Unlike most collections of rare items, one can find an airsickness bag very easily. Just get on a plane and there's one for the taking. But Silberberg doesn't have to travel much to gather specimens for his collection. People have sent him bags from all over the world so he can display them on his Web site, the Airsickness Bag Virtual Museum.
"I certainly haven't flown on 400 airlines, so I depend upon Internet friends either to send me bags or swap," Silberberg says. "I've tried to contact several airlines. I wrote to many of the 80 airlines formed when Aeroflot broke up to see if they'd send me their bags. Air Kazakhstan wrote to ask where to get bags made, but AirBC is one of the only carriers that ever actually sent me a bag."
He also occasionally sees airsickness bags for sale online but rarely bothers to pay top dollar for them.
"I've bought bags off of eBay," Silberberg explains. "It was nice for a while, but now there are two other collectors who bid against me. I've actually traded with them both before, so it's weird to bid against them. I find that I'm just not willing to spend much for a bag."
It seems as though every bag in Silberberg's collection represents a different culture and aesthetic. While the United States bags tend to be plain and white, African bags use tribal designs and cheerful green hues Ñ perhaps to help distract you from your unpleasant stomach churning.
"Swissair consistently puts out a tasteful, soothing bag, as does SAS. Dare I say they're even elegant?" Silberberg says. "Chinese bags are almost always blue on white. They're pretty standard, except for Air China who uses four-color printing and puts out anniversary editions of bags."
Silberberg's favorite bag in his collection is from Finnaviation which features an arty illustration of a deer heaving a myriad of blue and white squares. But he also still appreciates the out-of-the-ordinary type of bags such as an actual McDonald's vomit bag from Crossair, who owns the official McPlane Ñ a McDonnell-Douglas 82/83 model Ñ which is only used for charter flights.
Even with his impressive array of bags, Silberberg is far from completing his search for the perfect specimen. He's been looking for a sickness bag from any of the space shuttle missions for the last 15 years. But even without an astronaut artifact, Silberberg's collection is still out of this world.
Bonnie Burton, creator of Grrl.com, writes about dating dilemmas, online auction addictions and Internet culture for various magazines and Web sites including MissClick, Wired, Yahoo! Internet Life and Excite@Home.
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