had stolen on board the plane fell out from under my jacket onto the floor. Embarrassing, but luckily there were no other collectors around, so no mad scramble for bags ensued.
Do you collect other airline ephemera?
No. I used to pick up safety cards to swap for bags, but my wife has banned this. She thinks the plane will fall out of the sky if there’s no safety card in the seat pocket in front of you.
There's a small but active group of bag collectors on the web. When did baggists start realizing there were others out there with the same interests?
I first realized there were kindred souls when I created my own website. I wanted to learn how to do websites, and bags are an idea way to start: they’re colourful and entertaining. I created my site, then did a search – and found that there were already several other sites devoted to this noble avocation. Some collectors were already in contact with each other – they meet at collectors’ fairs and the like. But the internet makes contact and trading so much easier.
So where do you see the hobby headed? Is it in a growth period right now?
Sadly, it’s going commercial. Most of the trade now seems to take place on eBay. The bags-for-cash business is growing, with some bags fetching hundreds of euros. That’s good in some ways – it means that rare bags have a value, so non-collectors put them on the market rather than throwing them away. But it means there’s an increasing gap between the hobby collectors (like me – I don’t buy or sell) and the pros.