I never board an airplane without a book. I don't go for a haircut without a book; I certainly wouldn't travel without the company of at least one and preferably two reliable authors. Even thus prepared, however, the first thing I do after settling into my airplane seat is reach for the magazine in the seat pocket.

I never board an airplane without a book. I don't go for a haircut without a book; I certainly wouldn't travel without the company of at least one and preferably two reliable authors. Even thus prepared, however, the first thing I do after settling into my airplane seat is reach for the magazine in the seat pocket.

Of course I do. It's not as if SkyMall can be purchased in grocery stores. I never see it in dentists' or doctors' waiting rooms. It's a magazine found only in airplanes, similar to the way caviar is found only in sturgeon, and reading it is like going through other people's suitcases.

In fact, plenty of suitcase stuff is in there. T-shirts, slipper socks, and various beauty aids, most of them involving power adapters and questionable science, are all for sale, as are compact disc holders, wine racks and clever compact disc holder/wine rack combination pieces.

But those items don't comprise the bulk of SkyMall's merchandise. A friend who travels more often than I not only has read SkyMall; she's analyzed its deeper meanings and concluded that it's designed for a specific audience: Business travelers who harbor serious suspicions about the trustworthiness of the loved ones they keep leaving at home.

To help these concerned customers, SkyMall offers a fine selection of hidden cameras and concealed recorders, each designed to spy on behalf of those far away and several miles up. Take this Stealth DVR camera, for example. "It looks like an ordinary motion sensor," reads the description, but in fact it's a wireless surveillance camera that "silently records up to 45 days' worth of high-quality digital video."

It's true that the camera could be used to discover if Fred the family dog is spending his days on the couch instead of on his blankie where he's supposed to be, but the text says, "Now you can keep an eye on things without anyone else knowing, and you'll have a permanent record of everything that happens at work or at home." Does that sound like dog obedience training to you? I didn't think so, either.

Then there's this: the Hidden Spy Mirror Camera. Imagine: a mirror that takes a picture of a perpetrator in the very act of examining a blemish. Or the Tissue Box Hidden Camera, which apparently takes a picture of a perpetrator in the very act of sneezing.

A camera in what appears to be a USB flash drive can be set to motion activation "to catch what's going on while you're away." Furthermore, the description continues, "The adjustable time and date stamp allows you to not only know what happened, but when it happened." I can just hear the prosecutor now: "And isn't it true that this happened at exactly 3:21, according to the USB flash drive that my client left on the living room coffee table?"

Or maybe it's all more innocent than that. Maybe the tiny video cameras concealed in ink pens and alarm clocks, the computer monitoring devices guaranteed to reveal "websites visited, chat histories and more," the "spy stick" that retrieves deleted text messages and searches call logs and the compact system that tracks vehicle movements ("one vehicle or the entire fleet") represent merely healthy curiosity and not full-blown paranoia.

Whatever it is, the number of monitoring devices for sale in Sky Mall magazine suggests that the skies, not to mention airport lounges, food courts, shuttles and every Hudson Booksellers and Brookstone store in concourses north, south, east and west are teeming with suspicious spouses planning to, as this ad for a video pen puts it, "capture true events" once and for all.

Do you find this as depressing as I do? My only hope is that the editor of SkyMall is the suspicious one, a lone unhappy individual determined to suspect the worst of everyone in spite of evidence to the contrary. The SkyMall editor is the Dwight Schrute of the airplane magazine world, sure that everyone is up to no good and that he's the one to run those dogs to ground.

Meanwhile, people like, say, me, board airplanes, heave their carry-on bags into the overhead compartments, squeeze past strangers to collapse into their seats and then pull the SkyMall magazine from its pocket, hoping it isn't the same one they read last summer or at least that no one else has done the crossword.

Of course it is the same one, because it's always the same one. It's a catalog, after all, not the Utne Reader. As long as video pens and tiny camcorders and iPhone Spy Sticks are in stock, why bother with a reprint? Furthermore, someone has done the crossword. In ink. And look: All the answers are silly. Whoever did this wasn't even trying to think of a three-letter word for "silken construction," or a seven-letter word for "one who works with canines." This person just filled in the squares with nonsense, when I could have supplied the right answers, namely "web" and "dentist," and not just because I've seen this puzzle before. I would have buckled down and applied myself, but I won't get a chance now.

I'd like to know who did this. I wish I had a tiny camcorder, a hidden video that would reveal not only who did it, but when he did it.

Oh well. Guess it's time to fish out a book. This is why I bring them, after all.

Write Margo Bartlett at mbartlett @thisweeknews.com.