I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I often wish that I grew up in a more urban environment, as I often believe I would have made an excellent mallrat. A big day off for me involves just wandering aimlessly around West Edmonton Mall, checking out the stores, catching a movie, and wondering just how I’m going to get onto the Santa Maria. At university, there was a time in my second year where I’d ride my bike up to the Duggan Mall and spend a Saturday checking out Zeller’s. I do so love a mall. So, on Monday of my big Coquitlam trip, I was getting rather bored out of my tree as I waited for Chuck and L to come back from their jobs. When they got home, they proposed going to the mall, and I readily accepted. So, we were off to Coquitlam Center, the mall where L spent many an afternoon as a mallrat.
Sadly, though, the mall failed to impress. Having grown up with the world’s largest mall as “my mall,” I’ve come out somewhat spoiled. There was a Zeller’s, and a Bay, an HMV, and a Hallmark Cards, and all the other stores you find in all other malls. Chuck and I, being the geeks that we are, sought out the store that sold all the educational toys and scientific doo-dads. L indulged in her womanhood and looked at boots. It was a mall. Although, there was one store in there that L had to show me, and I was impressed.
Imagine a grocery store. Now, imagine that it sells nothing but Chinese food and ingredients for Chinese food. That was the Chinese supermarket in Coquitlam Center (and, sadly, I’ve forgotten the store’s name). It was an experience. At first, it looks like a normal grocery store, but you get inside, and everything’s different. Prices are labeled in Chinese characters, then English. The shelves are stocked with tofu, and there are fresh seafood tanks twice as large as those you see in Red Lobster. Chuck bought pastries of some kind. L was drawn to some pre-packed sushi. And something caught my eye in the dairy section. I forget what it was called, but what it was intrigued me: “fermented milk non-carbonated soft drink.” It was only $0.99. I had a loonie. I figured, “What the hey?” It was very sweet. It tasted just like flat 7-Up. For the first time in a long time, I looked at a grocery store with new eyes.
From here, it was off to the video store to pick up some of the indie and art films that Chuck and L wanted me to see. It was a video store. But, it was in the neighborhood of Value Village. Now, I had not known this, but L is a big thrift-store shopper, so she asked if it would be OK if we stopped in and checked things out. I had no problem. Chuck had no problem. So we went to Value Village. Or, as I’ve come to think of it, the world’s largest garage sale.
As soon as we got in the door, L separated from us. She wanted to check out women’s clothing (naturally), and that was over on the other side of the store. Chuck and I, both out of our element, just started to slowly venture in. With Halloween just being a month away, Halloween decorations were in a huge display right at the front of the store. Chuck and I looked over them. I approached a bin filled with pitchforks, swords, and canes. I don’t know what possessed me, but I reached for one of the canes. I held it in my hands. I leaned against it. I liked the feel. I walked off with it, and continued roaming the store with it. Chuck and I soon came to an assortment of hats. We tried on the top hats, which were delightfully too small, making us look simply silly. Then, it was the same thing with the bowlers. With bowler and cane, I couldn’t help but attempt my Riddler impersonation.
Funny hats aside, Chuck wanted to take me to Value Village’s toy section. Here, there’s all kinds of loose action figures and such in plastic bags and ready for re-sale. We looked over all the bags, looking for that one lost treasure. There were some scuffed up G.I. Joes, a lot of Inspector Gadget: The Movie Happy Meal toys, and even an old Ghostbuster. But soon, Chuck and I had found that hidden treasure: He-Man! Skeletor! Ram Man! Whiplash! All these great Masters of the Universe figures in perfect condition! Of course, all the weapons had been lost and the paint was rubbing off in some places, but other than that, they were perfect! Chuck looked at these and beamed. “We have to show L,” he said. We ventured from the safety of toys, and off to women’s clothing!
We found L going through assorted blouses and skirts, and Chuck just had to show off his discovery of He-Man and Skeletor, much like how a child shows off a new toy to his/her parent. That image was soon shattered, however, as Chuck began taking lines from the opening narration of Masters of the Universe and turning them into cheesy pick-up lines for He-Man to say to L. “Hey baby, wanna hold aloft my magic sword?” “Hey baby, want me to reveal my fabulous secret powers?” “Hey baby, wanna share our secret with three others?” With humor like that, I often wonder how Chuck landed L. As Chuck and I started debating how the iconic characters of He-Man and Skeletor could be used for comedic purposes in many forms of media, L turned to us with mild annoyance and said, “Are you guys trying to tell me you want to go?” Chuck said, “No! We just wanted to show you He-Man and Skeletor.” Chuck headed back to the toy section, leaving L in women’s clothing, much like how a child would leave his mother to go look at toys. I, naturally, went with Chuck.
