It wasn’t always this way. I can remember a time when those little stands in the center aisle of the mall were harmless places where one could purchase a novelty t-shirt, a Christmas ornament or a piece of gothic jewelry and a magic crystal. Though I have always preferred to do my shopping in the safety of a store rather than in out in the open for everyone to see, those little carts never bothered me.
And then something changed.
Those kiosks became overrun by these cheesy guys in faux-hawks who try to beckon you over so they can slather you with hand lotion or flat iron your hair and use confrontation to trap you into some purchase that makes you feel empty and in need of a shower. Well, at least that’s what it looks like from afar. When I pass these places and look at the poor victims who’ve been sucked into the vortex, I feel a mixture of sympathy and relief.
Silly fool, I think to myself, don’t you know that you need to put your head down and run away when these men try to approach?
This week, Mike and I upgraded to new phones, and as a result, we needed new cases to protect from the inevitable disasters that come from clumsiness and absentmindedness. I eyed a sign at one of the aforementioned kiosks while at the mall the other day advertising the cases we’d need. I was tempted to stop and look at them, but the salesperson, a slick looking guy in a suspicious, gelatinous hairdo was playing loud, techno music whilst rocking out and talking to another customer, so I panicked.
Later, I mentioned to Mike that I’d seen the cases that day but that I just couldn’t approach the vendor. He totally understood, so tonight, we ventured out to Super Big Electronic Megaplex to purchase some instead. After perusing the picked-over selection, we both knew that we didn’t want to spend $35 on bright purple, metal cases. And we knew what we had to do.
On the way to the mall, I became very nervous.
“I can’t. I can’t go to the stand with you. I’ll just wait in the food court,” I said.
“No, we have to do this together.”
“But it’s too awkward. What if we get caught in his web and can’t escape?”
“You can do it.”
As we rounded the corner and past the food court, I was convinced that I would stay behind while Mike went ahead to do our dirty work. I’d stand over by the bookstore, far enough away to not get sucked in, but close enough to save him should he get in a tough spot. Below his breath, Mike hummed a techno song to make me laugh.
To my surprise, the guy from the other day wasn’t working; in his place was a normal-looking girl. She wasn’t dancing but sitting in a chair, reading.
“Oh, look. I can do this,” I said.
“You’re coming with me?”
“I think I am.”
We walked up. We picked out our cases and purchased them. We chatted with the nice-enough salesperson. We left. No creepiness whatsoever.
While I am determined to drop my tendency to embarrass to easily and to face my fears with more gusto, I don’t think this episode counts a positive step towards either goal. And I still don’t think it’s okay to yell things to a person or to try and smear cream on her when she’s trying to shop in peace.
I adore shopping, and I have spent a good portion of my life inside of malls, but these stands have put a dark cloud over what was always a satisfying and low pressure activity. When approaching one of these places, I become tense. I don’t want strangers to flag me down in order to try and sell me a bunch of crap. It goes against the natural order of things; it’s not how shopping in a mall works. I mean, no one is standing outside of Forever 21 trying to entice me into buying a tube top and lucite heels, and that’s just the way I like it.
Mall kiosks should have the same rules. Period.