Being a Mall Rat
One P.M. Thursday afternoon. It’s October, and the air is becoming crisp, and the leaves are turning colors and starting to fall. Today, feels like a swimming pool day. You know, in the middle of the summer, when it’s in the 90’s and the pool is around 70, when you step into that pool from 90 to 70, the 70 degree pool feels freezing, even though you tell yourself it isn’t; today, is like that; the sun is hot, the black leather seats of the car have absorbed the heat. While it’s one of the warmest days this week, probably close to the mid 60’s, stepping out of the car, feels like being doused into a pool on a summer afternoon. Today is a swimming pool day.
The sun is bright, but the sky is a dark grey, it doesn’t look like it will rain today, the clouds are transparent, but winter is coming. I’m driving, pulling into the parking lot. I live about 2 hours away from this town; I’m glad. I enjoy getting together with friends, spending time even with large groups of people that I have commonalities with, but I disdain crowds. Loud and noisy, waiting in lines, waiting at lights, waiting, waiting, waiting!
The parking lot smells distinctly of garlic. I’m sitting here watching people pull in and out, walk in and out. So many different people, fast walkers, slow walkers, mothers, fathers, old people, even teens, I wonder why the teens aren’t in school. The building here is one big building, hundreds of stores connected together. I’m sitting out near Best Buy, one of my favorite places to shop. The building is red brick, with bright signs on some of the markers. Best Buy in big bright letters, Country Buffet, right next to it. I become aware of my stomach, I’m hungry – I haven’t eaten yet today. I pull back out of my parking space, and drive around to the other side of the mall – the “food court” as they call it. I might as well accomplish something on this little endeavor.
Now, as I start walking to the doors – there are a set of 8 double doors – one set opening with a blue plate on the side for wheel chair access – I realize with trepidation that I’m going into the mall. I don’t really like the mall. Sometimes when talking to my wife, I compare it to a carnival. In my view, the carnival is obscene pollution for the senses. Thinking over the noise, the smells, the sights, the closeness of the crowds, I go, because my wife and children like to go, I don’t enjoy. There is one thing that I do like to do in the mall though, and as I’m on my way in, I start thinking, “Are they going to think of me as a sociopath”, I mean, they thought Ricky was!
There was a young lady pushing a stroller in, not a stroller that you would buy in the store, but one of those goofy children strollers, it almost looked like a bus, but it was red. She was very pretty, but as she turned, I saw that she was smoking. Her beauty dissolved, slightly, almost imperceptibly. I started to wonder if she smoked with that young child in her car, or in her home. Smoking is such a disgusting, destructive habit. I’ve lost two grandfathers to smoking. Oh well. I went to open the door for her, but another woman beat me to it. I walked through the side door, and opened the next door and held it for both of them. As we walked through the doors, I was overwhelmed with sights, and sounds.
The one thing that I enjoy doing in the mall is watching women and children. My wife teases me that, in regards to the women that I’m just remembering when I was young, and single, and thinking up all the different pick-up lines that I might use (and boy did we have some really retarded ones). But it’s so much more than that. It’s so much more than their bodies. I mean, God created the woman’s body, just to drive the man insane, in my mind there is no doubt. The curves, the way they walk and move, and hold themselves, they way they react, think, and view the world. But, more specifically, each and every one has a story to tell, a complex story, a history, a past, a present and a future.
As I look at them I see, beauty. The girl standing next to me in the line, her face, not overly beautiful, but just pretty, like the daughter in American Beauty, but this girls face is covered in freckles, her hair short curly brown, and her shirt, low cut. She must be here just to hang out; I don’t think she would be wearing that attire to work. The girl that just walked by, she had on tight, short, white shorts, very nice legs. So I start feeling guilty, knowing that this is an assignment, and realizing that maybe I should look at the guys too – see what kind of beauty I can find in them, so I don’t sound like a pervert, or something else. The guy that walks to me in line, as I’m standing there pondering what I’m really going to order. “Are you in line?” he asks. “No, go right ahead” I reply. He’s middle age, kind of has a Richard Gere look, graying white, slightly curly hair, a well defined nose, and he seems to have dark eyes. It’s no use; I just don’t see the beauty in men (Is that what defines a sociopath?). I mean, when I was young, and I found out that my father has an uncle that was Mr. Olympia and Mr. America, I decided that was what I wanted to do. I used to train real hard, and long, and I had the framing for it too. I thought the physique of these men, the huge masses of muscle, like rocks, jagged, etched, now that was beautiful. But, I’m digressing.
The smell of the Japanese food draws me in. I can remember the taste, the texture, squishy almost rubbery chicken, in the al-Dante noodles. My wife and I ate here a year or so ago, the food was good. There is a woman that just came into view, almost around the corner. Her face is very beautiful, she works at the mall, she is pushing a trash cart in front of her, but that does nothing to mar the beauty of her face. I’m sitting here thinking, that while this is an assignment purposed to discover and describe the environment of the mall, that people are probably totally going to find me weird, so I decided not to describe this girls facial beauty.
I ordered my food, and went and sat down. The tables were hard, and cold, the chairs were hard and cold, the floor, while I refused to reach down and touch it, because of how much dirt and germs it was harboring, however, being tile, I could imagine it was also hard and cold. I went and sat as far away from people as I could. They were all going to think I was weird anyway (I was speaking into a DAT recorder, rather than writing on a notepad).
The sounds, it was like a buzzing, almost like a summers evening sitting outside under the stars. The sounds of the crickets and tree frogs, and owls and coyotes all mixed together, most of the time I couldn’t pick out anything (like the sounds of the crickets or tree frogs), but once in a while there was a sound or a voice that rose above the din, like a coyote or an owl. I found it so odd that I could be sitting in the middle of a mall, with hundreds of people walking by me on every side, and I could still feel like I was lonely. I miss my family. I always miss my family on the days that I commute on this 2 hour one way drive.
There are all these beautiful little children running around. Like the cliché, the faces of angels (although, I’m sure, like most kids, they aren’t angelic, but their simple little smiles, they’re bright little eyes, for each and every child I look at, I think to myself that I hope they have a healthy, and safe family relationship, that they are getting the love and support that they need. It’s funny though, as much as I love my children, I cannot handle noise, confusion, I often pull into a shell when my children start running around the house and hollering, and laughing and fighting and yelling. It’s something I constantly need to work on.
So, here I am, finally done eating. Ready to go, I want to get back to work. I’m sure I have enough material to finish my assignment. I’ve enjoyed the time to contemplate life, the universe and everything after; although I think Douglas Adams has that saying trademarked. I’ll probably review my audio, and write this up over the weekend.