Mall Land, page 1
Tag(s): dark cerebral antisocial
We’re probably near the end of it as far as I can tell. It can’t go on forever and I can’t either for that matter. I haven’t seen much change even though I’ve come so far. The sameness is everywhere. It just keeps going. The Malls get bigger and smaller but they are always there. The people are slightly different but really they are still very much the same. The sameness runs down deep, the land just reflects it. The great Debt is contagious and is seen everywhere. The people move together. They flock and congregate to the ever-present sale. All want the same things. All say the same things. All think the same thoughts. You can feel it all around you.
It took a long time for me to want to escape but I didn’t know there was anywhere to escape from. I fondly remember living out my adventures on the television. There was no need to go anywhere. Now the adventure is all too real and there is no turning it off or walking away at a commercial break. I guess there is always a power button of sorts. You’ve got to make up your mind if you want to keep going or just stay and take what’s coming for you. The Malls are the same, the food is the same, the television is the same, the stores are the same but I’m different. I can’t go back even if it means that He catches up with me.
I will find the place beyond all of this. I don’t need much, just a place to live and eat and most importantly to forget. I see the world around me so differently now. I never thought anything was the least big wrong as a child. That’s how it works; they put the hunger inside you as a child. The “more and more” is what I call it. When I was a kid, adults talked about how things were different when they were kids and their parents before them said much the same thing but I’m starting to see things differently. I’m starting to think that things are as much the same now as they have ever been. But it’s nice to tell yourself different. Whatever you have to do to get yourself through the day of mindless work at a job that only exists to get you to live to the next day so you can buy more and more. People used to turn to me for answers. I was a man who could fix things. I have no answers. I have few certainties. I can fix nothing. I’m not sure if I’m crazy and everyone else is sane. What else can I do now? What’s done is done. The dead are in their graves. All end up in a row to rot back into the earth and be forgotten. The living, are doing what they are absentmindedly used to. They go to the Malls, shopping in uniformity and being prodded along unknowingly. It’s life as usual.
When I was a kid, I’d listen to the adults talk to me with the confidence of a war hero. They told me about what adult life would be like. I was going to have my house and talk with my friends about TV shows. Our wives were going to talk about the movie stars and what they said on the morning talk shows. It was all mapped out but somehow I got lost. Now I can only be pure when I’m lost. Forgiveness may never happen in the Promised Land but there is no salvation in two for one sales or prime time programming. There is no truth hidden in the fabric of the clothes on the shelves. There is no real nutrition in the imitation food that they shove down their gullets by the bucketful. I have no solutions, maybe there are none. Maybe when He finds me that will be the solution. Maybe. I only know one thing for sure, by the end of the week I will either find the place I’m looking for or I will be dead.
The early morning announcements play on the speakers that dot the ceilings and the walls of the Mall. “Attention shoppers, today there will be a clearance on all blue jeans at the Pants Outlet Store.” Educated shoppers are aware of this, as it is time for the new summer line. “Don’t forget to go to The Kitchen Trinket store and take advantage of the half off sale of all hand knitted toaster covers and limited special edition powdered blue napkin holders.” All shoppers were aware of the importance and urgency of the end of a sale. “No day is complete without trying new corn syrup glazed deep fried chicken wad samples at the new chicken wad hut in the food court.” Free samples were often offered when a new restaurant opened in the food court. “Don’t delay act now to enter for your chance to win and brand new diesel powered lawn be gone lawn mower. Participation is limited to one entry per day per person.” Informed shoppers know to come every day to increase the likelihood of getting the all-important lawn mower. After the announcements have played to the early morning crowd the easy to listen to, family friendly and non-abrasive muzak plays to offer the emotional contrast to the urgency of the daily sales. The announcements played on a cycle every few minutes but by mid afternoon, it was time for the new announcements and the new sales. There was no time to be wasted, as the new sales would not go on forever.
“It’s the mid-morning announcements and the escalator in the southwest corridor is still down. If it’s still down by the mid afternoon announcements I’m going to hear about it from the Mall manager. I don’t need that shit. Michael I don’t care what else you are up to, this takes top priority. After you’re done with the escalator, there is a vomit spill outside of the scented candle store,” said Thom the manager of the maintenance team of the Mall in North Atrophy.
“I feel that I have been on vomit detail quite a bit… I’m getting sick of it.” Michael looked around to see no one laughing at his joke. “Is it possible that someone else can take care of that? How about Quinn? Maybe he’s available,” said Michael Christianson. “I don’t think you understand how this works. I tell you to do something and you do it without questioning. Everyone else is busy but that’s beside the point. You don’t get special privileges, you’re just like everyone else,” said Thom.
“Got it. I’ll get to it after the escalator.”
