So, quick update … I was laid off from my job back in March. After I did the obligatory Feeling Sorry for Myself portion of the Job Loss Grief Process (which did involve a lot of tears and some comfort food, as well as curling up in bed) I began the Great Panic, which is what I called the newly-open part of my day.
Let’s face it: your job takes up a huge portion of your day, and also creates an instant social network, whether you like these people or not. If that is suddenly taken from you due to job loss, well, you tend to feel empty inside. In fact, I can guarantee that even if you left your job in a great huff, having screamed obscenities at your boss and swept your personal belongings into a bag and drop kicked your employee handbook out of your cubicle and stomped out with both middle fingers held high … wait, are you saying I’m the only one who did that?
… I guarantee that once the high of telling the f-ers off wears off, you will wonder, “well, now what?”
I started Mall Walking.
Let’s just let that sink in. I started to drive to one of the local malls before opening and began walking laps around the interior of said mall.
Now I can some of you asking, “Why, ScotValkyrie, why would you drive to a mall to walk around when you can just walk around your neighborhood??”
Well, the easy answer to that is that I live in the heat volcano that is the Phoenix area.
During the summer, the temps are over 100* by 9 am. At night, sometimes it doesn’t get below 90*. And before any of you mugs say “But it’s a dry heat,” I say, “Go climb naked into your preheated oven and tell me how that feels. Because THAT’S A DRY HEAT TOO.” If you step outside during a Phoenix summer, you can feel the moisture leaving your body.
Other things you’ll find people doing in a Phoenix summer is not moving about very much, keeping oven mitts in their cars in order to use the stick shift, and be willing to park far away if it means you can park in the shade of a spindly palo verde tree. We remove all the carpets from our houses and replace it with tile so at least the floor’s cool. If it rains, we stop everything we’re doing and go to stare at this phenomenon of water falling from the sky. Before I moved here, I had never heard of the term virga. Do you know what virga is? That’s rain that evaporates before it hits the ground. It’s that hot, folks.
Okay, so we’ve established that it’s too hot in the summer here to walk in the neighborhood unless you go out at 3 am, and no one sane is doing that. But I wanted to exercise a bit, so I decided to do the mall walking, which has its own perils, mostly due to the other walkers.
Generally, we have a mental picture of mall walkers. They’re old farts, moving slowly around the perimeter but getting some exercise in. And generally, that is true. However, I was walking 5 times a week most weeks — seriously, and I was tooting along between 4.5 and 5 miles an hour, thank you very much — so I got a lot of great opportunities to categorize some of the folks I saw.
1) YOU SHALL NOT PASS. This is probably the largest group, and there are several subsets in this group. You see, the thing with malls is that they’re not as big as you think they are. Now, the mall I’m walking in is a large oval. It’s almost 1 mile around. And it has mostly wooden floors, which is nice to walk on. But the swath of space between each side of the mall is filled with kiosks, fountains, benches, massage chairs, vending machines, and other nonsense, so it’s not as if it’s just a whole lot of room in there. Now, if you’re a fast walker like me, you want to keep your pace up, but if you come up behind a mall walker, sometimes it’s hard to get around because of people like this:
- The Force Field. I found this to be most often a group of three or four old women walking abreast. No, they weren’t bouncing an enormous mammary gland between them. These ladies walk in a straight line, effectively forming a fence that cannot be breached. You can come up behind them loudly, cough, announce your presence, even say “excuse me”, but they will not move. It is an electric fence of blue hair. The best method of getting around them is to change lanes around the center kiosks, benches, etc. However, you have to time this carefully because of people coming from the other direction. That is a different set of problems.
- The Accelerators. Sometimes the Force Field is also an Accelerator. The Accelerator can also be a single person. simply put, this is a walker that speeds up as you try to pass. Seriously. This happens. The best way to handle this is to keep walking. No Accelerator wants to walk at the same speed as you, so usually they will back off.
- Signal this! This walker, also known as a Lane Changer, is a person who mysteriously changes direction or moves over to be directly in front of you as you’re trying to pass. Often times, this results in your mis-stepping or getting off your stride; on occasion it has caused me to nearly fall over. Now, most of the time this is purely accidental. Obviously, no one is wearing a rear-view mirror like some people wear on bike helmets. However, there is one instance in a person at my mall that I call The Homoncula. This little Asian woman works in the mall, and she likes to do a couple of laps before work. She has literally looked behind her so that she could step directly in my path. Perhaps next time she tries this, I will shriek “GOJIRA!” and begin stomping around.
- Brake Lights, Who Needs ‘Em? Simply put, these are people who get distracted by something shiny in the shop window and stop walking. Right in front of you. And the Force Field behind you. If you run into a Force Field that suddenly stops like this, then I think the earth stops spinning.
2) THE BEAR CLAW BUNCH. This is my name for a group of walkers who walk just long enough to make it to the coffee stand in the food court. Then it’s pastry time.
3) THE STROLLER WOMEN. Now that school has started, I’ve been seeing more moms with strollers. Normally this wouldn’t bug me too much, except the stroller is the size of a Hummer, there’s a large Starbucks Coffee precariously balanced on the handle, the mom is texting, and the perfect snowflake angel children are walking somewhere in the vicinity of mom instead of being strapped into the damn stroller. Um, Mom, isn’t that why you brought that monstrosity into the mall in the first place? In one fell swoop, the Stroller Women can be any or all of the subsets of Mall Walker type 1.
A couple of times, I noticed that there was some sort of “moms group” collecting near one of the entrances with all their Hummer strollers, large purses, non-strapped-in-perfect-snowflake-angels, and large cups of triple-shot-no-foam-lo-fat-whipped-cream coffee psuedo-drinks. Thank heavens I was on my way out of the mall, but this gaggle was starting to stretch so that they could begin their walk. All their little snowflake precious angels started screeching to me as I went past, “Goodbye! Bye-bye! Buh-byeeeeee! Bye! Goo-bye-bye!” and all sorts of other permutations of aloha as the little rugrats thought they were being oh so perfect and precious and snowflake-ey.
So naturally, because I am an old curmudgeon, I turned, raised my eyebrow to the nearest germ-laden child, and said in my best vampire voice, “Ask your mother why it’s dangerous to talk to strangers.”
Funny thing, that. I haven’t seen that group of mothers since.