I've never been a big fan of the American shopping mall. Growing up I lived more than 75 miles from the nearest structure posing as a shopping mall and I never ever had that feeling in my stomach compelling me to go and look at shiny things I don't need. I didn't cry myself to sleep thinking that my life would be complete if only I could saunter around in a building with 100s of of other people, buying things mass-produced in sweatshops and sold at ridiculously inflated or rediculously discounted prices. (Alright, so I didn't think about consumerism that way when I was 12 or 13, but I still really never got mall fever like the media tells us all teenagers do.) I still usually have to be hogtied and forced to buy new clothes. And Goodwill is my clothing store of choice (newest score: NorthFace fleece jacket, $6.99!! MSRP, $99!!).
Today my boss Andy didn't have any special plans for the afternoon. I called his mom to see what Zack (Andy's visiting 10 yr old nephew) wanted to do. She said "go to the mall and spend the money his dad sent him." Oh great, that sounds so awesome. see: sarcasm. So I get to take a 26 year old in a wheelchair and a 10 yr old with money burning a hole in his pocket to the most outrageous mall environment in the Portland metro area: Washington Square Mall. I've spoken of this devil before. Let's just say that the week after xmas, when all of the stores are trying to sell off the rest of their inventory AND school is out so the mall is overrun with emo teenagers, this is not the best time to go to the mall. If there's ever a good time. I kept seeing flashes of donkeys on Pleasure Island.
I couldn't decide if I was going to have a panic attack or a psychotic break. My day peaked just before I got out of bed, so this was right in line with the rest. Did you know that most stores in the mall aren't ADA accesible? What a shocker. Not to mention at any moment, through no fault of his own, Andy's arms and hands might whip out of control and crash a display of NASCAR calendars (not hypothetically). So Andy and I spend most of our time waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting for a 10 year old to decide what he wants in Zumiez, what he wants in Spencer's, what he wants in Hot Topic. I was miserable, if you haven't figured that out.
[Let me also mention that Andy's mom has this week off. So instead of taking her nephew and son shopping, she sics me on it. Yeah, I'm getting paid for it, but that doesn't make it less tortureful. Tortureful: as in full of torture.]
Maybe I'm getting old. (No, I know I'm getting old. When Keith told me Katie was getting a Go Kart for xmas, I didn't respond, "Cool!" I said, "Oh, that sounds dangerous.")
Maybe it's that Keith and I are joining The Compact (stated mission: 1) to go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact; 2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes, as in trash Compact-er; 3) to simplify our lives, as in Calm-pact) January 1st. I just don't buy into the mall craze. It's a scam. Sure I buy stuff I don't need. But I generally don't go to a place where that's their specific goal...to get you to buy things you don't need. It's all distraction and shiny things.
Gearing up for joining The Compact, Keith and I have been making a list of things we should buy before January 1st. After 1/1 we will restrict our purchases to the following categories: Socks/Underwear, Food/Health/Toiletries, Safety. Everything else we will get 2nd hand through thrift stores, craigslist, bartering with friends and family, etc. including clothing, furniture, books (which I don't really buy anymore thanks to a kickass library system), electronics, even gifts for other people. Luckily we have SCRAP and tons of other resources because this is a recycling kind of town. It just seems to us that so many people live disposable lives. We buy things new without thinking. We throw things away without thinking. Where does all of it go? Landfills. Especially electronic items. Tens of millions? A lot. So we are doing what we can to reduce the waste the United States produces. It's catching on.
- The average American throws away 3.5 pounds of trash per day.
- To give you an idea of how much trash we generate here in the United States, imagine a hole the size of a football field, including the end zones. If we bury all of the trash we produce in just one year, that hole would be 100 miles deep!
- Every year we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.