Musings at the mall

I can't believe how much I learn from a visit to the mall sometimes. About people, shopping and me. Here's a list of some of the things I learned or that happened when I went to my local mall recently.

First, the reason I was there. A cousin of mine has recently become engaged (congratulations C!) and was holding a celebratory 'garden party'. Having bought my fill of summer clothes, I'd decided I was going to do some compacting. I had a perfectly good dress I'd worn to my sister's wedding in October, a gorgeous grey jersey dress with very wide, short sleeves, a high gathered waist and above-the-knee pencil style skirt. I'd wear the dress again, I thought, with a newish long-sleeved black top underneath -- only a tiny fraction of the people there would have seen me in it.

But I was defeated by the bureau of meteorology. It was going to be a sultry 29 degrees. The dress's material would be all wrong, and it just doesn't look right without something long-sleeved underneath. So, despite being an Inspired Shopper, I did a last minute rush out to the mall the day before, hunting, as usual, for a bargain.

My shopping was much more dispiriting than usual -- trying on dresses that looked awful or that I had trouble even getting into. But eventually I found my bargain -- a $40 Witchery dress down from $130. It was black, peasant-style and casual, so I planned to dress it up with a bright necklace. And as my sisters assured me, I'd 'get a lot of wear out of it'.

This experience made me think about compacting. As well as the initial aim, it requires planning -- much more than I'd been prepared to do. I'd also forgotten about the perils of last minute shopping -- although it was fun to finally hunt down my 'prey', I wondered at the time whether I'd still be running around the following morning looking for something.

Other things I learned:

I rarely go 'late night shopping' on Friday nights any more -- but this was one of the fun things in my childhood. When the then much smaller 'Chaddy' -- now 'the largest mall in the southern hemisphere'(by sales volume rather than size) -- first introduced late night shopping, my family and I would often wander round the centre on a Friday night, ending with a visit to the doughnut shop, my sisters eating them in the car on the way home. The only trouble was, I hated (still do!) doughnuts. Parking my car I had a sudden memory of those Friday evenings.

I still experienced a bit of Inspired Shopping magic. A book I'd been thinking about getting from the library -- The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers -- 'appeared' in a bookshop for $3, complete with accompanying short stories. Synchronicity at its best.

Last but not least, the toilets at Chadstone shopping centre have automatic flushing. Melbourne is in the midst of a drought and I was appalled by the waste of water! The toilet actually flushed twice while I was in the cubicle -- I tried not to take it personally. I was gobsmacked at the hypocrisy -- Chadstone has recently announced its efforts to be more environmentally friendly.

But this weird state of affairs also sent me off into a meditation about the kind of society that needs self-flushing toilets. Supposedly we are more selfish than ever before, and we're also encouraged to be more self-reliant. However, this has led to a state where we're losing our sense of social rules and customs to keep the public, communal sphere in order -- we don't have time, it seems, to create reciprocal communities where people know the social expectations and carry them out.

Yet, while we're encouraged to be selfish, it's selflessness that is required to teach tomorrow's citizens basic skills -- like how to keep public toilets clean! (Of course, not flushing 'number ones' for environmental reasons is perfectly OK, an aim that these self-flushing toilets also defeat.) Selflessness still exists of course, but it's highly unfashionable. I'm not blaming working parents here, but the relentless march of materialism and the changes wrought by 'economic rationalism'.

All that from a visit to the mall on Friday evening!

No comments :