May 18, 2006

Mall daze

I hate shopping malls. It’s not just that they are a symbol of rampant consumerism. It's not just that they suck the life energy out of me. It’s because they confuse me. I have a bad sense of directions as it is, but my architect students tell me that malls are actually designed deliberately to get the shoppers lost, so that they will lose track of time and spend eternity in the hellish maze of stores where they will have no choice but to buy things.

Here in Snowstorm region, you can’t really go to a store of any type without going into a mall. (Grocery stores are the single exception.) Perhaps it’s the cold winter weather we get, but people here love malls. Even most of our movie theaters are located inside malls. I have lived near the same mall my whole life and I even worked there for a year in high school, but I still get lost trying to find my way around it.

When I do have to brave the mall, I usually take my Smart Wonderful Beautiful Daughter with me. She somehow has the skill necessary to negotiate the confusing maze of stores. And she knows enough, when she sees me get that glazed look on my face, to lead me gently out to the car before my head explodes.

This morning, we went on an unavoidable shopping trip to a music store that was deep inside the mall. After about thirty minutes, I was starting to feel that panicky claustrophobic feeling I always get when lost inside a building that has no windows at all, just racks and racks of brand new merchandise. We began making our way out, and my daughter said, "You know how sometimes at college, I’ll go to a party and I’ll have to walk home a friend who’s completely trashed? And I’ll have to watch out for her – no, don’t walk into that bush, here come this way, no, you can’t chase that kitty cat."

"Yeah?" I asked, wondering why she was taking the time to tell me that story at a time when I needed her expert guidance to get us out of the mall. I paused because we had just reached an escalator. In the midst of my mall daze, I knew that somehow we had to go down to the bottom floor to get to my car. My daughter tugged me away, "No, Mom, that one is COMING UP."

She guided me over to the right escalator and then laughed, "See, this is just like being with a drunk friend."

29 comments:

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

You must have done something right with her, she walks home both drunk friends and dazed moms... I bet you are glad to have her home.

Rana said...

*laughing*

Whatever you do, do not ever go to the Mall of America. You'd think it would be this amazing palace of consumption, or something, with amazing stores, given how people talk about it, and it's just... a really big mall.

I dislike malls because I can always feel the floors vibrating under my feet, and I worry about earthquakes, collapses, etc. On the other hand, treating it as similar to a visit to an anthropological museum can make it at least somewhat entertaining. ;)

liz said...

{laughing WITH you}

Truly.

I always have to park my car in the exact same row of cars in the parking lot at the mall or I'll lose the car.

peripateticpolarbear said...

Hee hee. (My family---all of us---park at Sears Automotive not matter what mall we're at--just so we don't get lost. If a mall doesn't have Sears automotive, we don't shop there. Otherwise, we'd never find our cars.

chichimama said...

I to hate malls. In fact, we deliberately chose the town we live in because it has enough stores downtown that I would probably only have to brave the mall once every few years.

My 4 year old, however, is currently obsessed with them. Every time I mention needing something, he begins begging for a trip to the mall. I so hope he outgrows this phase.

Your daughter sounds very, very cool.

jackie said...

When I teach my popular culture class, we take a field trip to a local mall and take about all the different styles of manipulation are built into a mall. It's horrifying when you sit in the middle of it and dissect it all.

I get lost in malls too, and in my family, we always park at the entrance near the food court, if we can!

KathyR said...

Whenever we need to go out shopping, I say we're going to "get malled."

Your daughter sounds like a peach.

turtlebella said...

I agree with all the above- your daughter sounds like a good friend and a good daughter too.

Whenever I (rarely) go to the mall I get a very similar glazed-over feeling which quickly turns into depression over how many people clearly spend lots of time at those places. The sqvirrel knows he has to get me out fast then or I'll implode and the whole day will be wrecked.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

I can heartily sympathise. I've found that I have to go to the nearby mall quite often: it's walking distance from my house, and has my bank, my post office, my drugstore, and my favourite chocolate store. However, I can only go there for short bursts of time, and I need to take someone like my husband, or else I will get horribly lost and come very close to tears.

My old roommate used to claim that I got "mall flu," if I spent too long in a mall or a big store. All the confusion, the panic of being around so many people, and the allergies acting up from the perfume, make me feel physically sick.

Give me a tiny cheese shop or a used book store any day. I can spend ages in places like that, chatting with the proprietor.

Jane Dark said...

Ihh, malls. I think Saramago got them exactly right when he wrote The Cave.

Quotidian Grace said...

I.hate.malls.too.Loved your post.

The trend down here in southeast Texas is to built more "power centers" (fancy strip centers) as malls are no longer very popular except among the teenagers.

jo(e) said...

Queen of West: Oh, yeah, take me to the right kind of bookstore -- an independent bookstore with all kinds of shelves, and comfy furniture, windows with sunlight coming in, and just tons and tons of books -- and I can stay there happily for hours.

undine said...

Shopping trance and glazed eyes, absolutely--and my daughter has to lead me out in the same way.

Leslee said...

