The land of Santa-free malls, unwanted run-ins with former mall rivals

Apparently, I don’t know how to tell the temperature anymore. Today, I thought it was 80 degrees out when it was actually 67. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining, so you can’t really blame me for getting confused. Besides, California is significantly warmer than New York City, where I cannot step outside without a coat, scarf, and pair of gloves without my teeth chattering.

Anyway, it’s lovely to be back in the bay area. I stayed in the sun as long as I could today and even wore my favorite magenta sundress, which I purchased in Tucson back in college. I’m only now digging through the five large boxes that I shipped home during my NYC moving process. A lot of the contents are summer clothes, all of which I cannot use in New York until at least May, so I may as well leave my colorful attire here. During my relocation, I sent a third of my stuff to California and the rest to a bunch of different residences in New York. My uncle is going to bring my seven boxes from upstate New York to Brooklyn sometime in January, and I still need to retrieve some of my things from Hillary’s place. It’s funny how easy it is to be without practially all of your belongings. I don’t miss any of it.

Today, I ran five and a half miles and only took a few walking breaks. Because I haven’t gone running in two months, I assumed I’d vomit or need to stop a million times during my morning work-out, but it was a breeze. I think all the moving I do in New York has kept me in fairly decent shape. As I’ve written before, you have to be in good health to live in New York City, as the subway system has no elevators and tons of stairs. I literally never slow down over there, and thankfully this has served me well.

Things got weird after my gym trip, though. I headed to the Capitola Mall to buy some last minute gifts and noticed that the mall had discontinued their Santa’s lap service. Rather than set up a mini-North Pole and offer photos with Santa, the mall hired a violinist in an Elf costume to play in the common area. Interesting substitute. Malls don’t get much crappier than that of Capitola, so I’m not surprised. I was, however, a bit perplexed by one of their new stores titled, “” The mall continuously pushes out brand named businesses for random shops that are doomed, and that makes zero sense to me.

I also had an uncomfortable run-in with a former mall employee arch enemy. When my buddies and I were 15, we spent a lot of time at a mall store called, “Styles,” which went out of business just before we graduated high school in 2006. One of the saleswomen, an accusatory lady with a chip on her shoulder, used to follow people around the store like a puppy (including my buddy Nikita), scold my friends and me for laughing, and suggest we were thieves.

During winter 2003, she raised her eyebrows at me for humming Third Eye Blind’s “Blinded,” which was playing in the store. I wasn’t belting out the song or anything, so her nastiness was pretty unwarranted. A few minutes later, I told Crystal that I found it odd that Styles kept so many articles of clothing and shoes behind the counter.

The clerk lady took it upon herself to enter the conversation and say, “It’s so people don’t STEAL FROM US,” insinuating that we were the riff raff Styles tried to keep away.

Her attitude floored me, as I’d always been a textbook definition “good kid.” People still look at me and are surprised to hear when I’ve done anything unconventional, even something as innocuous as becoming tipsy. As a teenager, I was even more of a well-behaved individual. I hung out with my parents on weekends, had never had a boyfriend, refrained from drinking until college, didn’t smoke my first cigarette until 22, and, to this day, have never stolen anything in my life. It was unfair that she seemed so certain that our age indicated we’d take things from her crappy store, so when the harassment persisted, I reported her to the mall. I said that my friends and I had limited funds to shop anywhere besides Styles (true) and shouldn’t have to be under a microscope everytime we walked into the store.

Of course, she did not take so kindly to this. She found out that I’d said something and confronted me about it the next time I hit up Styles.

“Can I help you find anything?” she asked.

“No, I’m good.”

“And I wasn’t asking if you were shoplifting, I was asking if you wanted any assistance,” she said, smirking.

Before we knew it, Styles was gone, probably in part because that woman scared so many potential customers away. Regardless, she now works at Express, and we unfortunately crossed paths today.

Just as I was about to bring my items to the counter, I saw her standing at one of the registers. She did a double take and stared at me for about 15 seconds, seeming to remember our awkward exchanges eight years ago. Thankfully, someone else rang up my order, so I didn’t have to engage in another war with this woman.

Looking back on the silly experience, I understand her general skepticism. Teenagers are annoying, but we always left Styles with a bag and receipt in hand, so her default suspicion was absurd and insulting. Not all teens are mischevious kleptos. Nikita, Crystal, Lauren, and I certainly weren’t.

While we’re on memory lane, I’ll make a somewhat embarrassing confession: I secretly wish I could still shop at Abercrombie & Fitch, which is not for anyone over 17. It’s overpriced and for snobs, I know, but I legitimately bought the majority of my own clothes in high school and had no qualms with getting a pair of A&F boyfriend jeans for myself every six months. My mom taught me at a young age to find bargains, and I was pretty good at it by high school, so I knew how to score deals on all my purchases.


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