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The shopping mall

posted by Chad on 12/21/03

Despite being a pinky liberal tool, I do like the idea of going out at the end of the year and buying other people shit. It’s a chance to show appreciation to those that you care for, and to totally burn those that piss you off. My only problem with this seasonal activity is, that like everything else I do, it’s left to the last minute. The only thing I don’t put off is procrastination. When your double-checked Xmas list is as long as mine and you don’t have a clue where to start, there’s only one place to head. The mall.

I’ve never been one for the mall. It may be that I have a dick. Or just that I am a dick. There was a period in my teenage life where I’d go to Sears, kick back in a lazyboy and watch the hockey game on the biggest TV they sold. But glory days, they’ll pass you by. The last few times I was in the mall, I barely made it to the hour mark before I felt like my head was going to explode. I usually seek refuge in the crappy mall-bar that serves the special in-house beer, boatgas. What better way to fuel that shopping motor than to serve non-refreshing refreshments? The only reason I keep going back to that bar is a) it’s still beer, and b) what goes in must come out. It gives you the power of the stinkbomb exhaust, which you can lay on any deserving clerk of your choosing. My personal choice is the perfume section of a department store. O’dor de la fouff.


Stink like me.

Simple things make me happy. Yet shopping has never come easy to me. So I took an aging habit and applied it to this situation. If you’ve never succeeded in something before, you might as well try it stoned.

While hotboxing the car in the underground parkade, I was filled with dread. Chevy Chase-goes-on-vacation sort of dread. I didn’t know why and I passed it off as just stoner paranoia at the time, but in hindsight I realized it was foresight. I was right to feel fright. But making rhymes all night isn’t going to make the situation alright. It would only delay the inevitable trouble eh?

The underground parkade is a huge, disconnected labyrinth that I’m sure is haunted by ugly Muppets and David Bowie’s mullet. While I like to believe I have a good sense of direction, that skill set is lost when confined in malls. I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground, and I’d really rather just crawl into either of those than into the swarming mall. My way, I at least have some semblance of where I am. In Metrotown (which you may remember from such classic movies as “Neverending Story II”, “Neverending Story III”, and “please please please let it end”), I am lost.

If you think this article is taking forever to get going, then you are truly experiencing the situation as I lived it. Luckily, my ever depleting short-term memory forgot my fear and I got out of the car.

The first rule of shopping at the mall is to know where you parked. Do I need to mention the second rule of shopping? Any criminal worth his weight will stress the importance of knowing the escape plan. Being that it was Christmas shopping season, I was forced to park in the most remote distant stall in all of the mall. The pole nearest to my car had “B1” on it, giving me some sort of positioning coordinates. I wrote it on my shopping list and then began my search for a way up into the bee hive.

I found a cramped staircase marinating in urine. I climbed it holding my breath, up to the one closed door above. I stepped through it and was blinded by daylight. While thankful for the fresh air, I looked around and found myself at the far reaches of the groundlevel parking lot. I turned to go back into the stairwell, but the door had shut and there was no handle on the outside.

No going back now, Alice. Time to find not just one white rabbit, but one for everybody you know.

Sears was the closest entrance. To my delight, I entered in the lady lingerie section. Yet quickly it dawned on me that this wasn’t a Sears I was familiar with. The Sears I used to go to didn’t have the hoe-wear at the entrance, but buried away in a corner.

---Not to break up a completely incoherent flow, but the phone rang as I was typing this. The call display said “SEARS CLEANAIR”. A smarter person would put together a clever way to tie that into the article with really big syllable words, but I’ll just leave it with strange.---

That Sears I went to as a teen was new, with wide aisles and clear sight lines. This Sears looked more like a discount clothing store. The racks were packed right next to each other, with narrow aisles clogged by wide asses and baby carriages. I found the store escalator and rode it to get an idea of the store’s layout, a bird’s eye view, but with no luck. This Sears had managed to cram three floors into what appeared from the outside to be a rancher. All my past Sears experience was shot. The temptation of finding a comfy chair to sit in and a big TV was growing inside of me, but it wouldn’t further my current mission. Plus I didn’t have a drink to help me with the pasties.

Stoned, disorientated, and not with a clue where to start, I knew I needed out of Sears. I was afraid that I might be pulled into one of the fat mama’s gravitational pull and become just another chunk of cheese on her ass, or if lucky, another chin. The first exit from Sears I found led into the maze of merchandise known as Eaton Center. This is the old part of Metrotown, with oldschool tiling on the floors and the older clientelle. These stores sell mom and dad sweaters. The new part of Metrotown, called Metropolis, is the teeny bawp side with Nike, Old Navy, Gap, the video arcade and electronic gadgets that just won’t shut up. Given the span in my family’s ages, I’d have to venture to both sides. Neither of them were the light. But both were necessary. And for fuck sake, it was time to start buying if I was going to get out.

In my opinion, mall tiles need lanes painted on them like the streets. Common sense, simple common sense. When you drive, you can spot the fucktards that are out-of-place, honk, give them a menacing fist or the finger, and then move along. But there is no rhyme or reason to mall movement. Its bumpercar mania and apparently I have a “run into me” sign stuck on me somewhere. I smoked weed before going into the mall so that the surrounding mass mess of consumers wouldn’t nip at my head so much. Well, that failed miserably. This peace and love drug made me want to abandon shopping for others and instead search out a fly swatter so I could fight for some breathing space.

