The phone call heard around the Megamall

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt

Pink Floyd sang, “All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall.”

I was just another hick in the mall.

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One day, I was in Faribault County, a land without a single traffic signal. The next day, I was in Hennepin County, which has 779 traffic lights and I likely missed some.

A friend is a retired clergyman, who receives many calls asking him to preside at the funerals of former parishioners. He gets enough of these that he threatens to answer his phone with, “Who died?” I go to the Twin Cities often, but it’s typically for work. When I tell someone that I’d been there, people invariably ask, “Where did you speak?”

Going shopping with me is like going hunting with the game warden. I’m an uninterested shopper who tends to whine about shopping. I really should bottle that noise, but it’s difficult.

I shop locally, but I needed to go to the Megamall. The Mall of America. It’s life taken to the absurd. A harbinger of the apocalypse. I’d been there once before. I’d lasted 20 minutes before I left to sit in my car and pout. My lower lip stuck out far enough that a crow could have perched on it. Some folks, and they are legion, find the Megamall better than chocolate Easter bunny ears. Some people go to the Megamall for the same reason others go to the zoo. To see odd creatures. I’m one of those odd creatures, but I wouldn’t give the sweat off a glass of lemonade for a day at the Megamall. It’s not hard to locate that place. Look where it is and you’ll find it.

I went there because my wife’s iPhone needed to be taken to an Apple store for factory service. A recall. Like the old saying goes, the show must go wrong. My wife took it to the store, and though she’d called to make the appointment, the needed part wasn’t there. She was told that she’d need to come back another day. We left. Her cellphone rang during lunch. It was the Apple store informing her that the part had just come in. We went back. The repair would take a bit of time, so we left again. Then we returned to pick up the iPhone. I went to the Megamall three times in one day.

The Mall of America opened its doors in Bloomington in 1992. It has over 500 stores, covers more than 96 acres, and has over 40 million visitors annually. I’ve been one of those visitors four times. I used a GPS to find the store while I was in the Megamall. It didn’t destroy my sunny disposition, but it gave it quite a battering. Going there was a pivotal moment in my life. Every moment is.

This huge mall is fundamental. By that I mean it’s fun for some and a mental strain for others. A friend claims that the Mall of America leads the nation in obesity. I didn’t find that. I discovered many mall walkers. It needs traffic signals. People should be required to walk on the right. And no texting while walking. People seem happy to walk in the mall when they wouldn’t want to walk anywhere else. That said, some walked so much that they were buttering their corns.

The store named Forever 21 doesn’t work. I saw people older than 21 come out of it. I think there was a store catering to vampires, but I’m not sure.

One of the restaurants hired tiny servers so the food portions would look bigger. I watched a young shopper in the food court with some shirt on his catsup and mustard.

I was at home as a salmon on the prairie. The mall had everything, but little of what I wanted. I sat quietly, trying not to whimper, in a pool of awkward silence. Crying is permitted at funerals and at the Megamall. I should have brought a pillow. People who knew what they need when they see it walked by knowing they had to spend money to run out of money. I listened to a woman say loudly over a cellphone, “Just because I have a new Mercedes S-Series with a Burmester high-end, 3-D surround sound system, have a cabin where cabins aren’t supposed to be and live in a house with six bedrooms, six bathrooms and a six-car garage, people think I’m uppity.”

Sometimes, when you are given a cactus, you have to sit on it.

I love my wife. She had me at, “Let’s go home.”


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.