Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | November 30, 2010


I have a confession: I am a mall rat.

I love going to the mall. I love walking the halls and promenades; I love window shopping; and don’t even get me started on the joys of people-watching.

One of my favorite places in the mall is the food court. Not the new one upstairs; the one spread out along either side of the second level, with tables set along the walkways that’s more of a food passage than a food court. I mean the original one on the lower level, down by Sears. A dozen assorted fooderies along the rim, with three descending levels in the center and a low dropped ceiling above gave it a cozy, yin feel. The tables were wood veneer; the chairs had green padded seats. It was different from the large, open, boringly white food courts at other malls, their long rows of tables feeling like a high school cafeteria. This food court had character.

Because I live two minutes away from one of the largest malls in the country, I can indulge myself as often as I want. One lesson I’ve learned the hard way after living here for twenty-five years, though, is never to set foot anywhere within half a mile of the place between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. The traffic is out of control; parking virtually impossible. Once the New Year has been rung in, the hordes will thin and I will get my mall back.

So it was with more than a little trepidation that I realized I needed a new battery for my watch the other day, and that the mall kiosk was the most economical and efficient means for replacing it. Rather than braving the insanity that is Holiday Season at the mall, I asked DS just to drop me off there while I ran in and accomplished my errand as quickly as possible, then swing back and pick me up. Parking, historically, is a joke this time of year.

Instead, DS — earning the “D” — said he wanted to come in with me. He hadn’t been there in ages. Also, neither of us had been there within the last month or two since the lower level had flooded in the recent torrential rains. We’d heard that about one hundred stores had been damaged, along with my beloved food court. Somehow repairs had been effected in time for Black Friday, to allow the spending orgy to commence right on schedule.

So off we headed on our two-minute journey.

Imagine my shock — tinged with civic dismay — at the dozens of close-in empty parking spaces. The place was no busier than any other weeknight of the year; considerably less so than some, once we got inside. The hallways weren’t deserted, but they were far from bustling. I listen to the news. I’ve heard the rosy projections, the pronouncements that the recession is over, the reassurances that things are getting better; all of it. But this is where the rubber meets the road of the economy. Let me tell you something, folks: regardless of what the pundits say, we are still in very deep economic shit.

But I still needed a new battery for my watch. Once we dropped it off at the kiosk, we walked around for a while. We especially wanted to see how they had fixed up the old food court after the flooding, so we headed toward Sears. There it was…and my heart sank.

No more concentric sunken levels; no more dropped ceilings; no more tile. The painted floor was one huge expanse of white, all on the same level as the mall floor. The same selection of eateries marched around the perimeter, but somehow it didn’t look round anymore. And the dropped ceiling was gone; in its place a high open expanse, exposed ductwork painted industrial off-white. The tables and chairs were all new: white, metal, and worst of all, arranged in neat rows, giving it that dreaded cafeteria ambiance. It looked like every other food court in every other mall in every other city across the country; its character was gone.

Time is unidirectional. I know this. Things change. I accept this. But I can mourn, even briefly, the passing of a space. So I did.

Then I picked up my watch. Good as new.

I just hope to hell we can say that about the economy sometime soon.



  1. i, too, am a mall rat, but in a rural area (at least, it’s classified as rural – doesn’t feel that way to me) our mall has shrunk from its advertised high of “over 40 stores” 15 years ago to the current sad state of 9. two of those are locally owned resale/antique shops, another is a locally owned dress shop in its second attempt at a new location in three years. the economy has been tanking where I live for a long time now. it is almost too depressing to shop at the remaining stores!

  2. Out in mid-america small town, we are still loosing jobs, and replacing them with lesser jobs. This is one of those years that gifts are the stuff you’ve needed for awhile, cautiously bought and wrapped, often pre-used.

  3. The Mall is in a sad state, indeed.

    I may meet you for dinner one night; the Eldest has requested Christmas loot from the Sanrio Store.

  4. And here I’d rather eat a rock than set foot in the mall. Takes all kinds, I guess.

  5. It’s funny, I’m not a mall rat by any means but an empty or decrepit mall is always a sad sight.

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