Thursday, December 31, 2009

The mall

Through a combination of jetlag, a quicker than expected oil change, and a need for a new duvet cover, I found myself at a mall at 9:50 this morning. I walked past the food court, drawing suffocating breaths of vaporized sugar and frying oil into my lungs, nodded at the happy, aging mall walkers in their sweatsuits, and arrived in front of Macy's. There, nine other people were already assembled, gazing beyond the closed glass doors into the still dark store. It suddenly dawned on me that for the first time in my life, I was one of that special class of American shoppers who wait, salivating, outside consumer meccas until the first-shift manager slides the doors away, turns the lights on, and beckons us in.

While I waited for the clock to strike 10:00, I read signs. Outside Macy's was a sign warning people they could be kicked out of the mall if they didn't follow the Mall Rules. The first dozen rules were sentence fragments, such as Rule 1: Behavior that threatens the safety or well-being of other mall shoppers, and Rule 7: Illegal drug use and drug paraphernalia. The grammar police clearly have their work cut out for them.

The Mall Rules sign stood near the now-quiet remains of a Santa photo-op display. Artifical trees decorated with starched handknit balls grew on astroturf next to Santa's little hut, surrounded by giant drifts of polyester stuffing and sparkling plastic fluff. In the spirit of holiday cheer, a laminated sheet of paper taped to the white picket fence barked, "NO LEANING ON THE FENCE," then, as an afterthought, added, "NO TOUCHING THE SNOW."

The local Macy's has much in common with Freiburg's Karstadt, but rather than noticing similarities this morning, I noticed differences--in the color palette, in the clothing sizes, in the sprawl of perfume and cosmetics, and in the territorialness with which brand name corporate giants hold sway in different parts of the store. While my needlessly wide automobile with its pudgy steering wheel sat outside in a generously large space on the surface parking lot, I was inside Macy's, riding up an escalator wide enough for a healthy family of three.

The only duvet cover I found was the single floor model. Americans do duvet covers about as often as Germans do top sheets. So rather than buying locally from a national chain, I went home and bought online from Land's End.

No comments: