This past Sunday night I decided to go power walking through Crossgates Mall in Albany. A large complex of consumerism mad suburban youth, soccer moms, and thugs. I needed some activity, I hadn’t hiked or rode my bike since last week. I was starting to get antsy I needed some sweaty armpits and some crotch rash fast or I was going to fatten up and be cooked on a spit at some Chanukah party at a local singles event near you. So I drove the 1 ½ miles to the mall and proceeded to enter. I have a general distaste for people who shop at malls, work at malls and hang out at malls. Is it the tree hugging, anti conformist, semi liberal, hippy, who doesn’t like to spend money person that hates everything about the mall? Yes it is, but that same person which is yours truly, finds a certain fascination for the mall, the bastion of capitalism that takes place in this open aired market place of the modern day, the progress of man as they make more sophisticated displays and products to be forced upon unsuspecting mall goers in the name of progress. The mall is like the ultimate in free choice yet at the same time it contains a sense of closed mindedness and anti-that of free choice. You are free choose whatever is displayed but say you wanted some clothing or food products that are not available at the stores common to malls, you simply could not have these products. So in a sense stores like Best Buy control the music we listen to and electronics we use. Stores like Barnes and Nobles and Borders control what we read by their placement of books and unwillingness to carry some titles that are not of the staffs liking. As with the eateries that grace the food court and force folks to clog their arteries with their colorful displays of food that beacons the suburban parents to forgo cooking healthy sit down meals for the convenience of fast food.
So let me ask you do malls really offer choice, or are they just displaying what looks like choice but in reality is nothing more than different stores selling the same products at every single location they have. Abercrombie, the Gap, American Eagle, Pac-Sun, Spencer’s and all your other favorites merely control your style and taste. It is actually in a way controlling the generation. No one has to think anymore because the multi national corporation does it for you. You can go into a store, be it a book store, record store or clothing store and the days style and taste is all laid out nice a neat for you to digest and become accustomed to. It started with MTV and while MTV still has control of the minds of the youth it has spread to almost everything. Maybe that is why kids are becoming dumber and dumber and more boring than ever. They play their video games, look at their myspace profiles and shop for clothing in the mall so they can look like everyone else. The whole package, and then they go to college so they can make money and have kids that look like and act like everyone else. Total assimilation is what I call it, the culture of different environments is melding together to create one anti-diversity nation. Its not like chain stores cater to one area, Abercrombie and The Gap are the same everywhere as they convince the youth in America the dress and act the same as everyone else. Then the kids who decide to be different are labeled as troubled or deviant youth. You know the kid who decides she would rather dress differently then everyone else on her cul-de sac and maybe some guy who is into skateboarding rather than video games is labeled once again as deviant. It is the kids who become different and have their own views instead of listening to whatever the latest show on MTV says is cool, that mad America great. You know people like Ford, Watson and Carnegie.
So I am doing laps around the mall walking fast, sweating, swerving in and out of little 12 year old girls dressed like hookers and 14 year old boys with eye rings and than I see the Abercrombie crowd and then the Hot Topic crowd and then I see the fat folks chowing down in the food court, and its al rushing by, I am not looking at the stores I know what they have. Why shop if you know exactly what is going to be there? That’s why I like Marshalls and TJ Maxx- stores with random assortments of madness. My feet are sore as I make my 6th lap around the mall, suddenly a cell phone kiosk guy stops me, “hey man can I ask you a question?” I hear from the center as I put the anti lock brakes on and come to sudden halt. I look at this kid in a white shirt and slicked up greasy hair. Him and this other guy, the kind of guys you know drive a Pontiac Sunfire with wal mart spinning rims and a huge wing on the back in case the front wheels lift off the ground when they floor their 125 hp engine revving up to 4000 rpms. So I am looking at sunfire boy and his partner who seemed to be more of the pimped out civic with tinted windows and thumping bass kind. “What kind of phone do you have?” I am the anti-phone by the way. I dislike the phone culture, you know cool phone with a camera and video player on it. I reluctantly got a phone after my old man said I couldn’t just not have one- so he agreed to buy me one and pay for it. So I pull out my beauty, one of those old Nokia base models that no matter what you do will not die, I have dropped and it broke into 4 pieces which snap right back together, then I dropped it into 2 feet of water, it was still on afterward, maybe it has lasted so long because I rarely take my phone with me- it sits in my car garnering missed calls, from people who know that of all places a phone does not belong in the woods. So I drove a hard bargain, I was flattered that although scruffy and sweaty I looked like the kind of guy that would want to buy a new phone even if the one I had worked perfectly fine. Maybe a new phone would get me chicks I laughed to myself as I knew that there actually are some folks that think phones are somewhat of a fashion statement.
So I continued walking very fast through the throngs of folks spending their hard earned cash on things they neither needed or really liked. Then suddenly I stopped for air and I was in front of a music store. I did need something, but by going in wouldn’t I be a hypocrite, nah not really since even though I preach of distaste it doesn’t mean I cannot buy something once in a while. I went in to the store found what I wanted. A new CD binder that can hold 72 CD’s. It was $12 but when I brought it up it happened to be half off. I shuffled out of the disgusting chain music store that taught kids and adults alike exactly what sort of music would be cool for the next 6 months.