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A visit to the mall
April 26, 2019
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by Ivan Raconteur

I recently made a pilgrimage to one of those immense temples of the retail gods – a shopping mall.

Some people might not find that unusual, but I haven’t been to one of those places in years.

I concede that malls can be fascinating, and they make fine venues for people watching.

When I was young, and writing without getting paid to do so, I sometimes went to shopping malls, and wrote stories about people I observed there.

Practically anyone has the potential to be a character in a future story. I watched how they looked, how they moved, how they talked, and soon I was able to write about them.

It didn’t matter if my interpretations didn’t match their reality. I was just creating a collection of stock characters for future use.

One has to spend some time observing people before one can write about them in a convincing manner.

It’s been a long time, however, since I went to a mall just for the fun of it.

Lately, I find them more stressful than interesting.

I don’t like crowds, and malls are like anthills full of busy individuals scurrying about in every direction.

The scurrying causes stress.

During my adventure, I was reminded of the odd collection of stores that one sees only in malls, as though they were part of some complex symbiotic relationship that dictates they can only survive within the confines of mall, and if they tried to operate outside a mall they would die.

It was one of these stores that brought me to the mall.

If there had been any other way to accomplish my mission, I would likely have chosen it.

However, I had managed to lock myself out of my own phone, and I needed a genius to help me fix it.

There wasn’t a genius available when I arrived, so I spent some time exploring the mall.

I have to admit, I did question the brightness of the non-genius employees of the store. I had just finished telling one of them that my phone was locked and I was unable to access it, when he said he would text me when a genius was available.

I politely explained that texting me wouldn’t do much good, and we agreed that I would return at 1 p.m.

That seemed simple enough, but about that time it was impressed upon me that our lives are tied up in our phones.

I had no way of knowing when it was 1 p.m., because I (normally) rely on my phone for the time. I haven’t worn a watch for years. With a locked phone, I couldn’t even tell what time it was.

Then I was faced with the question of how to entertain myself until my appointment.

Usually, if I find myself waiting for something, I pass the time reading and responding to email messages and texts, but I couldn’t do any of that in this case.

Another thing I like to do is check headlines to keep up with the news of the day. That wasn’t an option while I was at the mall.

Another favorite pastime of mine is to read a book if I have a few minutes to spare, and I have several synced to my phone. But those were not available when my phone was locked.

I contented myself with strolling around the mall. I tried to stay in the main hallways, because when I entered some of the big department stores, I quickly became lost.

The handy little store diagrams posted near the escallators weren’t much help. I tried to follow the diagrams, but after getting hopelessly disoriented in a women’s intimate apparel department, I made a hasty retreat for the nearest exit. The only way I was able to escape was to follow the perimeter of the store until I saw daylight. I can navigate just fine by the sun or moon, but department store lights disrupt my navigational system.

Another thing about which I was reminded during my adventure at the mall is that standards have changed with regard to personal appearance.

I consider this a good thing.

Piercings, tattoos, or pink hair don’t seem to be a problem today, and that’s the way it should be.

When I was finally granted an audience with the genius, I observed that he was wearing a small but elaborate cobalt metal sculpture through his nose. It was more complicated than a simple ring.

I decided it was none of my business why someone might want a thing like that stuck in his nose. I thought back to some of the job interviews I have had in the past during which prospective employers told me I was not eligible for employment because my hair was too long, or because I wore a beard.

I couldn’t help wondering what some of those interviewers would have thought if I showed up with a pierced nose. It surely would have blown their minds.

Some of the most deceitful and crooked people I have encountered had short hair and dressed in conservative clothes, so it is dangerous to judge people by appearance.

I’m glad we live in a world in which odd piercings don’t preclude a genius from gainful employment.

He was able to restore my phone to the factory settings, and I was able to make a fresh start.

I was much more relaxed on the way back to the office, knowing if I had an urgent need to check email or send a text, I was back in business.


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