“This goes for all of you,” Thom said addressing his group of workers in their back office. “The weekend rush has come and gone and we did not keep up with it. Our job is to maintain the machine and right now we have escalators down, fluorescent signs not working and puddles of puke on the ground. This is not how a good machine operates. Let’s get our act together,”
“We can’t know that something is broken until it’s broken,” said Quinn.
“We need to keep a better watch as things start to deteriorate. It’s too late when it’s broken and a lot more work to fix it,” said Thom.
The maintenance staff disbanded and everyone went about to their tasks as uniformed as their dark grey jumpsuits. Michael walked along with Quinn for a while through the bland unseen back corridors of the Mall. It was a complete contrast there in the back halls to the outside throngs of people, bright lights and commerce. “Hey, I’m sorry that I tried to pawn off the puke on you. There’s been more random pukings and I keep being the guy who has to clean them up.”
“Man, what the fuck are you talking about? I’ve got to clean up that stuff all the time. So does everyone else who works with us. I’m not cleaning up that puke for you so suck it up. You got anything planned with your lady on your days off?”
“We’re going shopping. We’ll probably watch some of our favorite shows to,” said Michael.
“Yeah I’m probably going to do the same shit. Same old shit.”
They came to the end of the hallway and the entrance into the main stream of life. They opened the doors to the floor of the Mall. “Quinn, we grew up together in this town. We went to high school together. We played little league together… all that shit. Did you ever think that we’d end up here doing this shit?”
“I don’t know man, I guess not as a kid. Is that what you want to talk hear? Yeah, I guess that I wanted to be a ninja or a baseball player or something.” Quinn seemed to have little patience for the discussion. “You know we can talk about your … I don’t know, childhood dreams
“You don’t wonder about things outside of this town?”
“Only when you bring it up.”
“Doesn’t it seem like it’s always the weekend rush? It seems like the weekend rush just keeps going and now it’s always the weekend rush. You know what I mean? It’s like the holidays were when things got really busy and it’s like there’s always a new holiday. Doesn’t it seem like there’s always a new holiday?”
“New holidays? What the fuck man?” Quinn was staring into the crowd in the hallway of the Mall. He was impatient and didn’t want to look at Michael or get dragged into a long conversation. “Why do you get like this? Whenever you ask me this stuff… I don’t know what you want me to say. I think you’re just trying to get out of doing what you’ve got to do. You’re a complainer man, you love having something to complain about.”
“What are you talking about? I’m not like that.”
“Hey man I’m sorry if you don’t like your life, or whatever. You know there are plenty of people who would love to be in your position.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Hey I’m going to my post, I don’t want to dick around anymore,” said Quinn walking away from Michael and into the stream of shoppers.
Entering the world of the shopper from the outside was always difficult. To Michael, it seemed that coming in from the hallways was always a little strange. It’s an unusual perspective to see the inner workings of a machine and then to be a part of the machine.
“See you later M.C. Have fun cleaning up the Vomit. By the way, keep your radio on. Thom might need to tell you about more random fluids left around the Mall. You never know, someone could have pooped in the Sweater Shop,” said Quinn from down the hall.
Michael walked away without saying goodbye. He went to the site of the spill outside of the high-end computer store. It seemed that many of the spills were around there and it made sense. The computer store with its glass walls and sleek look was located very near the food court. Although it attracted the attention of many consumers walking off a meal of four cheese stuffed deep fried bread balls or other nutritious food, it’s bright lights and unearthly glass fixtures were asking for projectile vomit. Especially when people overeat which is always.
“I hate dealing with this dick manager,” thought Michael as he approached the scene. The manager was outside waiting impatiently. Sawdust covered vomit does not make people want to purchase sleek computers.
“I don’t understand why you guys come by and put sawdust on it but don’t finish cleaning it up.”
“We just like the way it looks,” said Michael.
“Watch it fellow. If I recall, you’re not on the best terms with our security friend. I’m more than happy to call him and tell him that you’re being insubordinate and interrupting sales.”
“Hey I’m getting rid of it, we can just pick up this conversation tomorrow when I have to come back here and do it again. Do you think people might be allergic to overpriced computers?”
“Watch yourself young man,” said the store manager walking back inside. After dealing with that unpleasantness, he went about the task of fixing the escalator that was broken. As he was tinkering with the wiring, he thought how good it felt to fix things. It was good to have control.
Just when he thought that he was done with little projects for the day, his radio told him differently. “Hey, M.C., we’ve got another vomit to take care of in the food court”
“Are you just kidding with me, or do you seriously want me to go down there clean it up?”
“Are we having another episode of you not understanding how this works? Let me remind you again. I tell you to go somewhere to do something that needs to be done and you go and do it. I want to make sure that we’re on the same page still,” said Thom through the radio.
