Maybe the mall isn’t the Mecca it’s made out to be

  • MEGAN KRUSE / edge correspondent
  • Monday, August 28, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

Don’t pretend you didn’t know that it was coming. It happens every year.

Summer rolls peacefully along, quiet enough to hear your mosquito bites scabbing over, until the mid-August madness commonly known as back-to-school shopping begins.

The flood of advertisements wipes out the hardiest of mailboxes, and try as you might to resist, you’re pulled in. You’re headed for the mall.

The mall, what is it about that air-conditioned Mecca that draws us in like flies to sugar water?

It might begin innocently enough. "Just a quick stop," you rationalize, marching toward those double doors with a clear head and enough cash for a pair of socks, nothing more.

Fast-forward three hours and you’re headed back to the car with glazed eyes, bearing a Cinnabon, four pairs of shoes and a singing bass from As Seen On TV, toting a very exhausted credit card.

It’s a story that’s all too familiar to those of us who have had to make room on the wall for a rubber fish that belts out "Proud Mary."

It’s time to throw off the layer of colorful signs and Muzak to expose the mall as it truly is, a yawning chasm of terror lurking somewhere between the food court and the rows of custom T-shirts.

As students facing another nine months of classes, we’re being stalked by the beast like no one else. It’s taking over our lives, gulping down the profits of an entire summer at a job that pays minimum wage.

Granted, no one can be expected to show up on the first day of school clad in strategically placed leaves, but is all this fuss really necessary? What do we get in exchange for the long hours spent cut off from the outside world, sandwiched between the walls of a dressing room?

If you are one of the many who consider the mall to be an essential element of your social scene, think of all the other places you could choose to gather — places with access to sunlight — that don’t require going broke in exchange for things you don’t need.

The mall’s reign of terror, fueled by massive advertising campaigns and our need to define ourselves by what we own, is growing every day. So what is a foot soldier in the much-needed war against the mall to do?

If you can maneuver the Saturday afternoon halls of Bellevue Square with more ease than a police officer parting the sea of rush hour traffic, a comfortable first step in declawing the commercial beast is to return at least one thing at the end of a day of shopping.

Think of the space it will take up in your room. Think of the women and children in sweatshops around the world. Is it worth making a Cambodian woman work for $40 a month to have that Gap fleece vest?

If guilt doesn’t get you, maybe the money you’ll save will. The corporate powers that make up the mall don’t need your hard-earned cash. They’ll get it from someone with less willpower, the kind of person most often seen leaving the parking lot with dilated pupils and enough receipts to write a term paper on.

If you can still remember what food tastes like outside of the food court, you may be ready to step up your resistance against the enemy. Try this: Don’t go to the mall. There are plenty of shops out there where the salespeople don’t see you as a walking dollar sign. The challenge is to find them, and attack the glutton where it counts: profit.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t need to send you scurrying toward sale signs like a frightened rabbit. Get what you need, but nothing more. And if possible, get if from somewhere besides the mall.

There was once life without the demon and, with a little deprogramming, there might be once again. Besides, adding some leaves to your wardrobe might make high school just a little more interesting.

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