SkyMall: a eulogy
Allie Tollaksen | Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I’ll never forget where I was when I read the news. Sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee in one hand and my phone, open to Twitter, in the other, I read that SkyMall, the beautiful Brookstone of the sky, may be no longer.
Last Friday, SkyMall announced its parent company is filing for bankruptcy. Though this doesn’t guarantee the death of the famous in-flight catalogue, talk of SkyMall’s ultimate demise has been abuzz. So forgive me for presenting what may be a premature eulogy, but I need to say a few words to commemorate the ginger ale-stained, endlessly entertaining magazine.
At age 25, just a few years older than me, SkyMall has been an unwavering presence in the lives of air travelers. Nestled between the airsickness bag and the “In Case of Emergency” card on the back of airplane seats, its goods have been overpriced and unrealistic through thick and thin, recession and recovery.
No matter what may lie ahead — a delay on the tarmac, a screaming baby or an aggressive seat-recliner — frequent flyers could always take comfort in perusing the pages of SkyMall, ogling over “Lord of the Rings” memorabilia and outdoor speakers that look like rocks.
Where will we go now if we want to buy a dog raincoat and a glow-in-the-dark toilet seat in one fell swoop? How will we spend $5,000 if not on our own “Fire Burning Portable Hot Tub” after three glasses of American Airlines nondescript white wine? In an age of still unreliable in-flight Wi-Fi, how else will we pass the time once our iPhones die? Will we be forced to actually watch the in-flight safety demonstration?
These are questions we’ll have to answer with the tragic loss of SkyMall. Until then, we’ll remember it not just as a collection of insane pool gadgets, yard ornaments and pet accessories, but as a symbol of the American Dream. Forget the white picket fence — nothing says “I made it” more than soaring at 30,000 feet in a steel vessel, sipping tomato juice and deciding to treat yourself to a remote-controlled, infrared reflexology foot massager.
As a child, I remember imagining my dream home and filling it with SkyMall’s wonders. Flipping through the catalogue, I’d make a mental checklist of all of the house’s amenities — a castle for my cat, a floating island cup holder for my outdoor pool and various kinds of hanging chairs to furnish each room. The house would have a room wallpapered with the world’s largest maps and crosswords, and the backyard would be filled with wacky statues and elaborate sprinkler systems. Gel pen in hand, I’d circle all the goods that would some day be mine.
My interest in interior decorating has since waned, but I’ll still miss the comfort of leafing through its beloved inventory. Even if you can’t hope or dream to own anything in it, you can scan though its pages with awe and wonder — it’s like the World’s Fair is sitting on your lap. SkyMall is the embodiment of the scene in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” when Gene Wilder sings “Pure Imagination”: elaborate, bedazzling and just a little scary.
Whether we’re building a dream home, buying the best gifts or simply browsing, SkyMall has seen it all from a seat pocket. Now, after what its website describes as “25 Years of Cool Stuff,” the staple may close its pages on us and go away to the Great Airplane in the Sky. If so, we’ll miss you.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.