Columns

2009.08.12 Misadventure at the mall

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

My avoidance of malls is quite famously known in our family, so it came as quite a surprise to Maddie and Colleen when I readily agreed to enter Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor.

My wife and I went up to visit daughter Maddie Saturday afternoon. It was my first visit to the house where Maddie is staying this summer while working in Ann Arbor.

It must have been a really nice house in its day. A wonderful wooden stairway in the front. An interesting steep little stairway in the back. Three floors. A wonderful basement wall of local rocks.

And now? It’s part of the student ghetto. Really nice old homes that have fallen to the ravages of decades of renters. Student renters.

I have to admit my surprise. I don’t think I ever lived in such a dump. That doesn’t include the burned out house in New Brunswick, but that was just a one-night stay.

Early this morning I was revisiting in my head all the places I lived in over the years. My college places were OK. The first house in Saginaw was strange, but that was the people. Smokey, the taxi driver, would come home drunk and literally talk to the walls, quite loudly. “Hey, walls. How ya doin, walls?“ But the house was all right.

There was a rooming house in Portland, Ore., that was so bad I moved out after a week. I remember that it was very cold and I remember the neighbors in the nearby houses below threatening murder, but the house itself was bearable.

But this place Maddie is in.…she’s pleased to have inexpensive housing, but she’s abandoned so many standards of order and cleanliness. Colleen is going to buy a broom the next time she’s in town.

We had a great meal at a restaurant that will remain unnamed because I want to mention the scars on one of the staff people. Colleen suspected self-inflicted injury; I said it was body art. Maddie just wanted us to shut up and eat.

They weren’t typical scars. It sort of looked as though pasta noodles with ridges were lodged under the skin. I didn’t really find it appealing, but I knew it was art not injury.

And it’s just part of why it’s always good to go to Ann Arbor. That reminds me. Remember those National Geographic photos of African women with large discs imbedded into their lower lip? It kind of makes you squirm just thinking about it.

Yesterday on two occasions I saw young men with quarter-size discs imbedded into their ear lobes. I’m squirming.

But on to the mall.

I avoid those places when possible, but I’m also known to be a quick shopper who can get the job done and be back out in the car within 10 or 15 minutes.

I agreed to go to Briarwood because I could use another pair of pants or two. I wanted something without creases. I don’t like to look too nice, but my regular clothier, Doug Shaw in Wauseon, deals in creases.

I asked Maddie for direction and she said Eddie Bauer was my place. We entered through Macy’s and I checked out their offerings.

I could find nothing but Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, etc. Thirty percent off $80 pants was still too much, especially for the way I treat them.

I found Eddie’s and was assisted by a clerk who wore a backpack the entire time, as though she were headed back to school in a few minutes. Eddie’s pants cost 50 bucks, except for the camo cargo pants that I thought might look odd at city council meetings.

I tried the American Eagle store on my dejected way back to Macy’s. My clerk’s bright blue underwear were showing when he found me going through a stack of black jeans. They were on sale and I liked them, but the clerk spoiled it all by asking how I like my jeans to fit.

I was immediately unmasked as the small-town boy who doesn’t get out much. I didn’t know how to answer. I just like them to fit.

He explained these were slim cut and would be good with boots. I had to confess that I don’t have any boots and I quickly changed the topic.

“Do you have any khaki slacks?” I asked, but it came out like cockies. I forgot how to say khaki.

At that point I was really ready to leave, but I followed him all the way to the back of the store to view the $50 slacks. He soon left me alone and I was able to hurry out of there.

I controlled myself. I didn’t run through the mall to escape. I just walked rapidly, even when I hurried through the cosmetics department and heard a woman gush to another, “I really like your highlights! You’ll have to tell me about them later.”

I went back out the doors of Macy’s and recalled how I started hesitating when we approached from the other side of those doors a few minutes earlier. I remembered asking myself, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Unfortunately, I didn’t know until later that I really didn’t. I should have known better.

I suppose I’ll be seeing you soon, Mr. Shaw. I still have that spring jacket you sold me on discount, the one that looks as though a bird pooped on the left shoulder. Maybe you have something similar in the crease department.

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