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The Times
  • Gary Brown: Go shopping, you’ll see life becomes relative

  • I stopped at the mall in the afternoon the other day and stayed just long enough for people to eye me warily and wonder, “Why are you wandering around looking like you haven’t ever seen teen clothing stores before? Shouldn’t you be sitting on one of the benches with the rest of the old people?”

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  • I stopped at the mall in the afternoon the other day and stayed just long enough for people to eye me warily and wonder, “Why are you wandering around looking like you haven’t ever seen teen clothing stores before? Shouldn’t you be sitting on one of the benches with the rest of the old people?”
    Old people stand out — OK, maybe sit out — in malls these days, at least during the week. Apparently, weekdays during the summer are young people days in the mall, except perhaps at a couple of tables they must reserve at the food court for “Guys Wearing Ties Who Are On Lunch Break.” There might even be a sign.
    Well, one guy got up and took his tie from a table, so I replaced him, sitting down with my submarine sandwich. I had come to the mall to combine lunch with an errand. So, I quickly stuffed myself, then made my purchase, and spent the rest of my time walking the perimeter of the mall’s interior, as if I was obeying some doctor’s orders to get some exercise.
    The first thing I noticed was that the vast majority of the mall’s patrons were way too young to have had a heart attack, yet they still were walking much faster than the pace I could ever hope to maintain. I sauntered, from store to store, looking into each of the store’s windows, without ever actually buying anything, as if I was on some retirement orientation trip.
    I was sort of on my own in that activity. Unless they have a special day, retired people don’t seem to go to the mall on a summer afternoon. Granted, I only have an hour or so of evidence upon which to come to this conclusion. Maybe I just stopped at the mall at nap time and they were on their way back.  
    But all I saw were people quite a bit younger than me.
    Young children with young mothers or very young grandmothers were getting an early start on back-to-school shopping.
    Relatively young couples strode hand-in-hand, as if they were still in the honeymoons of their marriages. They couldn’t have been married long as they still seemed happy to be shopping together.
    Well-dressed teenagers walked together through the mall. They didn’t seem to have any obligations, other than to show up at a summer job later in the day.
    I remember such carefree days in my life. OK, I didn’t while I was at the mall. But, later, while talking to a friend about it, I was wondering aloud if the mall had become just a young person’s destination. It then dawned on me that life becomes relative as the years pass.
    Page 2 of 2 - “When I used to go to the mall often it was all older people,” I said.
    “How long ago was that?” my friend asked, as if this was just the starter question for a conversation that I wasn’t going to enjoy.
    “Thirty years ago. Maybe 35.”
    “And how old were you then?” my supposed friend asked, a little bluntly I thought.
    Oh. It all makes a little more sense when you put it cruelly.
     

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