I had not set foot in an indoor shopping mall in a while, and on my last two or three visits I made a beeline for a specific shop, bought what I needed and got the hell out. I don’t like those places. It just turns out that I had to shop a bit this time around, so I got to take it in and I must admit that—much to my dismay—I had a reaction akin to old men whining about the world going to hell in a handbasket.
Since the last time I spent a significant amount of time in the Cerritos Mall, a shop has sprung up dedicated to rhinestone and sequin-encrusted clothing of the Ed Hardy variety. Along with outlandishly expensive distressed v-necks and ridiculous belt buckles, the place must turn a hefty profit if it sells anything, since there is no way that any product in the store costs more than five bucks to make, despite their astronomical price tags. A few doors down, there is a shop apparently (based on a quick look at the front at least) dedicated solely to Hannah Montana merchandise. There’s a place that sells body creams that reek of hard candy melted onto vinyl car seats and incubated in 110 degree heat. “Young lady” sections at the tops of department store escalators where the “women” sections used to be, kiosks selling belt buckles and enormous sunglasses run by young teenage girls in translucent white shorts so that you can see exactly what their underwear look like, obese kids with obese parents waddling to and from five or six different ice cream shops (mind you, this is not a huge mall), bad music blasting from every glaringly-lit and brightly-colored corner, and suddenly the realization that I’ve done a lap around the entire mall without finding what I want because if it’s there it’s hidden. The mall isn’t mine. Nobody above the age of eighteen appears to even have buying power in this place—I’m in a playground, a cafeteria, a…well, a shopping mall. Of course, the mall has always been for teenagers, and even as a teenager I disliked it. This realization at least serves to disabuse me of the idea that I’ve completely morphed into more of a curmudgeon than I’ve ever been.
Still, there is something different about the mall I saw on this trip. Kids don’t use cash. Very young kids dress as though they’re much older and act as though they’re much younger than they are. They don’t loiter in the public areas of the mall like they used to either—they shop, or at least hang out inside the stores, while adults linger on the benches outside sipping on mocha frappuccinos. And there’s so much more useless shit. The kiosks—my God, the kiosks! Do we need an entire cart dedicated to selling different colored glasses like the ones Kanye West used in the “Stronger” video? Do we really? Lingerie and hair-waxing establishments burst with pre-pubescent girls while video game shops cater almost exclusively to grown men. Where did all these kids get the money and where did all these adults get the time?
At one end of the mall there’s a skylight, under which people lounge on benches encircling some plants. The skylight used to be open, and people used to smoke underneath it. I remember when I was a little kid, there was a distinct mall smell that seemed to come from this very spot. It was a mix of fast food, floor cleaner and cigarette smoke—that was the smell of the mall.
The cigarette smoke disappeared when the California smoking ban took effect in the late eighties or early nineties, right around the time that our school district’s test scores made real estate prices explode in the area formerly known as Dairy Valley, which led to an influx of upper middle-class folks with more expendable income, resulting in the building of more shopping centers that then took over the role of providing places like Ross and Target, allowing the mall to focus on cornering more trendy markets for people with money to spend—money that they’re no longer spending on cigarettes.
I guess we’ve got to let our kids get addicted to something, but I wonder if all this crap is any less hazardous than Joe Camel's wares.
Oh, and speaking of expensive trends: don't blame the kids...click.