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Jewish World Review
June 20, 2008
/ 17 Sivan, 5768
Shop worn out
Under normal circumstances I don't have a reason to "go shopping" or in any way spend time at the stores the way I once did, but thanks to several upcoming family functions, I recently found myself deeply into the whole mall experience. To begin with, parking in these places is always such a delight - I can only equate it with standing in line at the DMV or having wisdom teeth pulled.
These parking structures are always jam packed, no matter the time of day or day of week or month of the year. Sure, crowds at Christmastime, but now? If the economy is as bad as the news keeps saying, why is the place so crowded? I guess nobody told those hoards who are shopping their brains out at the mall that people can't afford to go shopping.
I don't know about you, but driving in circles in a darkened parking structure searching for a spot doesn't exactly put me in the right frame of mind for a happy-go-lucky shopping adventure. Oh, wait, there's a spot over there! No, that's handicapped only. Oh, look, there's one! No, that's only for electric cars. What about that spot? No, that's for pregnant women only. By the way, if they're so pregnant, why aren't they at home resting instead of schlepping themselves all over the mall?
Once we're in the store complex the first thing I am aware of is the pungent aroma of the food court. Ahhh… there's nothing quite like that aromatic combination of multicultural fast-food from fifty-nine different stalls all wafting together in one big smelly repulsive area. Man! Gives me an appetite, how about you?
There seems to be much more of those little kiosks out in the middle of the shopping center than I remembered. Looks like an outdoor market place in some foreign country, except instead of selling straw hats or oranges, they're selling designer watches and expensive handbags. But it certainly has a certain exotic flair since the clerks all speak in languages other than English.
For those of us who remember REAL department stores, walking through a Macy's department store today is quite another thing all together. The perfume and cosmetics counters have been extended to the point of almost taking up the entire first floor. There must be a tremendous profit in that stuff and women never seem to get enough of it. Just another mystery of life to me. How much make-up does a person really need? An awful lot, I guess.
Something new has been added since the last time I ventured into a department store. There's a whole new area of men's clothing that I can only presume they must call "the hobo section." Predominately in blacks and grays, the clothes look like stuff that someone tried to give away to the Salvation Army years ago, but was rejected.
And what a wide selection! That is if you're looking for lots of crumby looking T-shirts, lots of wrinkled, faded tie-dyed shirts with logos and slogans written on them that have no meaning whatsoever. And jeans, jeans, jeans. Nothing even remotely dressy, it's clothing to work on the car in. The garments are sort of biker/gothic, I suppose. And I'm no biker and I ain't even remotely gothic. But lots of men must want that look, because that section is the largest part of the men's department.
There is still a small department for men's suits and shoes - but very little of what would be considered traditional men's sport clothes. The rest of the store is all women's things. So much for department store selection. Things aren't too much better for the guys out in the mall, either. While there are dozens, maybe a hundred shops for women, there is literally one men's store. I don't count places like Abercrombie and Finch, which cater to adolescent taste, if you pardon the expression. There is no selection of men's stores anymore. And men's shoe stores? Forget it, unless you want athletic shoes.
But there are handbag shops, soap shops, every kind and style of women's clothing shops, women's shoe stores, jewelry stores, greeting card shops, kitchen stores, bed and bath shops, candle and wind chime shops, house wares and gift stores, plus all the kiosks which also cater to the tastes of women, and don't forget the most important place of all - the food court.
Today's mall is a shopping paradise if you happen to be a young working woman with lots of disposable income, I suppose. But if you're an aging male writer who is not into goth or black torn jeans or cargo shorts, then you best stay home, wear what you have, and be thankful that you can remember what real department stores were like and when service, quality, and class were a natural part of the shopping experience.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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