September 22nd, 2019


Common Areas


I don’t often ‘do’ large malls. I’m not a hermit, I just don’t enjoy shopping, except for when I’m trailing around after my wife each Saturday, in our favorite local grocery store. Shopping for food is different, to me, than mall-roaming, and since I do most of the cooking at our home, it makes sense for me to buy the food with her. All I need to do now is learn to scuff my feet a bit as I slowly walk, and feebly hang onto her coat sleeve, and I’ll never have to lift another grocery bag into the car. I know this because no one expects ‘old’ people to do anything. Sooner or later, (probably sooner) I’m going to be a tottering, dry-humored, grumpy old man, and the store people will take my groceries to the car for me. Pretty cool.


Anyway, as I started to say, I don’t often ‘do’ large malls, so, finding myself at a Burlington mall, waiting for my wife, my daughter, and her boyfriend (my daughter’s boyfriend, not my wife’s) to shop, was quite an experience. I didn’t say that it was a good experience.


After several hours of shopping, which passed like several seconds for my daughter, Emily, and several days for me, I was ready for a break, and decided to head out from the dress shop I had been dragged into, to find a common area of the mall with some comfortable chairs. My wife isn’t much of a shopper either (thankfully), but she was trying to help Emily choose some clothes. This is something I would not be good at doing, and would much prefer a two-hour root canal to it. No, I’m serious. And, my daughter’s boyfriend, who is a good guy but untrained in the fine art of slipping out of a dress shop unnoticed, stayed there with the ladies. I looked back into the store as I left, and noticed he was serving well as a mobile clothes tree, following them around the store, with mounds of ladies’ clothing weighting down his arms. He’ll learn.


Escaping a dress shop isn’t especially difficult, if you remember one important tactic. All you need to do is tell your wife, (or girlfriend) that you will be glad to take all their heavy packages off their hands, and wait for them to finish their shopping. Be sure to add that there is ‘no rush.’ This always seals the deal. You see, it’s a trade off for both of you. She would actually like to sit down, too, but wants to finish shopping, unhindered by her bags (or by you), so she will allow you to go relax. And, you want to go sit down, but will have to sit there with all of her pink-flowered plastic shopping bags by your side.


I did find a common area, quite easily, as a matter of fact. There were a few empty padded chairs, and I soon picked one out. From where I sat I could still see the girls and the boyfriend wandering around in the dress shop. My chair was fairly comfortable, but I noticed it wasn’t exactly a recliner, and had a really upright back. The mall people probably planned this, as they don’t mind if you rest, but don’t want you to get TOO comfortable. (Unconscious people don’t spend much money.) To do that you have to be in a coma in a hospital, or be a member of Congress, which is pretty much the same thing.


I sat in my common-area circle, in my upright, padded chair, without realizing what a mindless part of the circle of life I had become. Suddenly, with the slightly sickening feeling of an aging clone, I began to look around me. There were six chairs, all generally facing each other, and four of those chairs were filled with me and three other fifty-something men; all of us in tee shirts, winter coats, jeans and bifocals; avoiding eye contact with each other, at all costs. All of us had varying quantities of gray hair, crows-feet, and belly fat. We also all shared the same bored expression. I quickly glanced at a man to my left, pretending to look down the mall hallway behind him, and noticed his pink plastic bags from the very store my wife and daughter were torturing Emily’s boyfriend in. I then more boldly scanned the circle, and confirmed that every one of us men had several carefully-guarded plastic store bags by our sides. Moments later I looked down from absent-mindedly admiring the mall skylight above, just in time to see the man directly across from me absent-mindedly admiring the mall skylight above. At that point I got a little nervous, and began making notes on my phone for this very column, before I forgot all of this. After a while I looked to my right, to see another man making notes on his phone, probably before he forgot all of this. Now, you won’t believe this, and I realize that yawning is very contagious, but, believe it or not, all four of us were soon yawning! If we had all suddenly fallen asleep, hundreds of dollars of ladies’ ‘stuff’ would have been up for grabs by any mall-wandering thief. Come to think of it, that would be an easy way to shoplift. You just wait for all the tired husbands to nod off in the common areas, and snatch away… pretty colored bags and all.


As I started out saying, it had been a long time since I had been to a big mall, and I couldn’t believe it as I found myself, with my wife, and most of my kids and grandkids in an even bigger mall in New Hampshire, only days later. That trip was to celebrate one of my granddaughters’ sixth birthday, so I didn’t complain. It was great to see her having so much fun, and I didn’t end up holding the bag.




George’s World,” a new 740 page collection of George’s columns from The World, is available at xlibris.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and your favorite bookstore. “The Smoke And Mirrors Effect,” George’s first novel, can be seen at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Happy Reading!


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