At some point I thought this was a good idea. I need them. It has them. A match of supply and demand affirmed the plan. Saturday afternoon I was going to the mall to buy pants. This was a classic case of playing something out in your head far better than it will in reality (like romance, dieting, or going to Applebee’s). In your head it’s an errand; an afternoon pit stop; a prerequisite to the day’s main events. In reality it’s a journey of horrendous proportion; a trip as clean as a pig dick; the fruition of hell on earth. There are only two types of men who love being at the mall: 13 year olds and effeminate rednecks. I am just barely neither of those. Reading this now tells you I made it out of there. I wish I could say the same for every guy that day, but leaving the mall unscathed is like a baby projecting sarcasm…when it happens, you cherish the crap out of it.
The parking lot was my first of many bad omens. I swooped in on a woman’s parting vehicle and waited for her to back out of the convenient spot with my blinker on. After watching her settle in and prepare her departure for what has to be a shuttle launch, I gestured with the obnoxious “c’mon already” hand motion usually reserved for small children and senior citizens at crosswalks. Any hand gesture that insinuates “c’mon” instantly brands you an asshole, but this lady’s sense of awareness was atrocious. Impatience got the best of me and I headed to the back of the parking lot which was somewhere between the outermost entrance and Iowa. Naturally it begins to rain. Parking my car – utter failure.
Like all white people in the mall I knew I needed to go to the Gap. It was then that I realized I entered on the exact opposite end of where I need to be. I confirmed this at the large kiosk map with the prominent YOU ARE HERE triangle label on it positioned perfectly to still beg the question “where the hell am I?” These mall maps are as helpful as a child’s geography placemat effectively navigating me to Nepal. Unfortunately I have set myself up for a trek that has me walking past nearly every store in a sea of various types of walkers, none of whom would be described as urgent. Only in the mall do you see strollers built for septuplets, teenage girls with their eyes on everything except for what’s in front of them, rampant farting because culprits can’t possibly be proven guilty, stop-n-chats taking place at the platforms of escalators, boys treating their mom like she’s the Unabomber, the concentrated obesity of an amusement park, and the complete absence of consideration that you’re in public. This mall mob produces heavy bloodshed and there’s only one way to get through it: be an insensitive power walking prick.
This situation is also where the influence of marketing takes full effect over my senses. I’m forced to walk past every single offering and even when they have no relevance to me I still acknowledge their storefront. Each store grabs my attention if only for a second, and thoughts are racing through my mind:
Pottery Barn, I’ll see you around Mother’s Day, but for now I have no use for $40 oven mitts. What up Foot Locker… Has Radio Shack sold anything since 1998? Their name alone literally combines two words consisting of a dated media type and a structure people store old shit in… Oh, Victoria’s Secret. Don’t gawk. Take a peek and try not to look like a prepubescent boy who just saw a boob. Okay not bad, pretty sexy…well that looks itchy…pretty sure that underwear is committing rape in 23 states…are those diamonds on a bra!? …How is that little Auntie Anne’s making this entire mall smell like soft pretzel ecstasy? …Johnston & Murphy is priced perfectly for the response “no, I’m just looking”… American Eagle, god 8th grade sucked… Hot Topic really does have everything a rebellious high school outcast living in upper-class suburbia would need. Nothing tells your loving parents to leave you alone like a t-shirt that says “I’m impressed you can read”… Things Remembered: providing gift ideas that ultimately become things forgotten… I see J. Crew’s having their annual 4% off when you spend $500 sale… Nothing brings hipsters and baby boomers together in one place like the Apple store… OshKosh B’gosh, you’re fun to say… Brookstone and Sharper Image, the leading competitors in cool shit nobody needs… Those kids in the Disney Store are so smug. Respect your elders. I’m the Aladdin and Lion King generation, Squirt. Frozen’s a cute effort though – in a straight to DVD kind of way – ya’ turds… It absolutely still smells like Auntie Anne’s.
I’ve nearly made it to the other end. I didn’t bother with the department stores. They’re time vacuums and it’s dispiriting to walk past future grooms registering in misery as their bride-to-be explains why this serving tray is perfect for cheese, but less than ideal for stuffed mushrooms. My journey included several juke moves, go-arounds, and shoulder checks. None of which I apologized for. When you walk four-wide at the pace of a White House tour in a heavily populated public place you’ve forfeited your entitlement to human decency. Unfortunately a lot of gentle souls uphold their politeness in situations like this. They’re dead now. Not me. Not today. The Gap is straight ahead. I can hear the trendy indie music and see its large photos of B-level actors in denim standing thumb in pocket and posing like they really need to pee. I’ve finally made it.
The Gap has roughly 900 different styles of jeans. Thankfully I know what I like so it was easy to narrow them down, but this would anger someone like my Dad who gets all his jeans from the same place he buys his books, cashews, electronics, and deodorant: Costco. The only styles he has to choose between are “Relaxed fit” and “Super Relaxed fit.” From there he just picks black or blue. Easy and done. I still care enough about keeping up with trends and projecting a certain style, but on this day after a long battle with mall zombies and being lured into buying things I didn’t need, I was envious of my Dad’s apparel preferences. I turn into him more and more every day so I imagine I’m not far off from having him pick me up a pair of black jeans, razor blades, and peanut butter next time he’s at Costco. But today, I’m at the Gap.
I rifled through the stack for what I want. Pair after pair the size I need isn’t seen. I’ve reached the bottom in disbelief. The employees who spend their entire shift folding clothes are not happy. Maybe if folding them back the way I found it wasn’t a denim Rubik’s cube then I would try to do it myself, but I’m not on the clock. Ultimately they don’t have what I need. This entire expedition has been a waste. I have to return to the herd and head back to the doors I came through what felt like three weeks ago. At the mall everything you experienced on one side of the aisle is exactly the same in the opposite direction. If this situation was a metaphor for your life you would be a prime candidate for serial killing or middle of the day robe wearing.
I walked outside into the rain reminiscent of Andy Dufresne escaping Shawshank. In reference to Red’s famous narrative from the movie, I too crawled through a river of shit except I didn’t come out clean on the other side. Andy crawled out shirtless. I came out pantsless. I returned home and informed my roommate of this failed journey. He, like most of you at this point couldn’t care less. But he did remind me of an avenue I could have taken to forgo this entire experience. It’s called “the internet” (or as Radio Shack calls it, the World Wide Web). I went online and what do you know? The Gap’s website had my size in all 900 styles and free shipping with my order.
The extremely hazy moral of this story: That long and painful Saturday reminded me why the American mall is dying, internet shopping is thriving, and you can’t expect to buy pants at the mall without someone getting hurt… I could also go for a soft pretzel.