A Trip To The Mid Hudson Mall (Originally Published 2001)

One evening not long ago my wife and I found ourselves bound for our local shopping mall. She had to buy stuff, you see. Now, don’t get me wrong. Neither my wife nor I are really shoppers, so I don’t want to imply that she was out there just mindlessly spending money, especially since she’ll probably read this and if I make her look bad I’ll catch it hot big time. By the way, have I told you how beautiful, intelligent and charming my wife is? No? Well, I would right now but this is only a thousand word essay and quite frankly, a thousand words just wouldn’t be enough to cover it all. ( How was that, honey?)

Now back to our story. We had to buy electronic stuff. We recently bought new computers, so we needed, writeable CDs, non writable CDs, cables, ink cartridges, digital recorders, digital cameras, a new car, you know, the essentials. The problem is, when we get into one of these stores we usually go into shopping overload and get completely bewildered at the vast array of choices and end up not buying anything.

So there we are, wandering around this place with big 37 foot wide screen Televisions and 102 speaker stereo systems blinking and blaring all around us, trying to find the CD aisle. (The CD aisle. Think about that; there’s a whole aisle devoted to selling just blank CDs. This is the overload I’m talking about.) We stumble onto the Computer games aisle.
Along the row there are TVs set up with stations attached so you can sample the games. At one station is this little fat kid wearing the standard de rigueur outfit of baggy jeans hanging half way down his butt and over sized tee shirt which of course makes him look even more disgustingly meatball-like than he actually is ( an important aside here: my wife thinks I can be cruel and heartless when it comes to my description of people I see. She likes to point out, and rightly so, I afraid, that I’m an ugly little dweeb that people laugh at when they look at me. Well, let them write their own stupid essays and excoriate me in them. This is my time.)

Where was I? Oh yes, the gross little kid staring up at the TV screen, hands on the controls, fingers flickering savant-like across the controller, mouth ajar with this not so much rapt as blank look on his face, dumbly manipulating some digital bovine breasted babe kick boxing with Ogres and Demons. I thought to myself, ‘That’s so sad. It’s a shame we can’t kill him.’ But we can’t, ( it seems there are laws…I checked), and more’s the pity. I mean, when I was little I watched TV, sure. I got in some cartoons right after school, but then from 4:00 till dinner I was outside playing something… cowboys, Civil War, cops and robbers… anything that involved running around and going bang and pow a lot. Then dinner, homework, and another hour of The Monkees or Rat Patrol. But today’s children spend an inordinate amount of in front of various screens, either video, TV or computer and as a result have become little butterballs of blandness with no imagination other than what’s programmed into them by Sony or Nintendo.

Wow, that took a lot out me. Tirades are ever so much work. But back to the mall. Of course we didn’t buy anything in the electronics store; too many choices. But we decided to wander through the place and look around at the things people wanted us to buy that we had no intention of buying. We walked into the mall proper.

It was so strange. The first thing we saw, and I’m not kidding here, was three people who had just come in through the main doors next to the electronic store. One was a rather large and sweaty example of feminine pulchritude; the others were two teenage guys, maybe her sons. They were kind of punky in their dress…army boots and ripped tee shirts that said things like “Kill Yourselves While You’ve Got The Chance” and “Death is the best part of Life” on them. The odd thing was that one of them was bleeding fairly heavily from his ears, as if he had a concussion. He was a bit glassy eyed but talking and laughing normally with the other two, who ignored his obvious wounds completely. They were trying to figure out where to get something to eat. I wanted to break into the conversation and suggest that the Hospital Cafeteria might be a good place, but my wife grabbed my arm and gently shook her head no. After all, this is America, so weapons may have started coming out if we bothered them too much.

We walked on. Everywhere, everyone was talking on cell phones, maybe to each other for all I know. Now being an American myself, I know one thing: we have nothing important to say, and certainly nothing so important that we’d have to interrupt a trip to the mall to communicate with someone at home base. ( “Honey? It’s me. I’m in front of Sears, heading towards Filenes. Right now I’m passing the Burger King and in a minute I be near Radio Shack. I’ll call back and keep you posted. By the way, my foot itches.”)

We seem to be so addicted to technology. If one person has a new piece of electronic idiocy, then EVERYONE has to have one. Take GPS units for example. GPS stands for Global Positioning Systems, or Government People Spying, I’m never sure which. The point is just because you can get one of these little techno babies for under two hundred dollars, everybody seems to think they need one. My wife even has one; she uses it to mark Hemlock stands that are infested with Wooly Adelgid in the Upper Esopus River Basin here in Ulster County, NY ( actually, I wasn’t lying at the beginning of this. My wife is a genius and wholly committed to protecting our environment. She’s just great.). But I have a sneaking suspicion that most people who buy these things are just looking to see how far it is from local Wendy’s to the local McDonalds.

PDA’s, cell phones, GPS units. It makes you wonder how our fore fathers ever found their way around or remembered what they were supposed to be doing each day without them. It’s amazing we developed a civilization at all. Not that we did, but you get the point.

My wife just glanced over my shoulder and asked a really relevant question. ” Can’t you ever stop writing that drivel?” she queried. Well, just to show her, I will.