Mall visits used to feel like a miniature Christmas every weekend. A chance to flip through the CDs at an FYE or squeeze in a few games at the arcade. Now, so many malls are fascinating relics representing a long gone time of weekend frivolity, excess and Sbarro pizzas; a time capsule for what it was like when we had to leave our homes to get what we want. I’m somewhat of an anomaly as I often feel like the last millennial alive who still frequents malls in search of the best sales. I was taught by my mother how to find the best price so I’m usually alone, absorbing quizzical glances from clerks and shoppers unused to the image of a 6’4” black dad by himself in the children’s section comparing online prices, pulling out coupons from apps or scouring the clearance racks. I love the experience of grabbing the best prices and the serenity of knowing I’m not spending a single penny more than I have to.
But my love for malls is deeper than that. I just didn’t realize how deep until a trip I took a few weeks ago.
I’d found myself in dire need of slacks, so I headed to a Belk department store to buy some dress pants — two pairs of Ralph Lauren slacks to be exact. They were marked down to $29.99 from $89.99 so I’d hit the jackpot. At least I thought I did.
I slid the pants across the checkout counter where a black woman was waiting. She was somewhere in her 60s with a short bob, a blue pant suit and her ID card hanging around her neck. Her nails were pink and pointy and her bright red lipstick lit up the rest of her face.
“Hey, you’ve come here a bit, right?” she said as she searched the pants for their tags.
“And you’re here with that adorable son of yours, right?”
“Yes ma’am and thank you.”
“Look…do you have a job interview or something tomorrow? Do you need these pants now now?”
“Not really, no.”
“Okay, give me a second.”
I don’t really understand what happened next as she rang the pants up, typed some things in her computer, re-rang the pants up again…