The Death of SkyMall: Why the Internet Can't Replace the Best Catalog That Ever Existed
We could have never known that this would be the last-ever issue of SkyMall procured for my commune.
It was never about being in-flight entertainment. Since 2010 when my roommate purchased the home that would become the Witch House House, we have always kept a fresh copy of SkyMall next to our commode. Everyone likes to read when they are in the john; but even in a magazine rack full of copies of Vanity Fair, anarchist/feminist zines, local comics and self-help books, it was SkyMall that got the most toilet action.
When it was announced last week that SkyMall had filed for bankruptcy and we wouldn't be getting our usual crisp issue of the catalog-turned-household-amusement item come spring (as we have each season when someone takes a trip,) our Facebook feeds and group texts blew up -- even our friends knew how integral SkyMall was to everyday "witch life." The seemingly regular issue of SkyMall Holiday 2014 was now a collector's item. How were we going to collectively daydream about an inflatable log flume for the backyard? Or the FitDesk stationary bicycle-laptop holder? Or the armband that holds your iPhone on your wrist?
Anyone have fifty bucks I can borrow? I NEED this.
Here's the thing about SkyMall -- it was more than a catalog; it was a fantasy world. Much like the Sharper Image's role in wowing people like me at actual malls in the early '90s, SkyMall offered a look into a highly efficient future, one where animals never had to leave the house to pee again because a plot of plastic grass was the answer. It was a place where spending $10,000 on a "Serenity Pod" (essentially a very expensive futon) seemed reasonable. Like most of the unnecessary spending consumerism was built on, SkyMall made dropping cash on gadgets to make our lives easier seem practical.
We actually ordered the bidet that also conveniently held a roll of toilet paper and an iPad from SkyMall once; it just ended up leaking water all over our bathroom, so we returned it. But we still had faith in SkyMall, spending nights at the Witch House House discussing how much use we would get out of a glow in the dark toilet seat (no more need for a nightlight in the bathroom!) Or how badly we wanted the automatic grill-cleaning robot for the grill we would never own.
Often, one of us would be so moved by something we saw in SkyMall that we would run out of the bathroom with our pants around our ankles, shaking a crumpled copy of the magazine of wonder in the air, only to exclaim "I found the solution to our missing Mason jar problem! Monogrammed Mason jars!" We loved SkyMall at my house so much that my roommate and my boyfriend wrote a song about it:
SkyMall kind of reminded me of the simple joys of getting catalogs as a kid, long before the Internet was around to give us everything we never would need. I remember going through and circling everything I could possibly want from Toys R' Us at Christmastime, only to be disappointed when Santa seemed to be on the same educational trip as my parents, bringing me books or boardgames from Europe instead of Peaches 'N Cream Barbie.
SkyMall promises to stay alive online -- but to me, it sort of defeats the purpose. The Internet is already full of everything you could never want. The point of SkyMall was that it was curated -- it was a streamlined magazine of fantastic crap presented in a way that made you want to buy a giant inflatable wedge pillow to use on an airplane and not feel the least bit weird when pulling it out and blowing it up. Or a stylish and discreet fashion scarf that turns into a travel pillow. Or a pillow you could use to replace a person. Or...
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
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