The Passion of the Mall

Saturday, April 11th, 2009, 1:10 pm

Yesterday was Good Friday, the most solemn day in the Christian religion. And so I felt a bit guilty about spending it walking around the Grove City Outlet Mall, though the cold and riving rain felt a bit like penance. There’s a Bose store up there and I needed a replacement cord for my noise-canceling headphones, as I’m flying to Argentina this Tuesday and I didn’t want my current, fraying cord giving up the ghost when I’m facing two 10-hour flights. So I headed north, forgetting until I was past Cranberry that it was Friday, not Thursday, and Good Friday at that.

Turns out there were lots of folks who either forgot as well or didn’t care, as the outlet mall was jammed. The crowds were swelled by several busloads of Asian people who disembarked as I started a-wandering. It was a bit odd seeing so many buses with Canadian flags and Chinese characters painted on the sides, but bargains appeal to all cultures and nationalities.

It was crowded and I had to bob-and-weave around the hordes to make my rounds. Once upon a time I made a point of telling people that I don’t like crowds, but then I came to realize that that practically no one likes crowds. Let’s face facts–most people are pains in the ass, and the more you pack into a small space the more likely it is you’ll bump into someone who needs strangling. And chances are you’re no great shakes either–people who say that they don’t like crowds often do so because they think it makes them sound edgy and complex, as if they possess this fascinating personality that just doesn’t jibe with the rest of humanity. Turns out that most of those people are just insufferable pricks. God knows I was. Now my self-disgust is nicely balance with my contempt and loathing for humanity in general, and I’m quite content.

The folks yesterday were generally polite and quick to get out of my way. With one odd exception. I stopped at the Polo store to browse and when I went to leave there were two women standing just outside the double-doors. The older of the two was in her sixties and tying a plastic babushka around her hair. Hey, it’s raining, I’m Polish, I have patience for a woman arranging her babushka. But once the babushka-arranging was done she and the other woman just stood there, blocking the door. Which I wanted to pass through.

The stores have about a ten-foot overhang for protection from the elements so it’s not like I was shooing them into the rain. I creased the door an inch or so and said, “Excuse me!” in my most chipper tone. The older woman didn’t react but the other (who was about my age) turned her head. At this point you’d expect the two would step aside and let those within, without. No dice–the younger woman took a pointless half-step back and the older woman just stood there. I smiled, pushed the door until it was almost nudging her shoulder. I craned my neck and again said “Excuse me?” This time she looked at me.

Looked at me, and stood there. I should say that this woman wasn’t elderly, nor did she appear to be suffering from any manner of dementia. I’d seen the two woman in the store and they’d been chattering away like nobody’s business. But my asking her to step aside so I could open the door utterly flummoxed her. She stood her ground and I didn’t know what to do next. My polite smile and gentle entreaties left me little wiggle room–I couldn’t smile harder, and it’s a simple fact of life that you should never said “Excuse me?” three times. It’s a sign of weakness and marks you as easy prey for the bastards of the world. So I nudged the door forward another millimeter, to further illustrate that I wanted to OPEN it and leave the store.

“Oh,” she said, which I thought was a good sign. It meant that the situation was slowly dawning upon her and that positive action would shortly follow. She pivoted to face the door (and me) and said, “Does the door pull in…” and she made a pulling motion with her arm.

WTF?? No, the goddam door doesn’t pull in. And even if it did you’d still be blocking the exit. I shook my head as my lips grew tight and I wondered where we went from here. Would I be forced to use the door as a battering ram to shunt her aside? I was prepared for that. And it looked like that might be necessary because even after her companion took a grudging step back the old woman just STOOD there. I’ve no idea what she was thinking. She wasn’t having a stroke or any kind of episode that I could see. She just couldn’t get it through her head that I couldn’t open the door with her friggin’ standing three inches away.

Finally, finally, she stepped back. About a foot. Enough for me to open the door wide enough to scrape through. Incredibly neither woman seemed to think that there was anything amiss–as I sucked in my gut to squirm through the older woman asked the younger, “Is it supposed to rain all day?” What was I missing here? Why did these two make me compromise my dignity to walk through a door? The two women were actually bracketing the opening, so to leave the store I actually had to pass between them, and we were all so close my sleeve brushed the younger woman’s hip. Bizarre. I gave the old woman a dirty look (which she didn’t see because she’d turned away) and stalked off.

But I walked off my anger and let it go, let it go. Perhaps it would’ve been satisfying to follow the two women and, say, barricade them inside a changing room. Perhaps. Instead I put the past behind me and strode to the Calvin Klein store. Now, Calvin’s my guy, I like his take on shirts. I wasn’t really looking to buy anything, just wanted to fondle some soft fabric and imagine it draped around my shoulders. Instead I picked up two dress shirts for a ridiculous price, shirts that will certainly be part of my rotation come the World Series of Poker. Just as Jamie Gold wants to be known as the best bluffer in poker, it is my rather silly dream to become known as the best-dressed reporter at the WSOP. Perhaps that bar isn’t set especially high (double-especially if JoeSpeaker remains ensconced in the Inland Empire) but one should have goals. One shirt has light-blue and black pinstripes and might be an apt choice for Argentina, but that happy thought was diminished when I realized Mr. Speaker would add a marigold tie to the ensemble and he’d find a way to pull it off. Sigh, I’m still struggling in the minor leagues.

I’m going to Argentina to cover the LAPT event there for PokerNews, and while the prospect of traveling 8,000 miles fills me with the usual sense of terror and disbelief, the fact that Pauly and Change and Otis will be there has me nearly bouncing off the walls. Should be a good tune-up for the World Series, which I learned I will be covering again this summer. This time around I’ll be blogging for UB instead of doing live-updates for PokerNews, and I’m excited about writing longer pieces, doing more photography, spreading my wings a bit.

But that’s more than a month away, and Argentina is three days away. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Spanish revision to work on. Cerveza, por favor.

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One Response to “The Passion of the Mall”

  1. change100 Says:

    Can’t wait to see you! Good luck on the… er… *epic* train ride!

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