When I was a kid growing up in Mahopac, N.Y., everyone who needed a job headed straight for the nearby Jefferson Valley Mall. I actually held three gigs there:
1. Dishwasher, J.B. Danigan’s Restaurant: I was 15 … had never held down a job before. The manager introduces himself, hands me a schmock and throws me into the kitchen. “This is the dishwasher,” he sayd, pointing to a large steel box. “You’ll figure it out.” Before I know it, plate after nasty plate is headed my way. They’re piling up, and I’m screaming for help. I take the dirtiest dish, one covered with melted cheese and half-eaten nachos, and slide it under the dish washer. Then I storm outâ€”50 minutes after I started. For all I know, the manager still thinks I’m back there.
2. Opinion Taker, National Opinion Center: Without question, the worst job I’ll ever have. Imagine: You’re 16, with no self-confidence, and your task is to roam the mall with a clipboard, asking people for 10 minutes to discuss soap or pretzels or a new line of binders. Whenever you’re spotted, everyone dashes the opposite direction.
3. Salesman, Great American Cookie Company: Come closing time, we’d have dozens upon dozens of cookies left over for the staffers to take home. Best gig ever.
Anyhow, I digress. The point of this post was to note how, nowadays, malls are flatlining at an insanely fast pace. Just yesterday evening, I took the kids to the Westchester Mall for some fun and kicks. Nathan’sâ€”gone. City Limits Dinerâ€”gone. Sharper Imageâ€”gone. That cruddy kids store with the $40 T-shirtsâ€”gone. Disney Storeâ€”gone. Obviously, some of this has to do with the swooning economy, and years of Bush neglect. But I’d say the biggest factor is an obvious one: Thanks to Amazon, Target.com, etc … etc, who needs to waste hours roaming shop to shop?
Oddly, I’m sort of saddened by this. Malls symbolize part of my youth. I can vividly recall strolling the JV Mall on my down time, hitting up Foot Locker, Burger King, Merry Go Round (where parachute pants were always 2 for 1), CVS. I had my left ear pierced at the Piercing Pagoda; saw my father’s book on sale for the first time at Waldenbooks; bought Whitney Houston’s debut album at Record World. You’d see familiar friends, smile at the hottie girls, roam aimlessly until the security guards chased you off. It wasn’t exactly Mayberry, but the mall was a halfway decent way to blow an afternoon.
Oh, well …