It's winter in Indiana, so there's nothing to do except go to the mall and try mightily to avoid chain restaurants. I loathe winter, with its cold, gray expanse of desolation. Every winter is the winter of my discontent, but there's an awful lot going on at the mall if one just pays attention.
In my last couple of visits to the Fancy Mall (aka Keystone at the Crossing, a mecca of stores that people loiter in, but cannot actually afford any of the merchandise brazenly priced above middle-class affordability), I've noticed that there are men who just sit in ergonomically correct chairs, looking lost and forlorn, holding purses and shopping bags as their wives/significant others shop. These men have eyes fixed in the million mile stare, their mouths slackjawed, shoulders rounded from years of mall-sitting and staring at devices as they while away countless hours waiting. They make sidelong eye contact with their fellow sufferers, ostensibly wishing they lived somewhere with something remotely exciting to do, lamenting their Hoosierness as I do.
I want to reach out to them, to tell them they're not alone. That I, too, trudge through the shiny stores avoiding the chirpy cheeriness of avaricious salespeople, wishing for something more out of life as I crumple onto a chair from sheer ennui. I imagine such groupings at all the malls across the world, and my heart goes out to these soldiers of love, enduring artificial light for hours for adoration of their counterparts.
Last weekend, while strolling the mall with my dear darling husband (who is of perpetually good cheer to counterbalance my perpetual crankiness), I noticed that some of the men had trainees with them. Boys ranging in age from about 8-16 joined their future selves on said ergonomic chairs, tapping away at their phones and affecting the "mall face" so prevalent on a frigid Saturday in the heartland. Where, I wondered, are all these men and their trainees from, and for whom are they waiting? Is this something passed from father to son? There don't seem to be enough people in the stores to pair with all the chair-sitters. Do these men come to the mall alone just to sit with their cronies and wait for no one? Do they have nothing better to do? I make up stories about them as I try to figure out which lady goes with which man (In my mind, the sitters are straight; I don't know why). Are they here of their own volition? Is it their own personal purgatory? Do they make friends? These questions plague me.
I wanted to toss my purse and a shopping bag at my husband, and task him with infiltrating one of the klatches to find out the stories. I floated the plan to him, and he replied, "But I want to spend time with you - and our movie starts in just a few minutes." Another question - why does this gem of a man like me so much? Perhaps that is an even bigger mystery... but I digress.
According to Punxsutawney Phil, there is still way more winter than anyone deserves going forth. This will mean many trips to malls "just to get out of the house" and continue my sociological study of the chair- sitters. Perhaps I'll ply them with some fro-yo from Pinkberry so they'll accept me as one of their own and allow me to study their psyches. I'll get back to you with my findings.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.