I went to the Mall of America today, to take my daughter to return a pair of shoes to DSW. She had ordered the shoes online, but they were ultimately not what she needed so we were taking them back to the store to keep from having to pay the return shipping charges (I’ve definitely inherited my mother’s proud “thrifty” streak). The Mall is not really some place I enjoy going to – it’s too big, and where I want to be is invariably a long way away from where I am – but when I am there, I try to make the experience if not enjoyable, at least … entertaining. Often that means a minor splurge such as a Caribou Coffee Northern Lite Latte (caramel, of course). Today we went all out, and stopped at Cinnabon, resolutely refusing to feel guilty about it on any level.
For all of its largeness and brazen touting of wild commercial excess, I have to admit that the Mall of America does what it does very well; one of those things it does well that I myself greatly appreciate is have lots of benches scattered about where foot weary folks can sit and take a break. I use these benches a lot, because I’m not much of a shopper. While my daughter is in a store, I often wait for her outside, cell phone in hand in case she needs me to come in and look at something, and I people watch.
It being fairly early on a week day, it was a great time to people watch. The Mall was not yet too crowded. Folks were cordial, relaxed. They wanted to be there. And as I watched, it seemed like I was seeing more than just people walking by. I was seeing people. They were not throngs, they were individuals. And I started to wonder about them, about who they were, what their lives were like, why they came to be who they were at that moment of time when they crossed my path.
The smiling business man in tailored, neutral clothes who always had his phone held up to his ear. Yet it seemed as though he was sharing rather than conducting business – not single-mindedly focused on his conversation, but definitely was vested in whomever it was on the other end. Just what was it that had made him put on socks that morning which were black with startlingly bright, multi-colored triangles all over them? (I could glimpse them as he walked.) They did not match the rest of his ensemble. Were they a conscious decision to declare some kind of impish freedom from the expected? A deliberate note of whimsy in an otherwise serious environment? Colorblindness? Some devilish prank by a wife who lays out her husband’s attire? For whatever reason, it was glorious.
The somewhat scruffy, nerf-herder looking young man who was swiftly guiding an aging, lumpy but engaged one-legged woman in a wheelchair across the Mall rotunda. He wasn’t pushing the wheelchair, he was trotting next to it, propelling it from the armrest. He wasn’t running, he wasn’t even rushing, but they were definitely both booking it, like a sleek sculling shell cutting through water. Both had smiles on their faces. Not wacky, crazed smiles, but “gosh, this is fun” smiles. I like to think that the woman was the younger man’s mother, I just got that vibe. And it was glorious.
The young girl pulling at her daddy’s hand as she fairly skipped towards the Barbie Playhouse exhibit. Her eyes were shining and she was excited. We made eye contact, and she gave me a gorgeous smile. This was not a child who was projecting herself onto an unbelievable plastic ideal – this was a little girl who was simply going to see a full sized Barbie playhouse, and she was stoked! She was not processed, she was not emasculated, she was not living out a fantasy, nor was she a sad amalgam of grown up pressures and unrealistic expectations – she was going to have fun! And she was glorious.
The frazzled yet incredibly friendly Lego salesperson who literally cooed when I brought a miniature Lego X-wing fighter up to her counter to purchase (shhh… it’s a little surprise for my 24 year old son: he’s been a Lego lover forever and a big Star Wars fan, as well). The older lady in Macy’s with the hair dyed jet black, the shiny black patent leather sandals and the black and white flippy dress cinched tight around her waist who was doing a pretty good pushback against advancing age, but losing the battle nonetheless. The two tattooed and hip (not hipster – hip) sales associates in Ragstock who laughed and joked back at me about their attempts to wrestle a skirt onto a pale, unyielding mannequin.
It’s kind of funny, how things go. This post actually started out in my head as a discussion about the sublimity of timing and chance, centering on James S. A. Corey’s Expanse novels: its duology of authors, its being picked up for a television series from the SyFy channel, how Orbit books acquired a third trilogy in the series before the second trilogy had even been finished (the announcement of the additional volumes was released on the day the first book of the second trilogy dropped). Don’t ask me what loopy logic brought me to this post instead, just know there was originally something in my head that linked those events with the thoughts I’ve presented here, but mercifully I’ve given up on trying to voice that linkage. Maybe I’ll write about the Expanse and James S. A. Corey later, when I can give them their due.
So in the end, there’s not much point to this Gimbling other than to perhaps give a nod to taking the time to look around you and really seeing whatever it is that presents itself to you, which is a pretty nice notion in and of itself. Not so much stopping to smell the roses, nor seeing things for what they really are; more allowing yourself to see things in and of themselves, rather than always trying to equate them to some larger metric, meme, or meaning. As I was reminded while wandering around in one of the largest commercial indoor malls in the world, appreciating a moment in the moment for nothing but that moment can be highly entertaining. And often, very often, it’s just plain glorious.