The Mall Is A Good Place

I like going to the mall. There is no place like it for people watching. Usually when we go to the mall, my wife will go look around and I’ll sit and read….and observe.

Its an old dictum that the United States is a nation of immigrants. Never is that fact clearer than when you’re at the mall. People of all shapes, colors, and sizes go there to shop, dream, gawk, and argue.

Yes, argue. Moms yell at their teenage daughters for whining. Dads scold their sons for acting the fool. Husbands and wives joust over how much to spend. Siblings get upset with each other because one got something and the other didn’t.

You’ll see quite a bit bit of happiness at the mall too. Men strut around in their new leather jackets, walking slowly in front of mirrored windows in order to admire their reflections. Woman walk proudly as they lug around bags full of new trinkets, perfume, and shoes. Kids wander without taking notice of oncoming foot traffic. They’re too busy playing a new video game or sending messages to friends on their new phone. Young men wear spanking new baseball caps with the sticker still on the brim. Everybody seems to bounce lightly on the balls of their feet  in their spiffy new footwear.

Race means very little at the mall. A well to do Ethiopian man slumps, frustrated, on a bench waiting for his wife. Next to him sits an old white man with a stack of magazines. He came well prepared. A middle aged, Caucasian woman beams with pride, holding hands with her studly Asian boyfriend. An entire Latino family, cousins and all, move down the walk way like a street sweeper, clearing out everything in front of them. There is no fighting between people of different ethnicity. There is just people being people; buying, desiring, living, and squabbling.

The mall itself is quite impressive. In the middle of a busy downtown architects, engineers, and construction workers have designed and assembled a behemoth structure. It is many blocks long by several blocks wide, and many stories tall of concrete, steel, glass, wood, drywall, cable, and stucco; a true feat of human ingenuity.

On the inside, it is immaculate. Tiled floors as far as the eye can see. If its hot outside the mall, it is cool and refreshing inside. If its cold outside, it is toast within the mall’s confines. You see, the mall was built with one goal in mind: make shoppers happy. Each shop is decorated with the customer in mind. The merchant asks himself: What will do my potential clients like? What do they want to see from me? What can I do to please them? He knows that the only to make money is by giving people what they really want.

Indeed, that is what the mall is at its core. It is a place where people go to get what they really, really want and desire. Sometimes people go to an art show to put on appearances. They’ll see an independent film over the weekend and on Monday they’ll gloat about how cultured they are. Not so with the mall. If you want feed your face with sugar, fat, and grease, you can do it. You can spend your whole paycheck on brand new stuff that you really don’t need. Awesome things are everywhere, tempting you, pleading with you, to take them home.

The mall is really quite incredible. Here are all of these people, buyers and sellers, from all over the world, nonchalantly looking at items ranging from base to miraculous, arguing, eating, flirting and doing only God knows what else. It is the most uniquely human place that there is.

And its peaceful. Hordes of people all lust after a limited supply of goods. When the new iPad comes out, people wait in line around the block. There are no goons with guns bullying their way to the front of the line. Even with huge quantities of food in this one place, it isn’t overrun by people crazed with hunger. Instead, they stand on a street corner outside and beg for leftovers. Everybody gets along just fine.

There is another reason I like to go to the mall. I like people. I like to be around them. Humans are social beings. We work all week. Most of us specialize in something and spend a lot of time working alone. It nice to be a part of a crowd.

You can go into a store and buy a little piece of chocolate and chat with the dude behind the counter. He has those huge earnings in his ears and an impressively thick beard. His forearms are covered in tattoos. You’re surprised to learn that he is an incredibly sweet and interesting guy.

At the pizza place, a short Mexican woman will cut you off a slice. She is just as polite and humble as can be. You give her a big smile and thank her when you pay and she couldn’t seem more satisfied.

A weird old dude works in the camera store. He knows everything about photography. His passion is infectious and he almost sells you some really expensive equipment. At the last minute you chicken out on the deal. He seems disappointed and you feel embarrassed. That’s as human as it gets.

Yup. Sure enough. The mall has it all. People to hang around with to remind you that you’re human. Cool stuff to buy and look at. A place for people to work. Shelter from the elements. All kinds of food. Members of the opposite sex to look at and meet. Families spending an afternoon together. Couples fighting and making up. Occasionally you can catch a live music performance.

Perhaps more human than anything else, though, is the peace and cooperation. Everybody does their thing without infringing on others. Certain workers feed you. Others clean up. Some fold clothes. Other stock shelves. Everybody has their own task to do.

Someday, the workers from the mall will come visit you at your place of work and you’ll serve them. That’s a beautiful thing.





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