While in Philadelphia on birthday business last weekend, we took a trip to the King of Prussia Mall. Now, back in Vermont as March roars in like a lion, I can\’t get the mall out of my head. You know you are a country mouse when a few hours in a mall reverberate in your mind for days.
It\’s not as if Vermont doesn\’t have malls. There is one in Rutland, the second largest city in the state, 45 minutes from where we live. But it\’s a miniature mall, anchored by a Sears and a K-mart. If the Rutland Mall is the moon, the King of Prussia Mall is the sun.
The King of Prussia Mall has so many stores, levels, plazas and parking lots that the management has posted a uniformed staff person by each directory to point people to where they want to go. There are stores upon stores, restrooms, restaurants, and those funny little businesses that park themselves in the middle of the corridors, selling watches, sunglasses, neon-colored drinks, and belly-button jewelry.
A couple of stalls offered eyebrow plucking by Indian ladies in saris, who, scorning regular tweezers, yanked out hairs by manipulating a couple of strings. I would have looked closer but was embarrassed for the pluckees, though they themselves didn\’t seem to mind the attention. Neither did a man who was being shaved in the window of a store selling luxury men\’s toiletries. The next time I\’m in a mall, I wondered, will people be getting wax jobs in public?
By the time I\’d been in the mall five minutes, I\’d seen more mass-produced goods than I see in Vermont in five months. Where did all this stuff come from? Not Pennsylvania, for sure. I didn\’t see a single “buy local” sign in the entire mall. It all came from every corner of the earth, as if by teleportation.
Ours being a child-centered excursion, we went to the Lego Store, which was cunningly designed with child-height portholes through which you could glimpse a pixillated world teeming with butterflies, earth-moving equipment, and square-shouldered workers. There was even a replica of the Taj Mahal.
Next we went to the Walt Disney Store, in search of a pair of fairy wings. Although this was a small store, it had not one but two TV sets—one giant—playing and replaying bits of animated movies with square-jawed princes and their fawn-like loves smirking and batting their eyelashes at each other. I loved Disney as a child, but now he makes me shudder.
We had a good lunch at a restaurant named for a far-away state. As we waited for our food, I looked around and realized that there was not a single gray-headed woman in the place. There were lots of women with past-their-prime faces, but they all sat under evenly-colored caps of pale gold, copper, or coal-black hair.
We had plenty of time to digest our lunch as we walked back to the parking lot. For a moment we stood before the ocean of cars and wondered if we\’d ever find our own. But we spotted it in a second, our shabby gray Subaru, sitting there in its coat of mud and salt, waiting to take us home.