Skip to main content
This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Monday, October 2, 2023

I’m getting old.

It’s the thing you say when you get into that crotchety “get off my lawn” mood. When an otherwise ordinary thing becomes an Event.

Ralph and I went to the mall today.

To be fair, we didn’t “go to the mall”, we went to the AT&T store, which happens to be in the mall whether we like it or not. We spent maybe a half hour in the mall, but by the time we left I felt like I’d been assaulted.

I was exhausted and needed a nap.

Two things worked against me. One, I’m not a thirteen year old girl. Two, I’m REALLY not a thirteen year old girl.

When I was a thirteen year old girl, you’d go to the mall and look at the cute boys and eat Sbarro at the food court and like it. You’d go to Spencer and think the jewelry box with the pink unicorn head coming out of it was so cool and you absolutely needed it.

Today I just wiped my brow and thanked the gods that I escaped without getting hepatitis.

The AT&T store was fine. It was empty, except for a single employee sitting at a table staring at her phone, who looked marginally pleased to have something to do when we walked in.

It was getting to and from it that was the challenge.

To be clear: nothing went wrong. Nothing at all. It was a perfectly ordinary day at the mall with no drama whatsoever. But that was enough.

First you are treated to an auditory assault. You’ve got your garden variety Muzak in the hallways, but every store needs its own brand of noise. Victoria’s Secret thinks they’re a nightclub, with the pounding bass and flashing lights to accompany it. Forever 21 goes more techno, but clearly they have to compete for hallway real estate by trying to out-volume each other.

You go from that to country to pop to coffee house before you even get to the escalator, which, when you get there, will be closed.

Yes, this is true. And since the stairs were at the opposite end of the mall, we decided the shortest route to our destination would be into Macy’s and up the escalator there, then out of Macy’s and back down the hall.

That’s when you’re treated to the olfactory assault.

It is a true fact that I don’t think I’ve ever come out of a department store not sneezing.

The escalators are only ever on the opposite side of the perfume department which is… wow. I honestly have no idea how you choose a fragrance when every one of them is bathing a counter and the coifed-and-beruffled woman behind it.

Sometimes the women stand in the aisle with little cards bathed in perfume and wave them at you as you walk by. They ask if you’d like a sample.

No, thank you, I can taste it just fine from here.

Then when you get out of Macy’s you walk directly past a coffee kiosk, so now you have dark roasted perfume scent coming at you.

Immediately next to that was someone mopping the floor with one of those eye-watering lemony ammonia cleaners, which to be fair, was marginally more appetizing than perfume.

We arrived at the AT&T store, spent three minutes ordering new phones, which was the impetus for our visit, then had to run the gauntlet all over again on our way out.

Since we have iPhones, and we wanted to make sure we were getting the best deal, we swung by the Apple store.

The Apple store is an olfactory nightmare all its own. I don’t know what combination of roadkill and angel’s tears comprise that stench, but I don’t exaggerate when I say it smells like a zoo.

It has always smelled this way and I can’t understand it. Given the gaggles of groupies who flock there, it is ripe for snarky metaphors.

Once you get over your inability to breathe, then you have to contend with this flock, which is inevitably comprised of hairy teenagers, old hippies, and women with double-wide strollers and their shrieking spawn who touch everything with Skittle-covered fingers.

In other words… just another day at the mall.

Which leads to the final assault: the actual assault.

There is a store we must pass that sells beauty products, a little boutique-y store full of hand creams and face masks and wrinkle serums and hair pastes. The name of it can be anything. There is one in every mall. You know it because there is always one jauntily-clad employee hovering nonchalantly in the hallway outside the door with a handful of “free samples.”

They want you to have a free sample very, very badly.

You cannot walk by with a smile and a no-thank-you. These people follow you like the locusts that they are, insisting that you are so beautiful and this cream will really make your eyes pop, and here, just try it, you will love it. They promise.

Once, a long time ago, I made the mistake of being polite to one of these people. I had my face slathered and my hands massaged and I was somehow dragged inside and paraded in front of a mirror to see how stunning that cream had just made my skin look. I felt like the emperor with no clothes as I pretended that yes, I really really saw the miraculous transformation visited upon me by thirty seconds of contact with their Super Cream.

It was mortifying and I had to extricate myself with a great untangling of limbs from their insistent grasp.

Once, not that long ago, in this very mall, as they thew out their pitch and tried to reel me in, I ignored them and kept going, only to be followed and have a handful of cream slapped on my face that ended up in my eyeball and resulted in a days-long irritation.

Ralph was so incensed that he had words with management, then wrote them a letter, then posted scathing things about them on social media. To no avail, I might add, as they still exist and continue doing what they do.

Since then I have given them berth.

As we navigated the mall today I made a sharp turn and walked to the opposite side of the hallway, pretending to be very engrossed in whatever was in the window of the store there, which was a little weird given that the store that used to be there is now closed and there is nothing but a blackened window.

It didn’t stop them from calling out to come get a free sample, but I was far enough away that unless they were planning to projectile-vomit a wrinkle cream at me, there was no chance of being accosted.

Of course, one of those diversions put us directly beside a man with a feather duster who was vigorously spewing tumbleweeds of dust and grime from the top of his kiosk. I had to grab Ralph’s arm and yank him sharply in the other direction to avoid getting a hair-ful of crud.

I feel like I should have gotten a couple of coins and a bonus cherry for executing that maneuver.

When we arrived home we blew our noses, washed our hands thoroughly, and probably should have gotten a tetanus shot or something.

I can’t wait to never go back to the mall again.

Hilariously, the woman from the AT&T store called us the minute we stepped out of the car in front of our apartment. She had forgotten to have us complete some paperwork for our phone trade-in, and could we let her know when we could come back to do it?

I told here I’ll be there as soon as my Hazmat suit arrives from Amazon.

Photo: the view from today’s trip. You can get a little glimpse of the offending Assault Store on the right where the woman is standing in the hallway.