It’s been quite some time since I last visited the mall. So, on Saturday, I decided to meet my sister-in-law there. I entered through the Barnes and Noble bookstore, did story time (Dr. Seuss Day) with my kids, and thought to myself: Why don’t I come here more often? This place is not so bad. Then, as I walked out of the bookstore and into the artificially lit giant two-story monster of a building, I remembered why I stay away from this MADHOUSE.
The upper level is built on some kind of a sliding structure—at least that’s the best I can describe it—so it constantly shakes and glides back and forth. This, apparently, was the genius idea of engineers who in order to prevent the building from collapsing during our frequent earthquakes decided to make people sea sick. Remember back in the day when you were a child and your sibling wanted to torture you, so s/he would jump up and down on your bed while you were asleep, throwing your motionless, resting body into the air in awkward intervals? No? Was it just me? At least imagine, and you’ll see how I felt walking through the upper level of the mall. While my dizzying body tried to sustain its equilibrium, I became very much aware of the echo. Oh. My. God. People, please stop having so many kids! On every corner, I could hear screams reverberating off the high ceilings, puncturing my ears. Parents with four, five, six children! Being dragged, yelled at, whined, nagged…I want a pretzel, lemonade, ice cream, that teddy bear, those shoes…! No? Okay, then I’ll just throw myself in front of this lady’s feet and block her way and bang my head against the floor! My sister-in-law translated the Spanish speaking tantrum. Although I feel like it wasn’t necessary as all tantrums look and sound the same in any language.
Finally, when my legs have turned into a gelatinous substance and my ears began to bleed, we escaped by taking the escalator downstairs. I could no longer stand the brightly illuminated floor above, which now from below seemed so white and peaceful. Like a slice of heaven. But I already knew what kind of hell was going on up there. Making our way through the lower level, we did not expect any more drama. No. No drama. Only murder. As we turned the corner and headed through what looked like a “main street” of the mall, I heard whistling behind me. Not the kind you’re thinking. This was nothing flirtatious. It was more like a whistle from a train engine you buy at the toy store. Great! I thought to myself. Now, we’ll be followed with some more parents and their six children, who just got a toy train and will be whistling at our backs with it until we move out of the way. As the noise got louder and annoying, I turned around to politely tell them to shut the hell up, and OH SHIT! There was a train coming at me! Who the fudge puts a train in the mall? What is this—a carnival? There was an actual train, with a toothless conductor in blue overalls, pulling and tugging on a string connected to a whistle. As I stood there, mesmerized and frozen to the floor, he gave out a gummy grin and rang the bell. Round One! In the blue corner we have a conductor with no need for a mouth-guard, and in the red corner we have a woman falling into a tunnel-vision. If my sister-in-law hadn’t pulled me aside, I would have been knocked out by a train. I glared at the conductor and then at the happy children waving at random strangers from the wagons.
I was ready to flee. The mall is a dangerous, noisy place! But it wasn’t finished with me yet. As we headed toward the exit, sounds of children’s music drifted toward us. Now it was my sister-in-law and I who were being dragged toward the songs by our children. Luckily, between the two of us we only had three. Having lost my trust in the surroundings, I approached cautiously. What a sweet thing to do for kids on this special Dr. Seuss' day, I thought when I saw that tables were set up in a large circle and children and their parents were decorating cookies, coloring Dr. Seuss’ characters, and reading his many wonderful books. Of course we wanted to join the festivities to ease our anxiety of the mall. Just as we stood in line to collect our activity kit, Mr. Cat in the Hat himself came out of nowhere to greet everyone. My seven year old son immediately squeezed my hand and even my twelve year old daughter hid behind my back. I mouthed at my sister-in-law, “This is the scariest cat I’ve ever seen.” AND I’m a dog person.
Mr. Cat in the Hat was really a tall, lean, flat-chested girl in a costume that must have been a remnant of a clearance at some shabby Halloween store. She wandered back and forth among the children who were forced to put on a smile so their parents could snap a photo of them with the famous cat. And as soon as the Cat in the Hat’s smeared eyeliner pointed in our direction, we hastily threw our coloring kits on the table and frantically ran for the exit.
The polluted air of the parking lot seemed like a breath of fresh air in comparison to the atmosphere of the strange dimension from which we just came. I can honestly say that I admire other people for their bravery to enter the mall world. As for me, I think it’ll be quite some time again before I show my mug there.
P.S. If you’re going to Hollister, take a flashlight.