A mall for them all
Exploring the phenomenon that is the twenty-first century shopping mall
Have you ever found yourself standing in a familiar setting, taking in all of the usual stimuli, only to suddenly realize how utterly absurd everything is? I have that experience occasionally, and it may just be my own strange mind playing tricks on itself, yet for the moment in which I am standing there, observing the irony or the chaos, it’s as if the sky has changed from blue to purple.
This happened the other day as I was rushing through a mall and I realized just how strange a concept a shopping mall is. It’s one of the most intriguing places to take a step back and observe the hoards of people bustling past you — particularly on a rainy day after everyone wakes up, looks out the window and panics at the thought of their plans for the day being ruined.
Because we are never content with sitting at home and reading a book, everyone flocks toward the promising red “SALE” signs that illuminate the cloudy gloom. And it’s not only a select group of people at the mall. People of all ages, backgrounds and appearances are drawn towards this utopia of commercial appeal.
There are the couples there with nothing better to do, lolly-gagging and holding hands until a flood of giggling 13-year-old girls part the Red Sea, causing them to momentarily split. There are the frantic mothers pushing strollers — which sometimes look more like carriages — through the hoards of people. There are the people there on a mission, willing to fight to the death for that last iPhone 5. There are the window shoppers, the bargain shoppers, the tech shoppers and the food munchers.
Most of the time I’ve spent at the mall has been with my mom, who is infamous for her treadmill-style walking. When I was little, I would have to do a half-skip, half-jog to keep up with her — though now I am guilty of walking in the exact same fashion.
When the two of us navigate through the mall crowds, we really ought to have turn signals attached to our backs with the amount of weaving across lanes of people that we do. We have all but perfected the look we give each other when we get annoyed at the slothful group of people in front of us. Within a matter of seconds we look at each other, dodge the obstacle in front of us and reunite as we continue to hustle toward Nordstrom. It’s executed almost perfectly.
Call me ignorant or even cynical, but every time I take a step back to ponder the intricacies of the mall, things never seem to add up. I will never fully understand why parents pay large sums of money for pictures of their children sitting on the laps of either a monstrously large rabbit in a pastel colored vest or a not-so-jolly Santa sitting on a large throne. These large, furry strangers really do nothing to fuel the child’s sense of belief. In all honesty, children are more likely to question how Santa or the Easter bunny can be present at every single mall.
And while I, too, am guilty of all this nonsense, it will never make sense to me why everyone bounces from store to store, only to see the same trends, the same seasonal colors and the same generic mannequins trying so hard to look unique. Yet without fail, the trend continues — every time we see that extra-sparkly top or the brighter blue jeans, we dart to the store and think that this time, these new, skinnier jeans will finally make us look as good as the plastic person in the window.
Kelly’s column runs biweekly Mondays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.