The large map in the entry of the Trumbull Mall is incomprehensible. Nowhere does it say, “You are here“. Me, a true lover of maps, can’t figure out where I am in the monstrous shopping center, known to everyone as The Mall.
I’ve always loved mentally returning to favorite places, merely by studying the lines that indicate roads on a map – you know – that paper thing that people used to use to get from one place to another, before a GPS or app on a smartphone took over the task. I need a map of the mall.
I wander, gazing at all the stores, ones I’ve never heard of that specialize in cool clothing for teens and young adults. These stores don’t carry the Chico’s styles I wear, but designs that are eye catching and stylish on the manikins that model the outfits. The scene becomes other worldly. I haven’t been to a place like this in years. It seems as if I’m in a foreign country. No one speaks my language.
In a daze, I walk through JC Penny, and Target. I must be in an animated film, trotting along the road with Disney butterflies happily flittering around my head. I have no idea where I am or what I’m looking for. I don’t even remember who I must buy Christmas presents for, even though I have a list. Maybe that sweet smell of perfume I passed a short time ago had some ethereal drug that removes shoppers’ abilities to think – that makes them unable to resist the draw of items they don’t need, and perhaps don’t even want.
I buy a number of Christmas gifts in Macy’s. They have no shopping bags left – only plastic bags. The weight of my purchases lengthens my arms so that they feel as if they’ve grown a foot. My jacket seems to weigh an additional ten pounds. I make an effort not to let it slip off my arm or leave behind the bag with a toy for Trevor, as I move from store to store, glancing at the blinking lights, hearing the Christmas music. Who would think that carrying clothing could be so grueling?
Now it’s time to leave the throng of cheery shoppers. I remember that I parked near Macy’s and entered through the nearby Mall Entrance. I figure I’ll just exit the building to the parking lot and walk around. Not a good idea. When I find a door and look outside, I notice that it’s almost dark and this isn’t the part of the lot I saw upon entering the mall.
My fingers have lost their feeling from the heavy plastic bags that cut into my hands. Not one employee that I ask can tell me how to get out of this god-forsaken place or even give me directions to the exit door. I start walking anyway, hoping I’ll find my car. After some minutes of stumbling around in the dim light, I realize that nothing is familiar and turn back.
From the outside, I enter a Panera Bread coffee shop and discover there’s no way into the mall from the bakery, so return to the outside and retrace my steps back to Macy’s. Again in the mall, I try and walk faster, yet I’m drifting to the side like a drunken person, my feet shuffling along the floor, my hands almost bumping against my knees. At last, I find another exit door. Relief washes over me as I step onto a different section of the tarmac. I keep moving in the icy wind, hobble around a corner and with great relief finally recognize the door I initially entered.
Scanning the rows of tightly packed parked cars, my fingers and hands in pain from the cold and the weight of the bags, I finally glimpse my car. I climb in the front seat, start the car and put on the seat warmer. I’m safe from the monstrous mall — from that unknowable structure filled with objects that entice customers to enter the open, sparkling area crammed with stuff for sale. Items that are beautiful, alluring, and bright, that tempt shoppers to enter and be entranced by the sale, the deal, the shimmering colors and the charming sales clerk, to part with their cash or credit cards. Only later, when the bill arrives, will they realize they didn’t need or want, or perhaps even like that shirt, or sweater, or toy that they bought.
I’m relieved to be safe, out of the mall. I’m glad I brought the list with me so I could keep track of what I wanted to buy. I hope that on Christmas day, my family and friends will like their presents.