Nevertheless, come one Sunday I broke down. I needed a few things. Most urgently, I needed what I consider a staple of every wardrobe: a black leather belt with a simple, silver-colored buckle. I thought this would be easy to procure. I should get out more.
Really, what better place than the mall? If you are looking for something specific, it should be the most time-efficient way to get it, right? All those stores in one place? If you don’t find it one, just pop into another. Right?
Those of you with more mall experience must be chuckling at me right now. I can imagine your thoughts.
No, it’s called Amazon. You may be familiar with it. Your books are sold there.
So we set out, the hubby and me. We drive to New Jersey. Our first sign that we have made a mistake is the parking lot. We are city people. At times we don’t see our car for a week. I walk or ride a bike to work. My husband walks. We used to live in the ‘burbs, but I had forgotten the hellscape that is a giant, crowded mall parking lot. All we want to do is park, but we are confronted by all manner of obstacles. Families laden with strollers and bags who struggle to control their wandering tots. People who have no business driving an SUV roughly the size of a locomotive. Other people who have no awareness of their surroundings whatsoever. I want to shout at them, “What? Are you hypnotized?” (Steve Buscemi line from Ghost World [www.imdb.com/title/tt0162346/]. Good movie.)
The trail of walking dead continues inside the mall. I’m a strider. I do not stroll or meander. I especially want to be quick this day. Our plan is to drive to the country. Take in sunshine on fields. Release our stress to the wind. Instead, we get stuck in a line of zombie shoppers, walking four abreast, every attempt to pass thwarted by people coming from the other direction. I imagine myself a brain-hungry ghoul from Dawn of the Dead. (See giphy above. Great flick. www.imdb.com/title/tt0077402/?ref_=tt_rec_tti)
All this would have been tolerable if I could have easily found the fucking belt. But no. I find chain belts and glitter belts and belts with little metal stars on them. Belts with buckles that look like a candelabrum used by a low-rent Liberace impersonator. Belts that look like they have leprosy. I suppose these were supposed to be fashionable. Textured. But really, leprosy.
And the music! A heavy beat with some vocal acrobatics. I can tell this is popular stuff because I see a teenager dancing.
One woman advised we go to the Harley Davidson store on a highway the next town over. I will remember this advice.
In the end, we find our oasis. We push through the hypnotized walkers and the crazed beats and enter a zone of soothing blues and grays and Miles Davis. The Hugo Boss store. Mind you, the hubby and I are not the type to frequent Hugo Boss. We are not fashion-minded. But on this day, it is our refuge.
We walk past the pricey suits arranged in pleasing lines on chrome racks. Past the neat stacks of shirts and hanging silk ties to the back of the store where we find it! A rack of belts. Leather! Black! Silver buckles! The price should give me pause but I don’t care. I want the hell out of that mall. I consider it the bribe I have to pay a sadistic guard at a checkpoint during my escape from a totalitarian state.
Belt in hand, we go to pay. To further redeem the whole nasty business, the guy at the register is HOT. Of course, he’s in a perfectly tailored suit. He’s got a voice like honey and light cocoa skin, warm and smooth. Lovely hazel eyes. I tell him I couldn’t find a decent belt in any women’s clothing store. He tells me his girlfriend is always stealing his belts. He is charming.
The hubby and I head out. We are happy now. We can leave. The hubby says, “That guy was smooth.”
“That guy was hot,” I say. The hubby laughs.
The mall had consumed all our time. We never did get to the country. I could have used it, before my grueling week. But at least I have a super cool belt.