In keeping with the holiday season, my husband and I journeyed to a grand temple of consumerism, a nearly 1.5 million square foot outlet mall dedicated to the worship of stuff. It contains almost 190 stores, restaurants, and entertainment-related attractions.
We parked in a section of the parking lot where few cars were. “This will be full by the time we leave,” he promised. I mentally surveyed the large number of vacant parking spaces around us. There was no way that would happen. I wagered that when we returned, our vehicle would still stand like an oasis in the parking lot desert.
The central hallway of this megamall is configured like a vast race track: a never-ending oval of money-dropping opportunities on either side of the hall and dotted with kiosks at regular intervals in the center in case you needed additional options to relieve yourself of funds. We and the other supplicants strolled the well-lit spaces, our eyes darting from store to store like distractible squirrels in love with shiny objects and good deals, on the hunt for a shopper’s high.
My husband and I walked the entire circumference, stopping to look inside a handful of stores but mainly intent on getting a little exercise. It total, we walked about four miles. Mile after mile of products, mainly clothing, shoes, and accessories. It was dizzying.
There were several highlights on our journey that afternoon. We encountered a woman who declared that she wanted to buy everything in the store we were in even though she waited in line to return items. We engaged in a conversation about empty consumerism with a store clerk who tried to sell us a watch we would never wear. We witnessed the nonstop dog and pony shows performed by the designated front person of each store practically cat calling potential customers with 80% off coupons for items marked up at least 90%.
But even with the vast amount of products and “deals” available in the ginormous space, I still managed to leave empty-handed. It wasn’t willfully done. I’ve always struggled with religion and shopping often feels like a religion to me.
But lots of people appear drawn to it as revealed by the overwhelmed cashiers and the parking lot that had filled up exactly as my husband promised it would.