Ignorance is not bliss
Have you ever truly meditated on the insidious simplicity of the shopping mall experience? I ask you to consider it with me now. I remember the frustration of driving in undulating and pointless circles as I burned off expensive fuel, just so I could find that perfect parking spot, afraid to walk an extra hundred meters as though it were a trek through the Himalayas. Here, I ignore the first hint that something is wrong.
Automatic doors swoosh open, engulfing me in the cool, stale, and sterilized air blasting throughout the mall by industrial air conditioners. Behemoths that stamp deep, their carbon footprint into my small existence and I ignore the sign.
Music warbles from the PA system and inevitably, it is some sickening ditty, likely a contemporary take on a Christmas carol. A tune that is too upbeat to kindle nostalgia of an imagined, idealistic, childhood Christmas experience that I have never had. At best, it invokes fading memories of the anticipation of the night before, a restless boy, struggling to fall asleep, with my mind plagued by thoughts of the cool toys and clothes that I would unwrap in the morning. The training I received from that time is waning and bitterly cynical now yet it sill influences me as I dismiss the sound and tune into the smells of sweet fried food. From somewhere in the distance, along an indoor avenue, donuts are being dunked into hot oil and rolled in sugar, while corn dogs spill their foul odour amongst the raucous rabble of oblivious shoppers. Taste buds cry out for attention and our olfactory senses scream in protest as our junk food addiction is denied in favour of the overcooked coffee from the nearest of two Starbucks in this section of the mall alone. Mmm…caffeine! Now I have the energy to shop. My first purchase made, I walk around in a fugue state. I have coffee in one hand, the other kept free for the handling of money, scratching, and occasionally pointing out useless but shiny shit in store windows to my partner, who is equally “styled” in this behaviour.
I walk into a pet store because there are puppies in the pens. I reach in and cuddle a pup or two; puppies are adorable and, for a few glorious moments, fill me with compassion and unconditional love that I yearn for, but am starving for lack of them. In the store, many others suffer through their own famines with me.
There, over by the designer shoe store, sitting in the middle of the avenue like a colourful pimple, is a stall, covered in affordable sunglasses, displayed in every hue. I try them on, repeatedly until I find the pair that suits. I do not even realize that I have bought them until I am walking away. My second purchase passes almost unnoticed, and again I ignore the problem.
A pair of minivans with over-weighed fanny packs; rumble past in clothes that expose their many spare tires. They are bracketed by their bloated and desperately diabetic offspring, as all of them stuff fried and cheesy fuel into their tanks. They wander aimlessly along the highways of the mall, bouncing from store to store, like so many boulders being swept up by the unyielding river of mindless humanity. Silently I ridicule them while ignoring my spreading ass and widening waistline.
Models assault my pride with their airbrushed perfection while they try to sell me clothing and cosmetics. They promise me that I will look fascinating and sexy if I buy their brand of whatever. I will be fit and perfectly formed if I assail a mountain in this brand of hiking boots. I will be windswept and interesting if I drive that model of off road vehicle across my local neighbourhood desert and I can have a full and lively social calendar if I use their brand of incontinence pads. They coo at me, lie to me, and for brief moments I allow myself to believe them.
I walk the regimented aisles of the supermarket and vainly try to deplete the perpetual shelf stock in my weekly ritual of purchasing poisons. I cluck derisively as I steer my cart around a small child that is throwing a super-tantrum in the cereal aisle. The relevant parent wears an apologetic face as they ineptly manage the traffic incident. I resist the candy and soft drinks while I make a quiet promise not to buy a bag of the salt and vinegar chips, yet in the checkout line, I discover that the chips, in a daring bid for freedom, have leapt from the shelf and hidden themselves away in the cart, beneath the mac and cheese. “It’s ok.” I tell myself. “It’s only one bag and I won’t buy another this week.” I pocket the third receipt and hide my problem behind the sound of crunching chips.
A quick trip back to the car to fill the trunk with grocery bags and I rush once more into the breach. Stores and stall pass me by as they dole out their indivisible monotony and cacophony, trying to throw gaffs into the flow of zombies. Every window and storefront has SALE signs that decry the falsehood of items, once having had a higher price, now, had been reduced. The walking dead crowd in which I trundle, pretend that all of this is not a torrential rain of lies and misdirection. I am reeled in by the hook in my semi-consciousness and forced to browse.
I meander my way, with purpose, to the department store. It stands boldly, at the end of a passageway, like the jewel in the crown of my local mall. Palace-like in its presentation, I float in like a noble at court. I peruse the racks of clothing as though I were picking from a feast table. I let my eyes drift over the home wares and dream of decorating my own castle in competition with the peasant hovels next door. I ride the elevators and escalators to reach heights and levels, far above the common plebeians. The shine and sheen of railings, mirrors, polished floors and counters, hypnotize me and the droning music dulls me into further insensibility.
Lazily, I roam across the multi-layered complex, grabbing at this and that like a seagull on a trash heap. I try on clothes that I cannot afford and peruse the Bluray shelves. I spy the racks of all the latest gadgets. Hmmm...iphone 4!!! I wander over to the games counter and scan through the titles, choosing out the most violent one that I know my brother wants and then I see the price; ninety nine dollars? My heart sinks. I do not have that much money. I think I will just have to get my brother a fifty-dollar gift card for Christmas this year. Fuck!