I’m fairly mall-neutral. I don’t hate them the way some cooler-than-thou types do, nor do I claim to hate them but spend an inordinate amount of time in them the way some even-cooler-than-thou types do. On the other hand, I don’t particularly feel the need to run off and shop ‘til I drop the second a coupon addressed to OCCUPANT shows up in my mailbox. For me, malls are just a part of modern life: less fun than a roast pork sandwich in Philly, more fun than an hour on line at the post office. Sometimes, I even get a kick out of puttering around the human zoo during the times they allow the animals to roam freely. You know: Saturday afternoons.
According to Rhea, I should be careful about mentioning the name of the actual mall. Honestly, I dismissed that as being a tad paranoid until I thought back on the Galleria’s YOO CAN’T TAKE PITCHERS IN DA MALL policy, so how’s about we split the difference: we found ourselves in a Plaza that shares the first two words of its name with a famous highway in New Jersey that’s not a turnpike. Got it? Good. Originally, we had just intended to stop off at the larger-than-average Old Navy in the plaza, but a road sign outside advertising a liquidating Borders inspired us to wander into the rest of the mall.
Borders was quite the sight. I worked for the company for several years, as did Rhea; actually, that’s how we met. As such, I can tell you first hand that the company deserves to be where they are right now. Nearly a decade of mismanagement and brand identity loss will do that for you. Still, it’s a sad thing to watch their fairly violent death throes; before the decline set in, I really thought that Borders was the best in field at what they did. Their book and music selections boasted far more depth and variety than Barnes and Noble’s, and their stores were exciting and inviting. What’s left now, sadly, is what’s left: about 2/3 of the store was roped off, and what little stock they had remaining was consolidated into the middle of the store. Generous discounts, but little of much interest to choose from. Still, Rhea and I scavenged wisely: a cartoon book for her, and The Silence of the Lambs on Blu-Ray for me. Call me a vulture if you must, but a deal on a great movie is a good thing no matter how you slice it.
Drained from the carcass-picking, it was time for us to find a bathroom. By virtue of being male, I was done before Rhea. Waiting outside the restroom for her to emerge, I had one of those moments where I really wish my cell phone camera-fu was stronger. I realize that there are bloggers who are far more gifted at surreptitiously snapping photos of people doing or wearing embarrassing things than I am. I apologize for that, dear readers; as a result, you’re just going to have to take my word for what comes next. Out of the ladies restroom emerged a woman who couldn’t have been a feather under two hundred pounds, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt emblazoned with the following legend, rendered in mock-graffiti style text: YOU CAN’T AFFORD ME.
Speechless, I waited for Rhea to emerge. Once she did, I found my tongue and then some: “Did you see that?” She had not. I don’t know whether I would really call it her loss or not, but a punch line for the remainder of the afternoon was born.
There’s no real point in going into detail about the rest of the day. Sure, there were funny moments: I stopped Rhea dead in her tracks by referring to a group of people as “butt nuggets”, and we did get to listen to Dee Snider’s House of Hair on the way home, myself in a far more ironic manner than my better half. Also, a ton of great summer-clothes deals were had at Old Navy. But really, in terms of telling a good story, who cares about any of that? YOU CAN’T AFFORD ME was clearly the comedy pinnacle of the day. The rest of the trip was far quieter, but no less wonderful. On a gorgeous spring day, a small way away from home with your soul mate, it is very possible to build an amazing experience out of the most common materials.