I recently made the trek out to one of our local malls to buy my sweetie some shirts for his birthday. It wasn't even a big mall, but it featured a Macy's and a Nordstrom and a Sears appliance department. Of course, I was only able to walk through a single floor of Macy's, where I had to practice Zen breathing techniques to make myself focus on making my way to the men's department. Focusing on the complex system of men's shirt sizing -- 17 neck, 33 long -- helped me keep my feet planted and eliminated the need for me to dive under a counter, curl into a fetal position, and punch the phone numbers of my nearest and dearest until I could reach one of them and make my desperate plea: "Come get me! I can't see a thing!" At least, it helped for a while.
Maybe it's because I spent my formative years in a small town with a main street where the biggest store in town was Lachaw's hardware store where you bought nails by the pound. Or maybe it's because I was so uncool in high school (and the mid-70s advent of the shopping mall) that I was too busy reading Tolstoy to impress myself to even think about cruising the mall. Whatever it is that made me this way all I know is that when I step a toe into any part of a shopping mall, my breathing gets shallow, I forget why I am there, and a nervousness sets in that makes me start to talk to myself. Stupidly, I think that if I just focus on shopping, I'll calm down. This never works.
Just like always, I find myself looking at the same pile of sweaters again or pacing through the handbag section in a fruitless quest to find the escalator. (Why do they hide them?!) And then, almost like a mist piped into a horror movie, I slowly cannot see a thing. Sure there are stacks of half-price t-shirts and displays of next season's jackets (still too short) beside me. I know that. I just can't take it in. Actually, I guess it's technically the opposite of blindness. It's the inability to pick out and visibly explore a single item because there is just too much damn stuff all over the place.
When I tell people that I pretty much just shop in local stores in my neighborhood, I let them laude me for supporting the small business owner. I nod in that self-satisfied, yet humble way of the truly evolved. But, deep down, I know I'm only a buy local do-gooder, because I have no choice in the matter. I am physically and emotionally incapable of shopping in a mall. Now, if I could only develop a phobia of buying stuff on iTunes, I might just have a shot at nirvana.