I went to Southdale on Monday, the first day it reopened. Let’s just say you had your choice of parking spots.
But not your choice of doors. The first two doors I tried were locked and had signs indicating the mall had been closed “by government mandate.” Actually, I’m pretty sure it was closed by a guy, maybe named Jerry, who had a lot of keys on a ring connected to his belt by a chain, and he did it because of government mandate, but I’m not here to quibble. I’m here to shop!
I went to another entrance and saw three people leave the building — a dad with a bag from a store, and two kids. It made me want to blink and rub my eyes: Did I hallucinate that? Has commerce-deprivation syndrome set in, and I’m imagining happy shoppers doing normal things like nothing happened?
This door was not locked. I walked in. Do you know who Howard Carter was? He’s the guy who first entered King Tut’s tomb after it had been sealed for millennia. I know how he must have felt, except there wasn’t any curse attached to entering Southdale. At least, as far as I know.
Maybe there’s an ancient legend: “Let any person who enters this mall without a mask be thrice-damned for all eternity!” But I didn’t worry. I was masked and gloved, because it’s totally normal now to dress for shopping like you’re going to do an autopsy.
I looked down the hall to the department store: The gates were closed, and the hall looked like a caved-in mine shaft. Ah: I finally spotted an open store! It’s the cellphone store.
I could wander in and see if I could change my plan to something cheaper, but I’d done that in the early days when COVID stalked the land like a wolf circling a campfire. A clerk and I sat at a table and talked with naked faces, never wondering when they’d last bleached the surfaces, and afterward I’d touched an escalator handrail while eating a pretzel with my hands — all of which now seems like jumping up from a World War I trench festooned with pink feather boas and shouting: “Light me up, Hans!”
It’s a wonder I’m still alive.
A running shoe store also was open. As were a few clothing stores that did not cater to my demographic, alas. There was one kiosk open: the fellow who repairs broken phone screens.
So I realized that if I wanted to do my part to boost the mall economy, I would have to buy a pair of running shoes and then buy a phone, drop it to make the glass shatter and run to the kiosk to get a repair.
I’ve never felt so guilty for not buying anything.
At one point I saw a lit sign for a chocolate shop and headed over to get some confections, but the store wasn’t open. I felt deflated, because I wanted to make a mercy purchase. So I decided to go back to the mall every day until I find an open store that has something I need, like a pair of jeans.
Not that the mall stores carry my size. They don’t. I do not exist in their calculations, but if you see me walking around with baggy jeans and an oversized shirt, consider it proof that I engaged in philanthropic commerce. Who knows: There’s a chance that all those quarantine snacks bumped me out to a size the store carries.
Maybe that was the plan all along. It’s a conspiracy: Shut the malls, make us gain weight, then sell us new pants. It’s a plot by the Belt-Industrial Complex.