Like a pinball, I bounced around the mall looking for the quickest solution to everybody on my list. I didn’t have to find the utopia of Xmas cheer within my budget, but just enough for the person not to think “what a dink” upon opening the present. They could think whatever they wanted the day after, but as long I didn’t have to see the disappointment in their eyes on the 25th, I’d be happy. And just like my educational career, batting 60% is good enough for a pass.

The shops on either side of the aisles were filled with goods, but every time I went into one, the store’s staff start to sell sell sell. Salespeople on commission are the evil of the earth. Some of them are the commission devils, pushing their “expert advice” filtered by the wisdom of their own wallet. For every need you have, there is an option that’ll make the fucker “helping” you a few more bucks on the side. The other is the “How are YOU today? Need HELP with anything? I’ll be YOUR bestEST friend ever! Let me follow you around like a shadow!” The thought of the mall staff destroys any illusion I have of patience, and these people just fuel my frustration. SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LET ME SEE IF I CAN PAWN ANY OF THIS CRAP OFF AS A GIFT. Merry Christmas. It’ll be a Happy New Year if I can keep myself away from the likes of you.

I did find a couple of shopping outs that I will now pass along. The first is the book store. There’s something about giving a book that makes people think you put thought into it. This works for me because I’m an English major. If I can’t buy people books for Christmas, then my degree truly is worthless. A great subgenre of the bookstore is the music-book section, where people can read all about their favourite artist ever and think that they really truly know them.

Giving the music itself is difficult for a few reasons. Not only will they probably already own it, but most people I know like absolute shit. I simply can’t justify spending money on awful Country acts and derivate hoes-and-dough rappers. I rarely scrape together the coin to help finance independent bands that Spin magazine will claim to be the next act to save rock-n-roll. If I’m going to spend money on music these days, I’m going to damn well make sure it goes in the right direction.

Another great mall solution is the booths that lie in the middle of the mall walkways. It’s a great source of some weird and wacky shit. From these, I purchased a copy of Alice in Wonderland that is hollowed out, so instead of a story of drugs, it’s a place to store them. I also found this big spider shaped thing that you put onto your head. It starts vibrating and makes your fingers and toes tingle. Sound sexual? I got it for my girlfriend’s dad. These booths are filled with things as strange but not limited to: plug-in pictures, flying boomerang helicopters, “handmade” “ethnic” goods that have mass produced in a foreign slave shop written all over of it, novelty slippers (I’m hoping for a fleet of these from Santa), and smelly candles that can do nearly anything you can imagine if only you embrace it’s aromatherapy goodness. For the person that has everything, these middle of the hall mall booths certainly will provide something. What that something is depends on the crazy folks in your local area and your own sick twisted sense of humour.

Travelling from one obscure booth to the next led me to the dead dark end of the mall where few people dare to purchase. Yet what I found at the end shop of my journey, out on the far corners of consumerism, was for me and me alone. It took me back to a former safe haven of mine. The store? As Seen on TV. The products? All the infomercial goodness that I love so dearly.

Readers who followed my early writings back on a Big Meaty site I used to run will know my fascination with infomercial products. The two of you who are still with me today may recall that I tried to push a certain infomercial personality to celebrity status. Not the “set it and forget it” cooker guy. Not a 100-piece knife set fellow. Not even a Madame that could read your future for six bucks a minute. Despite that my former URL now shills shit and pop-ups, the legacy of Billy Mays lives on.

Billy Mays used to sell infomercial cleaning products by intimidating his female cohost, yelling screaming and nearly losing control of his bowels due to his enthusiasm in pushing his product of the week. I met him as the OxiClean man. He roared about the wonder of the TotalTiger vacuum. We shared the wonder OrangeClean and OrangeGlow. Ka-Boom was the cleaner his personality was built for, exploding in disinfecting bliss. Since then, time has past and our paths have drifted apart. But to look back a couple years later, to see that the angry bear has pressed on, currently lending his skills to help the Robo-Matic (a 60-tools-in-one solution), it’s good to know that both of our hearts went on.

Billy, I may love another now, but you’ll always have a place in my heart. Congratulations on your successful journey. It takes a rare and special man to attain an entire display case in the As Seen on TV store. I hope you’ve attained the inner peace that late night selling made so hard for you to find. May your Christmas be merry and your New Year’s happy.

What would a Christmas post be without a sentimental crap climax? Now we just need a short conclusion to wrap this one up and stick it under the tree on the front page.

The day and the gates of mall shops drew to a close, and I was left to get my presents back home. I navigated my way back towards Sears, as that was my entry to the mall. But there was no access to the staircase I sprang from. I found a nearby escalator that sank me into the recesses of the mall, and to my delight the pole at the bottom said “B1”. But so did the one next to it. And the one next it. And so did every pole I could see. Apparently, B1 isn’t a specific area in the parkade, but rather the code word for the entire floor.

My final search-and-destroy mission of Christmas shopping was easier to solve than the gifts. On my keychain was a rarely used car alarm. I pressed the button and I heard noise. I pressed again, and heard beeping again. I mashed the buttons and heard a racket of startling noise echoing towards me. I followed my ears, and behold, there she was, my flashing honking ride out of the mall. Removing the weight from my shoulders and dumping it in the car, I slumped in the driver seat and finally listened to some non-Christmas music. The shit emo-rock sounded like the birth of God’s son, signalling the end of the yuletide shopping experience. Hallelujah.

Boxing Day, I don’t care how cheap your electronics are. Fuck you.

-fouff
chad@whatever-dude.com

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