Life in a Bubble

The best thing about my local mall is the bubble tea kiosk. I like to go there just for that.  Well, that and the movies. I love tea and I love movies. The bubble tea place has all different kinds, something for everyone. Obviously, you can find the usual like green, black, and white, but there are also exotic mixtures to choose from, like pomegranate and lime or marshmallow root and licorice, you name it. My fave is Rose of San Francisco. No idea what’s in it and maybe that’s for the best. But I’ll tell you this much… it is yuuummmmyy.

The mall itself? Meh. It’s humongous. I’ll give it that. Now, it’s not “Mall of the Americas” humongous, but it’s up there… the largest in our state, for whatever that’s worth. It’s a trek just to get to an entrance, of which there are many, from one of the parking lots — a veritable exercise in stamina. St. Petersburg has its Hermitage, for Paris it’s the Louvre, my city has a massive mall, oh, with an adjacent casino. Just like those famous European art galleries, you can walk this sprawling mecca of capitalism in an afternoon, but not if you try to look at everything. That’s a rookie’s mistake. Another mistake would be thinking you could afford anything in this place.

See that pair of mustard-colored chinos in that H&M store over there in Neighborhood Q (oh, yeah, this mall has neighborhoods)? That’s the equivalent of a commissioned Rembrandt. That chemical cocktail of avocado and raspberry and something you can only describe as “mossy” coming from Lush in Neighborhood A? That’s an M.C. Escher right there. And that fancy store selling Prada and Gucci handbags… the one that never seems to have any customers, but all they need is one sale per month and they make their cut anyway? The Mona Lisa, of course.

I’ll admit it, I’m the worst kind of patron. Oh sure, I’ll go to the movies and I always get bubble tea, but as for shopping-shopping, uh, no. Sometimes, I go and just meander around and check out random things in shop windows, just to have something to do. I may have mentioned this before, but it’s a LLLLOT of walking, with an obstacle course through aggressive kiosk hawkers thrown in. I have found that it’s almost worthwhile to don your hiking books and backpack – complete with snacks, a high-beam flashlight to make S.O.S signals, and an emergency whistle just in case of shopping mall fatigue… that state of utter exhaustion where you find yourself lying helplessly on the shiny tiled floor, one hand outstretched, in vain, toward the nearest escalator only ten miles away. “Can’t … go on … no … more … shopping!” And yet, here you are, clear on the opposite side of the mall from where you parked.  As despair hits you full in the face, you resolutely straighten your shoulders, throw back your head, take a fortifying swig of your bubble tea, and stumble off on aching feet … back from whence you came.

So why do I do it, I ask myself?

It’s all about that Rose of San Francisco.

The Christmas Spirit has Left the Building

I had to venture out into the world of retail on Friday.  The day after Christmas. It’s not something I wanted to do. But I had promised my daughter a long overdue movie:  Big Hero 6. We were lucky that it was still in the theater near us. Great movie by the way. If you haven’t seen it, you should. But I digress. Back for a moment to the aforementioned trip into the wasteland of overcrowded, relentless after-holiday “returners” and “deal shoppers.” We didn’t even have to go into the stores themselves to get to the movie…just the roundabout general area. But that was close enough to encounter all manner of rudeness and obnoxious behavior. I guess what with Christmas having ended at midnight (reminiscent of Cinderella at the Ball), being “Christ-like” has been thrown out the window like the proverbial glass slipper.

I won’t go into all of the different scenarios we were faced with, especially in the parking lot or on the walk through to the theater. Suffice it say that some days the supply of available curse words is simply insufficient to meet my demands.

Mall Madness

So I had to go to the mall this past week to see Captain America with my kids (awesome movie by the way!).  I hate going to the mall.  I don’t think I can overstate that.

Something about going to the mall always gives me anxiety. I think it’s all the people mashed together on a collective shopping high that usually winds up being a chaotic mess of kids and adults zig zagging, rushing, and leapfrogging past each other as they try to reach their shopping meccas. Back in the day it was bad enough to have this cesspool of the unorganized ricocheting off of each other as they barrel down the concourse not paying attention to who they step on or cut off. Now with smart phones taking over, they essentially put a blindfold over their eyes as they drunkenly stumble across the linoleum looking down at whatever alert is oh-so-important to check out right that second.

I hate participating in this game of human bumper cars, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to stand back and take it all in from a safe distance. The people-watching at a mall is top-notch. You’ll see all sorts of personalities intermingling in a way that you’d never see on the street. The droopy pants thug from the shady urban neighborhood on his way to Foot Locker rubbing elbows with the pencil pushing accountant heading to Tiffany’s. Or the awkward tweens boys taking their first stabs at flirting, failing miserably, but able to disappear into the crowd after suffering the embarrassment of being turned down by a cute eighth grader. Hipsters, goth kids, nerds, soccer moms, geriatric fast walkers, they’re all here under one roof.

Shoppers at Brea Mall, Brea, California

Shoppers at Brea Mall, Brea, California

One other incredibly annoying part of the mall has to do with the idiots who spray perfume in your face when you walk by their counter in the various department stores. I seriously think Congress needs to pass some legislation and make this illegal. At the very least it should be law that they ask your permission first. What if someone is allergic to the scent (ummm, me!). That could be a serious problem. Those ladies in the supermarket giving away free samples of Jimmy Dean sausage have it right. You walk by and they ask, “Would you like to try a sample today?” They don’t jump over the table, hold your nose, and shove it down your throat. Is it too hard to ask the perfume pumpers for the same courtesy?

The incomparable Mr. Bean running the perfume gauntlet (click photo for video)

Hilarious Mr. Bean running the perfume gauntlet  (click photo for video)

Same with the ever popular kiosks set in the middle of the aisles armed with high-octane sales people who are pushing you to try their new fat burning device, sample an organic lotion, get an eyebrow pluck, or test drive a remote helicopter, etc. They practically accost you as you walk by, all in the name of sales.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy looking at the kiosks and all of the interesting things they sell…I just don’t like being grabbed as I walk by and dragged in when all I want to do is make it to the Starbucks on the other side of the mall before my caffeine deficiency causes a scene. It’s gotten so bad at our local mall that most people just avoid the kiosks all together. The shoppers making their way down the aisle resemble a flock of birds smoothly evading a predator as the crowd seamlessly veers to the right as they desperately try to ignore the frantic catcalls of the various barkers touting their wares.

Between dodging the zombies glued to their cell phones, the poisonous clouds of synthetic scents, and dodging flying toys, the mall feels like an obstacle course from American Gladiators. I just want to get out alive and still properly breathing people!! And you wonder where the anxiety comes from.