I had to buy five greeting cards today. I knew that Carlton Cards was in White Oaks Mall so I headed there. As I pulled into the parking lot, I realized I hadn’t been in a mall for months. Jody and I used to go often but that time is no more.
I entered by way of the east entrance, as I had done a hundred times before. Inside though, I began to feel strange. The t-shirt-making shop that I had used to create unique messages on my chest was empty. The folding transparent door stood like a guardian before the empty space within. I remembered standing at that counter, now lost in a sea of bare floor.
I knew that the card shop was at the far end of the mall. “I’ll just walk through the food court like I always do.” As I moseyed between the tables packed with eaters, I glanced at all the mini-stores on the edges. There was Taco Bell, Manchu Wok and New York Fries. Cloudy sky bathed us through the skylight. Strangely, it felt surreal, almost a “Where am I?” feeling. This conglomeration of commercialism would be so foreign in Senegal, even though perfectly normal here.
But it’s more than that. My life just doesn’t include malls anymore. Yes, I went to Best Buy last week and bought a TV but all these stores crammed together in White Oaks seemed like a foreign country. I’m certainly not a “better” person, but I am different from the fellow who five years ago strolled through malls as a form of entertainment.
I passed by well known brands:
The Body Shop with its infinity of fragrances
Cinnabon, home to the aroma of cinnamon buns hanging in the air
Walmart … where you can get almost everything you want
Tip Top Tailors and its racks of dark suits that I haven’t worn in twenty years
La Senza, with all the fancy bras and panties that a woman could ever desire
Yankee Candle. A whole store about candles?
This stuff isn’t a bad thing. I simply bought a TV rather than a suit. But it’s disorienting to me right now to walk amid the world of “more, better and different”. It’s a bit of a mystery … what kind of person I’ve let go of, and who I’ve become.