Hovercraft Plans

I loved digging through the ads in the backs of comic books when I was a kid. There was all sorts of crap in there back then, most of it kind of on the edge of scamishness - X-Ray Specs that allowed you to see through skin and clothing (to appeal to different age ranges), trick chewing gum that became red hot when given to your enemy (I tried some many years later - that stuff really worked), giant Frankenstein balloons that could be seen from a mile away (the world was begging for that product) and tons more junk for sale by mail order. I wanted it all, but the piece I coveted most was a hovercraft.


The ad for the hovercraft was in the back of about eighty percent of the comics I owned, always teasing me like a cruel temptress with promises of real, actual flight capabilities. The image shown in the ad was pure 70’s black and white cheesiness - a little doofus moptop kid (who probably looked more like me than I’d have admitted) gazing at his wondrous wooden triangle, with a seat and steering controls (or so I thought) in the center, three landing gear-like circles at the corners, and the main engine just in front of the seat. Man, I wanted that thing - I had visions of flying to school, drifting through the clouds as I looked down upon my Earthbound schoolmates with a mix of pity and disgust. I was an evil tyrant in the making. I began saving up my money in preparation to order the device. It would be a full $4.50 investment - plus postage - but I was committed.

In my quest to leave gravity behind, I made many oversights. For one, the hovercraft clearly showed an electrical cord tethering it to some unseen outlet beyond the borders of the ad. We didn’t have an extension cord long enough to get me more than a few feet off our property, much less to school and beyond, but so badly did I want to believe that this airship was all that I’d imagined so badly that I completely erased the cord from my mind.

But the biggest piece I missed was one single word under “hovercraft” in the ad. It was a short but important word - “plans”.

The second factor I dismissed was a note in the ad that very clearly noted the vehicle only got one foot off the ground. I didn’t know what a “hovercraft” was - one foot makes sense when you’re an adult, but what I wanted was an antigravity machine. And those don’t exist. So one foot - that was not going to bring me to the upper edges of the stratosphere as I’d wished. It wasn’t even going to clear some of the grassy areas in front of our house. But that I ignored too.

But the biggest piece I missed - and it must have been my mind absolutely deleting something from existence - was one single word under “hovercraft” in the ad. It was a short but important word - “plans”. Or maybe I saw it and interpreted as meaning that the package would also include plans (as in “instructions”) on how I could use the vehicle. But it turns out - and I should have seen this coming - the thing I purchased was only plans. There was no actual hovercraft, much to my chagrin. So all I could do was to study the blueprints and wish I’d had the means to manufacture the damned thing.

My dreams of flight were permanently grounded, though I did learn to always read the fine print when purchasing by comic book. That’s good, right?