The Mall

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.

TV Commercials … Do I Buy It?

To what extent am I hypnotized by the messages of mass media?  Or do I see beyond the compulsion to add more stuff to my life?  Usually I don’t even notice commercials, but without my alertness am I simply allowing their underlying tone of “more, better and different” to seep into my being?

The commercials I do notice are ones that depict the tenderness of  human relationships, moment of kindness, soft eye contact.  But then there are the others.  Perhaps I should pay attention.

1.  Say it with diamonds

There’s nothing wrong with a lovely ring or a dinner out at a fancy restaurant but even better is saying it with your mouth.  And within the speaking, let’s include the words that are so often withheld … “I love you.”

2.  There’s no better time to get …

Apparently it has to happen now, or at least it should to foster maximum happiness.  Maybe I’ll be missing out, squandering some once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, if I hesitate.  Can I be just as happy without making that big purchase tomorrow morning?  Yes.

3.  Beat the blues  [Buy what we sell]

The thought is that happiness is basically an outside job.  If I accumulate more precious things, depression has no chance.  Whether it’s gourmet food, designer jeans or a car that goes from 0 to 60 in the flash of an eye, I’ve got this.  Or does it have me?

4.  Get the exceptional handling of intelligent all-wheel drive

And who doesn’t want to be exceptional and intelligent?   Maybe the glory of my car will somehow rub off on me.  No, I don’t think it works that way.

5.  Twenty winners every Thursday

Well, I better get in on that or I might just end up being a loser.  Could it be, though, that the zero sum game of win-lose doesn’t point to happiness, that helping someone else brings me more than I give?

6.  Broadway’s best musical

I would certainly like to be associated with the best.  Actually, I’d like to be considered the best in some area of life.  Then I could feel good about myself.  I don’t know … that doesn’t seem to leave much space for contentment.  Perhaps I can be happy without being an exceptional athlete, singer or teacher.  Just a human being who cares.

Oh … and another thing – who is saying this musical is the best?

7.  This is as good as it gets

Unspoken and insidious > There’s a ceiling to your life.  And this is pretty much it.  It may not simply be downhill from here but nor will you be breaking through the stratosphere to touch the stars.  Says who?!  The future beckons, and I don’t know what beauty will reveal itself for me, for my loved ones, and for humanity.

8.  Insane deal!

Naturally, I don’t want to be considered insane for missing this golden opportunity.  I want to be respected.  I want to be normal.  I better buy this thing.  I think not.  Another type of insanity comes to mind.

9.  When I’m holding your wheel
All I hear is your gear
When I’m cruisin’ in overdrive
Don’t have to listen to no run of the mill talk jive
I’m in love with my car

(Queen)

Oh please.  Give me the sweetness of the soul and the softness of the skin before the shine of the metal.

***

No hypnotism
Eye-to-eye
Real