Sunday, 18 December 2011

Suburban shopping with a dose of karma

My confession for today is that I willingly entered a suburban shopping centre to complete my Christmas shopping and satisfy my need for a white flower (part of my costume for this evening's vocal group performance).  Today of all days!  The last Sunday before Christmas Day.

Preparation was the key and I arrived five minutes after the opening time of 10am.  Already the prime parking spots were taken, but I was able to park within a few minutes of arriving.  Determined shoppers made a beeline for the entries.  They looked like they had a plan and knew exactly where they were going. Just like me really.  In and out was the plan.

I managed to complete my shopping within 90 minutes of arriving and was feeling pleased enough to observe the place.  It was no longer easy to zoom through the pedestrian thoroughfares.  It was now an obstacle course of aimless wanderers, people too absorbed in their phones to notice the real people within their vicinity, people with prams flanked by an emu parade of energised toddlers and slouching teenagers and people flogging beauty products.  Standing in the middle of a shopping centre is exactly where I want to have my nails buffed by the miracle buffer or be manhandled by an ugly 20 year old man trying to flirt with me as he tries to rub moisturiser onto me.

The kids at Boost juice were having fun by turning up the music to drown out the sound of the blenders (that is, loud enough to make your ears bleed) and showing no awareness of the resulting cacophony assaulting passers-by.

As part of a Christmas promotion, any purchase of more than $10 entitled shoppers to go in the draw to win $10,000 (handy at any time).  In a clever marketing strategy, you could also see if you'd won an instant prize. In most cases this required spending more money in a particular shop.  I swapped a jewellery voucher for a coffee voucher and gave a maternity voucher to a woman who clearly needed it more than I did.  The coffee voucher was a two for one and as I was on my own (and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible) I stalked the line of people waiting at the relevant store.  Two sad looking men were standing there.  I walked up and smiled and offered the voucher to the first man.  He looked  at me as though I had just offered him an envelope of anthrax.  The second man in the queue nodded, took the voucher and didn't meet my eyes.  I wished him merry Christmas, he said nothing in reply and continued to avoid my eyes.

I figured I may as well give the vouchers to someone who might use them rather than just put them in the bin. The least they could say is "thanks".  Actually, the least they could say was nothing at all; this is the option they chose.

These shopping centres are quite like airports in their vibe - closed in, bustling environments with a hum of constant noise bouncing off all the hard surfaces.  And people wandering around.  At least the airport is just a jumping off point in the journey to another destination.  The shopping centre seems to be the destination itself.

When I walked out to find my car, many more cars were driving in circles trying vainly to find a place to park.    I felt their eyes lock on me as soon as they saw me as a shopper with bags heading away from the shopping centre.  They started to drive very slowly behind me, trying to read my direction from slight twitches in my body language.  The trouble was I wasn't completely sure of exactly where I had parked the car, so a few people may have misread my twitches.  I didn't hear the sound of crunching metal, but I did hear the sound of screeching brakes when I tripped over my car.  She was so excited, you'd think I'd just told her she'd won the $10,000.

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