Welcome liberation from mall-rat days

As we stroll down life’s highway – actually, we scream along life’s freeway at breakneck speed, I find – we become aware that even if we are essentially the same person (for better or worse) that we’ve always been, there are also changes that transpire.

Take yesterday, for example. Mindful of the fact that it has become infuriatingly close to Christmas (a fact that confounds me a bit, because I also know you can’t get the thing over with until you actually get there), and also mindful of the fact that I have not parted with a cent in terms of getting somebody – i.e. that would be Wendy – anything to mark the day of orgiastic hucksterism, we decided to hit the road and go to the nearest bigger town in order to part with money we were loath to part with in order to get gifts for two people who are nearly impossible to buy for – that would be herself and myself.

So, having toiled hard at our interior decorating the day before, and due to the fact that Wendy had a welcome extra day off, we went off to hit a mall known as Woodgrove (pictured above) about 60 miles south of here. It was there that I noticed the change in me. 

There was a time I loved going to malls. I was once like a squealing, panty-wetting 17-year-old girl in them (I’m exaggerating for effect, my smalls stayed dry, but I did like going to the mall, any mall.). By malls, I mean decent malls, not crappy strip malls. I always liked wandering among the cookie-cutter storefronts of shops that are virtually identical whether I’m in the Ala Moana Centre in Honolulu, or the Woodgrove . The creme-de-la-creme is the Burlington Arcade near Bond Street in London. It is the original covered mall, and even the word ‘posh’ is a bit downmarket in terms of the Burlington. There the 17-year-old girls arrive in chauffeured limos. I’ve seen them do just that.  

Anyway, traditionally I loved wandering along, looking in windows, going inside to peruse and sometimes even purchase items I absolutely did not need, but bought anyway just to keep the economy moving. If my attendant was a particularly charming and beautiful female I would fall in love with her and inject her into my lame fantasy life. I have sufficient clothing to last a couple of lifetimes, but a fellow always appreciates yet another shirt. Eventually I would grow weary and in need of sustenance. The Food Fair would beckon with just so many transfat laden choices. Sheer heaven. KFC or Mickey-D. How to decide? Coronary in a bun or on a drumstick?

Anyway, yesterday seemed different from times of yore. In truth the transformation has been a long time coming and it has snuck up in small increments over the years, but I think it gained full manifestation yesterday. I went to the mall and realized almost instantly that shopping had lost its charm. It had become vapid; utterly lacking in zest or joie de vivre.

Was it the banal piped Christmas music designed to put me in the ‘spirit’ and having exactly the opposite effect? Was it the crowd of determined looking folk plying the corridors and the shops trying to find ‘stuff’ to give spouses and especially kids, too many of them dressed in such a manner that it seemed to indicate they couldn’t really afford any of this shit, so would end up ‘maxing out’ yet again?

Was it the invasion of disposable item youth-culture shops and the diminishing of emporia to serve tasteful real adults that led me to feel there was little place for me here?

Was it the fact that not only do I not truly ‘need’ anything, but there is also little that I want? Oh, I mean, I do want both peace and brotherhood for all humankind, as well as a Lamborghini, but I doubt that either is actually attainable so I don’t much fret about it?

I’m just not sure what it was. But what I am sure about is that I have clicked over into another mode of life, and I am pleased and have a sense of liberation as a consequence. 

I will no longer look to consumerism, but want the remainder of my life to be experiential. No, not with those pretty store clerks (well, maybe a little bit), but with travel, insight, knowledge, and interactions with the people I value so much more than things.


7 responses to “Welcome liberation from mall-rat days

  1. Online is the new shopping mall! I remember when Woodgrove opened because the Japan Camera Centre where I was working in Victoria was opening a franchise location there. Not long after that Nanaimo became the town I most closely associate with the dreaded strip mall. (My closest mall is Metrotown, always so packed that I hate it with a true passion.)

  2. I remember when Metrotown was just the old Burnaby Sear’s store. It’s a good place to visit if you’re really into gangland violence, I understand. I once walked through Metrotown with my Filipina girlfriend of the day and looking at the crowds, she said: “How does it feel to be in the minority, white boy?”

  3. Wow, you are late to the game. I gave up on malls years ago. Every once in a blue moon I go the outlet mall because it has a bar, but I never go inside the regular mall. They are creepy. The people always remind me of zombies and they let their kids run wild. Yuck. Find some fun creative shops. Now that’s how to shop. Or online of course.

  4. I suppose I never got into malls…like you I loved the Burlington Arcade…and the one whose name I always forget in Brussels, but just for looking.
    At any given stage in my life my purse would curl up into a small whimpering ball at the prices!
    There is now a massive mall nearby…well, forty minutes on the bus…and all my female neighbours want to go there for their Christmas shopping so I went with a couple of friends and it just left me cold….overpriced tat for the most part, none of which I would have touched with a bargepole.
    I’ll stick to the Ropa Americana, I think.
    And as for the food hall!
    Mr. Fly tells me that the Australian food halls are a lot better but I have failed in an optimistic attempt to get him to take me to try them…with a few side trips to the Test Matches!

  5. I guess it’s an age thing because I’m over malls too. Except on vacation, for some reason I love shopping when I’m on vacation. Not that I buy much of anything.

    Actually, when we travel the thing I like most is supermarkets, amazing how things can be pretty much the same but be just a smidge off.

  6. Geewits: I love outlet stores, but we don’t have them in my part of Canada. But, when we’re in the US we always hit them. They’re great.

    Fly: I’ve been to that covered arcade in Brussels, too. I also don’t remember the name of it, but it’s very similar to the Burlington Arcade in design though not quite so posh.

    Jazz: I too love hitting the malls on vacation but, like you, I really favor supermarkets. They’re always just a little different from what we have at home. Also, the case of American markets, there are some items one can no longer get in Canada, like Prell shampoo, so I always stock up.

  7. I think some of your ennui could be because Woodgrove Mall is… well, boring, a saccharine facsimile of a real mall. Somewhat like the Driftwood Mall on tepid steroids. Whenever I enter, I feel tired, depressed, dragged down to the lowest common denominator of bedraggled spender. If I could ever find anything I wanted to spend on in that sad, youth focused depression in the earth.

    But California Outlet Malls – I join the frenzy – saving soooo much buying things I never knew I needed!

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