Notes from the Road, #7: Mall-Walking, Pandemic Style

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Some people like to get their exercise by mall walking, which I think is great. It’s a safe place, no weather hazards to deal with, and there’s always the chance to do some window shopping too. Mall walking during COVID, however, is another story. For awhile, the malls in my town didn’t even allow it for obvious reasons. I’ve never really gone to malls for the sole intention of walking, though. Traveling to the mall and the nearby shopping center has turned into a rarity these days, what with my schedule being the way it is, and due to the pandemic. I used to go out to that mall on a regular basis, enough to where some people from one of my favorite stores know me on a first-name basis.

I board the bus, with my fare stuffed in the hand-warmer pocket on my mittens so it’s ready by the time the bus gets here. Due to the weather, it ran late, which I expected. According to the reports, the weather’s gonna warm up later this week, but after that, we’re due for something major.

As the bus makes its way down the main road, I feel so lucky to have the money to ride. The feeling of a warm bus is a luxury, and so is the opportunity to even go to the mall these days. I watch the other cars through the window, some of them looking so new it’s like they literally came off the showroom floor like 10 minutes ago.

We reach the end of this route: the mall. I get off at the new stop the bus company added two years earlier, and cut across the parking lot toward one of the remaining anchor stores. Compared to the way it was this time a year ago, the place was a ghost town just like the rest of the mall.

Sadly, some of the stores didn’t survive the pandemic, and the locations there closed. Some of them unfortunately came as no shock to me, and other store closings were completely out of nowhere from what I could tell, but it’s still sad all the same. A couple parcels stood empty, even before the pandemic started, and were still empty. Sure, there were plans in the works to bring business there, but when that happens remains to be seen, what with the business climate being the way it is now.

I walk to the other mall entrance and exit to go up the road to a complex comprised of a shopping center, grocery store, big-box department store, thrift shop, abandoned arcade/party place, and a chain hardware store. Roughly a mile and a half away is a bookstore I haven’t been to since before the pandemic, and a craft store I hope to make it back over to sometime soon.

That shopping center, thrift shop, grocery store, and big-box store were a few of the places I’d stop in to visit while I was out there, along with a big-box electronics store, a discount shop, and an organic foods market. The organic foods market always had samples out, but not anymore, for obvious reasons.

I used to walk this way just a year earlier, all ready for the cold in my snow pants, boots, and heavy coat . With all that, I could’ve stayed there all day and all night, and probably been able to duke out the 8 to 10 mile walk from there to my house, depending on the route I took, and whether I got sidetracked along the way.

It’s so easy to get sidetracked out here, which is why every time I came this way and walked my rounds, I ended up on the last bus out of there. The mall would be closing, and if I was lucky, I’d make it back just in time to cut through the mall going back to the bus stop. Sometimes I didn’t, and ended up walking around the entire mall instead.

I walked across the parking lot, exhausted from the lack of sleep and part of my rounds involving a trip to the big-box store. They didn’t have some of what I wanted, but the one closer to home for me did, or at least did according to the website.

Those inventory checkers aren’t always accurate anyway.

Speaking of which, the one for the high-end department store seems to be way more accurate than some I’ve seen. According to the in-store availability, the two dresses I wanted in my size were still there, and one of them was on mega-clearance too. I felt like I had a good enough grasp on Habitual’s sizing, so any returns would’ve been unlikely regardless of the sale price.

What luck! Maybe this was meant to be, after all. I wanted to stay and look around more, since I hadn’t had the chance to get out there until now. I wanted to go to the second level and check out some of the gifts in the men’s department, and of course, test out a perfume I had seen online before I made a judgment call or added it to any lists.

Buying perfume online sight unseen is a huge gamble, and more so when there doesn’t seem to be samples or travel sizes available. Unfortunately this location didn’t carry it at all.

Hm. Maybe if I’m ever at a place that carries it, I’ll have to make a note to find it so I can finally try out the stuff, haha.

I check my phone for the time, and instead cut my trip short in the shoe department. I’d finally seen a pair of boots in person, and the more I thought about it, the more I could be open to the pink colorway available there. I still want ’em in green, though, and if the blue ever comes in my size, I may add that to the list too.

I’ve dawdled long enough. Time to wrap this up, make like a horse turd, and hit the trails. I’ve got 20 more minutes left before this next bus leaves. I’ve got too much with me from my trip to the big-box store to run safely, so I power-walk as best as I can until I make it out to the one remaining entrance that’s still open.

Everyone else in the mall had closed, except for a restaurant. Have any of you been inside a mall when it’s all closed up? It’s seriously kinda freaky.

Luck was on my side tonight, since I was the only one at the stop. The temperature had dropped to well below freezing, and as I waited, I felt a sense of longing for what used to be.

My mall, store, shopping center, big-box store rounds just aren’t the same anymore. I came to the realization that they probably won’t be for the foreseeable future.

Are the good times really over for good? I hope not.

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