Day at the mall is a nightmare

Kevin Cowherd

August 25, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

Journal of a back-to-school shopping trip:

11 a.m. -- Arrive at mall. Naturally, I end up parking somewhere out in North Dakota, next to a woman who gets out of her car while slamming her door into mine. She walks away without a word. Nice talking to you.

11:10 -- We push past usual knot of teen-age Anthrax worshipers smoking Marlboros at the entrance. Mall went smoke-free not long ago; disaffected youth must now develop embryonic stages of lung cancer and compare purple hair and nipple rings outside.

11:12 -- Good God, the place is packed! Grim-faced moms drag sullen kids from store to store. Hollow-eyed dads laden with packages shuffle listlessly behind. Thuggish pre-schoolers elbow 80-year-old grandmothers on the escalators. Babies wail. I pop two extra-strength Bufferin for ordeal ahead.

11:15 -- The 11-year-old says he needs a backpack. He settles on one that looks big enough for scaling the north face of Kilimanjaro. Must be some mistake, though: The price tag reads like it belongs to six pieces of Samsonite luggage.

11:45 -- Steady now, we're in the Gap. Apparently the fashion look for this fall is some kind of neo-grunge thing that looks like you've been rooting around in a Goodwill bin.

Flannel shirts and bermuda shorts are big. So are scruffy denim jackets over drab sweat shirts and torn jeans.

As I understand it, nothing's supposed to match or have any more shape to it than if you punched some arm and leg holes in a Hefty trash bag. Otherwise the kid gets hooted at by everyone else and ends up on an analyst's couch 20 years from now, sobbing about how his unspeakably cruel parents made him wear Izod polo shirts and khaki pants to school.

12:30 -- Time for lunch. The food court has all the calm of the running of the bulls at Pamplona. We walk past something called -- I'm not making this up -- the Everything Yogurt and Salad Cafe. The customers are all bright-eyed, trim, hard-bodied.

I, on the other hand, look for the Mostly Fat and Heavy Cholesterol Emporium. Pear-shaped men with golf hats and hacking coughs, doughy-faced women in spandex and "How Bout Dem O's?" T-shirts, grossly overweight kids, that's my kind of crowd. We settle for cheeseburgers and fries and sit next to an enormous man who makes me look like Bo Jackson.

1:00 -- What is this, Benetton? Wavedancer? County Seat? Who knows? They all run together after a while. Another fashion biggie this fall: oversized Looney Tunes T-shirts. Wonder why today's students can't pinpoint Canada on a map unless it's highlighted with a bottle of Moosehead?

How's this for a reason: Our kids are now reporting for class in clothes that feature the likenesses of such eminent scholars as Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat and Bugs Bunny.

Tell me: Why can't kids dress more sensibly for school, the way we did? Paisley shirts, psychedelic vests, elephant bells, granny glasses, platform heels -- now there's an outfit that says: "Hey, I'm here to learn!"

1:35 -- Next up: school supplies. Bad news for you parents of young kids: Barney the dinosaur is still big. No, he's bigger than big. He's huge. He's like Warner Bros. He's like Guru Barney-Ma.

Barney lunch boxes, Barney thermoses, Barney backpacks, Barney notebooks . . . and these kids will be applying to Yale Law School in 15 years.

Something to think about: Barney spelled backward is Yenrab. Remind me to look it up. My guess: Ancient Norse god of the underworld.

2:10 -- Ever wonder why so many immigrants are clamoring to reach our shores? We're in this gift store, OK? And I come across a pillow with a picture of country hunk Billy Ray Cyrus draped in -- stay with me here -- the Stars and Stripes!

The pillow goes for $4.99. And there was only one left.

This is a great, great country.

2:25 -- Just for laughs, I leave the kids and duck into Victoria's Secret. The saleswoman gives me a look like I'm dribbling at the chin and wearing a raincoat with nothing on underneath.

"Little something for the wife," I mumble, eyeing a tasteful fire-engine red negligee that looks like something from the "Women of Heidi Fleiss" catalog.

The saleswoman stares at me until I slink out of the store.

2:45 -- Time to leave. The Visa card is maxed out. Bufferin wearing off, too. Maybe I should have soaked a handkerchief with ether.

But if you start blacking out in stores, people are gonna talk.

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