The town I grew up near and the town I now live in both have small malls. By small I mean, one story and all stretched out. We don't park in outside the exact same are everytime, but we're usually just running into one or two stores.

I bet it makes you proud that your daughter is the one taking drunk friends home and not the other way around!

LutheranChik said...

I get that way in malls too. Especially in Barnes and Noble.

Squirrely Jedi said...

I grew up being my mom's bag carrier. As a result, I generally only go to malls when absolutely necessary or if I'm just in a mood to walk and people watch. I never end up buying much of anything, either.

Friday Mom said...

Can I take SBW Daughter with me the next time I have to go to the mall? I can have a panic attack just thinking about going.

Dr.K said...

I was in Minneapolis for a few days back in January, and I asked the group I was with to stop in the Mall of America, just because it was likely the only opportunity to see it I would ever have and I was curious, and we happened to be driving by it on our way back to the airport. Outside, it was this gigantic, forbidding and stern, walled fortress, surrounded by hectares of asphalt. Inside, it was just another soporific mall, just bigger with extra levels and a cheesy amusement park in the middle. We spent exactly 1/2 hour there, and it was too much. I won't go back. I did get a good blueberry-banana smoothie on the way out, and there was a store that sold chess sets, which I liked, and the refrigerator magnet store and the oxygen bar were bizarre enough, but outside of that it was a half hour of my life that I'll never get back. I'll not return to the Mall of America, and I can assure anyone who hasn't been there yet that even despite all the hype, when you've seen one mall in America you've seen them all--they're all equally nondescript and all equally soul-sucking, from Minneapolis to Florida.

Writer Chica said...

I understand your mall anxiety. I don't tend to get lost in the main mall area, but the crowds and lights and posters and bad music bother me. I stay out of stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdales that are constructed to suck you in and get you lost. I really can't stand Ikea, which is too bad cause I would probably like the stuff there. I can't stand feeling like cattle being corraled. I went the once and was just a basketcase when we finally left.

By the way, I hope that when my kids are teenagers they are as nifty as your kids.

ScienceWoman said...

You know they intentionally design escalators in department stores so that you have to walk half-way around each time. Their plan is to get people to stop and shop on each floor. I took a really fascinating class on urbanization, environment, and development once and that's fact that I remember every time I have to go to the mall. Fortunately, here in Utopia we don't have a mall. And I can't think of any escalators either.

Mona Buonanotte said...

AHA! I KNEW the architects who design malls do that maze-like constructing on purpose! There's a mall not far from us that is the best kind of mall...shaped line a plus sign. It still makes me claustrophobic, but at least I don't get lost so much, and no escalators, which frighten me anyway.

landismom said...

Great post. I've been teaching my daughter to figure out the mall parking lot, in the hopes that when she's a little older, I'll never lose my car again.

Rev Dr Mom said...

LOL!

I, too, loathe malls, and here, like where you are, all stores are in malls. I hate it--from having to go round and round the parking lot to get a parking space, to the insipid background music to the cheesy "cutesy" displays to the way that once you're inside you lose all sense of location--you could be anywhere, in any mall--to the manipulative way they are constructed.

I buy whatever I can on-line, but there are still times I have to go there.

kathy a said...

i don't like malls, either. i've been putting off a trip, because i desperately need to go clothes shopping.

we call that glazed-over get-me-out-of-here feeling "mall rot."

betty said...

Hey Jo(e),
That was a cute story. My mom is exactly the same as you - canNOT get around a mall if her life depends on it. She does, however, have persistance and can shop for a long time without even eating. She has learned to feed me well during shopping - because if she doesn't, I lose all the energy needed to steer her around.

What an intersting conversation in the comments about the design of malls! I always get mad about escalator design in department stores and I'll certainly think about that the next time I'm in one.

Claire said...

I hate malls, unless my kids are with me, and then they keep me from losing.my.mind. I love your daughter!

Robin said...

I agree with you, re: malls. Do you have IKEA where you live? It's a stand alone store but it's huge and they have this mazy path that you're supposed to take through the showroom. I think they must have the same design concept that your students described.

Rana said...

I had another thought... for those of you who get lost -- what works for me is to carefully memorize the three stores near the exit/entrance I came in through (you need at least two, as often malls have more than one, say, Payless Shoes), and then, to always move in the same direction around the mall, until eventually you get back to those three stores. It's a bit like doing a maze; if you go into a store on the left, turn left coming out -- if you go into a store on the right, turn right coming out. Eventually you'll come full circle (because all malls are circular to one degree or another) or a complete dead end (at which point you just rotate yourself 180 and continue on in the direction you came from).

Of course, this presumes a certain clarity of thought, something I'm not consistently able to manage, myself. If you're dazed by the mall, I'm afraid I have no advice. (Except maybe to eat something. ;) )

(Similarly, in department stores, if you're really lost, aim for a wall, and follow it -- eventually you'll either come to the bathrooms, an elevator, or a door.)

jo(e) said...

Rana: Really, someone should teach courses in mall survival techniques.

Perhaps I should carry food, flashlight, and First Aid kit with me next time I brave the mall ...