Mall Story

mallDo you still visit the mall? We do because it’s a place to walk when the weather is bad. But we don’t actually buy anything at the mall because the prices are higher since the stores have to pay rent equivalent to Venezuela’s annual budget.

Today is a rainy day so my son and I used the mall to kill some time and get some exercise. As we walked along the concourses we passed one store after another all missing the same thing: customers. The hangdog looks of the bored clerks, ahem, associates, ahem kids earning money to feed their Starbucks habits, is pretty pitiful. As you walk by they stare at you with the same longing a Millennial might have for a 3-hour work day. Indeed, no one’s holding anything besides a latte’, a baby stroller or pretzel. Actual merchandise purchases? None, unless you count a box of Cinnabons.

Stores for overpriced purses, Native American blankets and trinkets, tea, popcorn, tuxedos, $200 jeans, ladies evening wear, faux diamond jewelry, candles, make up, fudge, cases for smartphones, eyebrow knitting and shoes, shoes, shoes, shoes. All sorts of things, but no one to buy them. Even the anchor stores appear adrift. As we buzzed through one to get to the exit a hopeful sales person begs to help me.  When you politely respond, “sorry, just making a beeline for my car,” their face sags as if you just insulted their kicky little name badge.

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m old enough to remember a time before enclosed shopping malls and they were fun, festival-like market places. But when erstwhile open air centers, like Green Acres and Roosevelt Field on Long Island  were “malled” they instantly became popular destinations jammed with actual shoppers. Yeah, we bought things. Malls were also places we could drive to and hang out just after we received our drivers licenses. Now, they’re as cool as MySpace, populated mainly by speed walkers who would just as soon mow you down rather than avoid a collision that threatens to slow their pace.

Yes, malls are still jammed with Christmas shoppers but it’s not the same. In the 70’s when we lived in Central New York State we’d make a 30-mile trip to Syracuse and power shop at Fairmount Fair or Shoppingtown Dewitt. We’d buy so much we’d have to make several trips to the car to dump our bags and dive back in for more. Both malls are now dead and we do most of our shopping online or at strip centers where prices are better and you can zip in and out without having to endure walking by the screaming at the kid’s play place.

It’s still a kick to walk around the mall once in awhile, but I really don’t buy anything except maybe a snack or a drink from a vending machine. Although it is a little bit of fun when one of those obnoxious kids working at a pushcart attempts to stick a sample of “essence of tripe” under your nose, you advise them “get that away from me! It triggers my recurring flesh-eating bacteria.” It’s all in good fun.



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