Mall in the mirror

Carry a pair of binoculars, on an early morning walk, out in the countryside & most everybody else finds you eccentric-enough to pity.

As an outdoorsman [sans the khaki, wide-brimmed hats & unkempt hair, just in case you were wondering.] I’ve been the subject of derisive curiosity often enough to know what simple-folk think we haven’t learnt. We’re considered peculiar; touched by too many suns on those hat-less days when we felt brave-enough to brush our hair. So I decided to turn the tables and headed-off to the local mall to do some observing of my own.

At 08h55 product-branded shop-attendants shuffled up to their respective store-fronts & spent a nervous few minutes unlocking an array of padlocks & deadlocks.  It must be a jungle out there… Huddled nearby giggled a gaggle of early-bird [can’t help myself] consumers in anticipation of ‘the opening’ – & the start of their compulsive day.

Meanwhile my café au lait steamed within easy reach, untouched. The depth of the triviality was fascinating. Saddened by the ambient air and the passage of time, the once-delicate four-leaf-clover, artfully decorated atop the coffee-foam, faded-away, largely unnoticed. Try as I might the au lait smelled of coffee, mostly. Nearby the quiet hum of the climate-control-apparatus belied the day’s natural warmth; a modern, mid-morning extravagance. Alongside, at a table for six, two red-eyed, middle-aged teenagers squinted under the burning neon; dragged too early from their faux goose-down duvets. Their straightened hair fizzed – an electrified, sizzling shock of powder-blue, shocking-pink and violet-mauve. Could be a sterile shout for help, in a stereotyped world, where ‘outrageous‘ is merely a craving for conformity?

On my left a family of four slaved under the addiction of their phones; each quietly absorbed in the posted breakfast quips of acquaintances they’ve never met. Hardly a word crossed from one end of the table to the other; in joy or rebuke. Incorrigible-daughter-the-youngest’s left clavicle featured a summer swallow – ‘Freedom’ the caption; a bold tattoo – perhaps not everybody’s cup of Earl Grey but an impressive, 10-year old’s two-dimensional shot at fast-tracked adulthood nevertheless. Will her parents notice  her absence after she jets outward-bound & into the arms of her virtual friend well-short of her 15th birthday?

Close-by a grey-beard slumped unmoving in quiet contemplation of the passing skirts, fresh-faced and unsullied by time’s passage. His wife of 30 summers long-forgotten, rigidly straight & hard-faced, a consequence of the surgeon’s knife, recognised her husband’s lust and smiled less than she should even if she could. His money the Armani-font-of-youth & as she’d guessed early-on, the daily tonic to keep black-dog’s desperation at the door. If patience is a virtue; virtue is a grace. Grace isn’t the aging girl with Botox in her face..

Across the marbled-way acolytes of retail-therapy buzzed from store to store; emerging triumphant & laden in lifestyle goods – branded badges of honour in a sea of human mediocrity. It’s just another shallow cry for help, in a superficial world, where ‘accumulation’ is an expense-driven craving for conformity.

Meanwhile time’s urban race had boredom leading by a nose. The Suunto’s rubberized hand confirmed 9:15. In easy reach the coffee had cooled & within the gilded, stilted walls so too my ardour for the peculiar. Standing to leave my ‘bins’ swung out from under the cloth of Egyptian-cotton and stirred the cup & saucer – not quite an imperceptible click; the clang a mall-distraction almost to the person.

The family, the grey-beard, the middle-aged teens and the passageway of acolytes & retail-serfs stopped, stared… I left.



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