“I’ll get right to it,” said Michael wishing he were in a position to tell his boss what he really thought of him.
Michael walked down the main corridor of the Mall passing all of the stores that gave the population meaning and identity. There was the rock and roll clothing store for the kids going through their prescribed rebellious phase. The store targeting men going through their standard mid life crisis phase and the seemingly endless amount of store dedicated to moms buying the latest and greatest fashionable clothes for their children. Everyone has their needs met at the Mall. Eventually, he arrived at the place where everyone’s most basic needs were met… the food court.
The area of the food court was massive. It was a vast circle like the Roman Coliseum. There was no death-defying act to watch except for eating. The food court was always a busy hive of humanity. There were so many families sitting at the unformed tables and chairs. There were just so many people, so many families with their kids. So many kids that would make more people one day. There was however no shortage of food and maybe there never would be. The food court was surrounded on all sides by every type of food imaginable, and there was always something new. There was a place for pizza and a place for pizza with strange toppings, there was Asian chicken on a toothpick and barbeque chicken on a skewer, there was pasta and corn dogs and the very popular: Burgers, Burgers, Burgers oh my chain. Many of the restaurants were repeats so you couldn’t get caught far away from something you wanted. For most everyone it was a paradise of oral delight. Even a petulant teenager could enjoy their time at the food court. Something strange had been happening to Michael when he ate there as he frequented the food court just as much as anyone else. The odd thing that scared him was that his favorite foods no longer had the same appeal. When he tried new things, it was the same story. After years of being a satisfied customer like everyone else, it was starting to taste the same to him.
He saw his target just past Piggies deep fried pork chops and The Fat Cow’s cheese steak hut. It seemed that there were more vomiting around this area, which was right here the new corn syrup deep fried chicken stand was. Consumers often had to adapt to new corn syrup deep fried stand but they always did. Michael knew that this was no way for someone to make a living. It was however what needed to be done to keep people happy at the Mall.
All the people in North Atrophy felt they had the best Mall in the country. No consumer wanted to see the after effect of Mall food in the midst of the fried dough and cheeseburgers. It was bad for business. After cleaning it up, Michael went back to the world behind the Mall stores to clock out of work. It appeared that he was the last person of his shift there and the next shift of workers was ready to start. Michael was wondering why his last “assignment” in the food court had to be handled by him. On his way to his way to his car, he was starting to loath himself for continuously being the one to stay late and have pick up other people’s messes. Soon enough though, he would be home and all of this would be numbed away. The days events would be forgotten amidst a barrage of blinking screens of prime time content, a big belly full of food and his better half. Home would make him forget. Michael learned at a young age to forget the world when he went home and to forget home when he went into the world.
He left the Mall and drove through the maze that was the Mall parking lot on his route home. It was always a time consuming venture to drive away from the Mall. Eventually he came to the main road, which was lined as far as the eye could see with store after store. Life outside was the extension of the Mall in every way. Many of the stores were the same as what as inside, but some were different. It was also a very different dinning experience getting to go through a drive through as opposed to eating in the food court. Those kind of differences were important to people. Freedom of choice was highly valued.
He drove past the stores that everyone had grown to love and not think about too much and eventually he came to his housing complex. He often became disorientated on the road driving past not only the seemingly endless strip of chain stores but also the housing communities. It all became an
Michael pulled up to the main checkpoint of the Shangri la housing development. After going through the first check point and the subsequent one, he was at the task of trying to navigate to the building that he lived in. Shangri la was a maze of identical buildings that housed many units; it was easy to get lost. Finally he came to building 53 unit 801. He and his girlfriend felt very fortunate to live on a high floor and have a view of the landscape. They were sold on the place because of the fine view of the Mall.
When he walked into his apartment he felt the short-term feeling of relief from the outside world. Soon the worried feeling would settle in with the question of how to pay the rent or any part of the crushing Debt. The thoughts would be creeping in during the commercial breaks in between television shows. It’s best not to think about that for a while when you get home. The apartment was like all of the other units in the building. Uniformity made sense. The main room was a big open square with white walls fake wooden flooring and a white stucco ceiling. There was a hallway that led to the bedroom that was an open square with white walls fake wooden flooring and a white stucco ceiling. The bedroom was different, there was a painting of flowers framed on the wall. It came with all units. There was also a kitchen, which was an open square with white walls and fake wooden flooring. Of course there was a bathroom as well with all the normal fixtures. The bathroom was square with white walls and a white ceiling. It had a linoleum floor! His girlfriend Sarah was in her usual place in front of the television. It must be getting close to prime time. Michael was starting to have the feeling as of late that it was always prime time.