With He-Man and Skeletor back on the shelves, Chuck started doing some serious shopping. He looked for more of his trademark black shirts, and even looked for a “new” pair of shoes. I wandered along beside him, making idle small talk, looking through Hawaiian shirts and playing with my cane. When that began to lose our interest, we soon found our way to the used media section, where we began browsing through old comic books, tapes, and records. As I was leafing through the records, I had to blink at what I found buried near the back. It was a laserdisc! For those who don’t know, laserdiscs were the digital media of choice for home theater enthusiasts in the days before DVD. Imagine a DVD the size of a record. I pulled the laserdisc out of its cardboard sleeve and marveled at it. I even mused aloud to Chuck, “Why do you think DVD went mainstream, but these never did?” Chuck had no answer. I placed it back in its case and stuck it, again, at the back of the record section.
At this point, L approached us. Luckily, the media section was handy to the fitting rooms, and she had a few things she wanted to try on. What fun is trying on clothes unless you’re modeling them for someone? L ventured into the change room, coming out occasionally to show off the latest pair of pants or T-shirt she uncovered. Chuck and I would give our opinions, as best a man trying to please his girlfriend and a 24-year old virgin afraid to even make eye contact with a woman could. I even thought about giving a wolf whistle, but decided not to, for fear of angering the enlightened feminist within L. With our opinions under her belt, L went to put back those clothes and search for more, while Chuck and I continued wandering on our own.
Chuck and I headed back to the Halloween decorations. We gazed upon the myriad of masks and prop weapons. I picked up one of those Styrofoam heads that you often see displaying hats. I turned it over to see that it had a hole in the bottom. I had a brainstorm. I went back to that barrel where I got my cane and grabbed a pitchfork. Thanks to the hole in the Styrofoam head, I used the pitchfork to spear said head. I found Chuck, showed him my head-on-a-stick, and said “I have vanquished my foes!” Chuck laughed, and said, “We’ve got to show L!” So, again we ventured out of our safe haven and into women’s clothes. As we came up to her, I waved my head-on-a-stick and again said, “I have conquered my foes!” L smiled in that way that a mother puts up with a child’s cry for attention. I got to see a lot of L’s maternal side in that store, but I digress. Again L asked if this was our signal that we were ready to go, and again we said, “No! We just want to share our silliness!” We headed back to the Halloween decorations, and, as I was replacing the head and pitchfork, I noticed a little girl who had gotten herself a Styrofoam head, a pitchfork, and was doing the same thing! I had started something!
At this time, we had been in Value Village for a few hours, and Chuck and I were starting to wear out. We headed over to the furniture section and found ourselves an old couch to flop down on. We sat, and continued making the small talk that friends make. We discussed the universe, things of inconsequence, and the whole time I was making dramatic gestures with my cane. It wasn’t long before L came with another armload of clothes. Luckily, for Chuck and myself, the change rooms were right behind us, so all we had to do was turn our heads to be treated to another of L’s fashion shows. When L was done, she too was starting to tire out, so it was time to go.
We made our way to the check-out counters. We had to pass through the Halloween decorations on our way out, so I said good-bye to my cane and put it back. Chuck and I waited patiently by the door as L made her purchases. As we were leaving, L was spellbound by what we saw. It was the sunset. What made this unique to her, though, was this sunset was dominated by the rosy pinks and vibrant reds that Chuck and I are used to in our prairie sunsets. We all had to take a moment and watch this, the end of our day.
If I had grown up in that urban environment; if I had been a mallrat, how would my life have been different? Would an afternoon like this one, of simply hanging out in a department store, been commonplace? I would like to think so. I had never had so much fun in a store. It was just me and my two best friends in the whole world. As we headed back to L’s place, I was happy. It was like the teenage lifestyle I wish I had, rather than the one I got. I would have been an excellent mallrat, but an even better one with friends.