The other day I had to go to Oakridge mall to hand in my broken cell phone and get it sent away for repairs. This is the first time since Xmas that I’ve stepped foot in a mall and I felt like I was going through culture shock. You see, most of Vancouver is void of malls. This is doable in a city that’s planned for pedestrian traffic, and encourages private businesses and entrepreneurship. It also helps that winter doesn’t exist here too. Anyways, most people shop at the local fruit & vege market, or the small hardware store, or the corner bookstore. Unless one is hankering for brand name clothes and greasy courtyard food, there’s absolutely no reason to shop at a mall (unless you need to ship your phone for repairs or go to Daiso).
So I drove the 30 min to Oakridge, mindful to get there before rush hour traffic starts. I enter the Bay and was already overwhelmed by the space and selection. I went through (got distracted by discounted jewelry) and found my pseudo-friendly-I’m-too-cool-to-help-you Fido kiosk. Oh, that’s another thing. I find that Mall service is noticeably weaker than private businesses. Anyways, after settling the phone stuff, I continued meandering through the mall. My one and major feeling: oppressed.
What? Oppression? Isn’t a mall an exuberant place of choice and abundance? Well, that’s only if you have money and a perfect figure. And what choice is actually given? As I walked through and look at the clothes, I felt that the only way to look good, or to feel good, is spend $$ on the latest look, made by cheap Asian labor. And that’s just the stores. What of the recycled mall air, the lack of sunshine, and the endless drone of shoppers?
Okay, I’m being dramatic. Maybe I’m spending too much time on thinking about “radical living” – radical meaning going back to the roots. The aim is to live simply and be consciously aware of the media and the marketing messages thrown at us everyday. Most of the time I’m quite removed from advertisements and consuming culture, so when I venture back in I’m in shock. Really, people are buying into this (literally)?
Mind you, I’m a sucker for nice things. Pretty things. Things that make me feel pretty. Retail therapy can be a cheap and instantaneous fix on a crappy day. Maybe I’m just a lot more sensitive to this now, since I have to live without and be frugal with my money. Maybe I’m just being envious of those who don’t even have to question the price.
But what gives me greater happiness is finding great stuff at a bargain. Case in point: a few days later I went to the Salvation Army thrift store and found a steal steamer for $13! It’s even two levels and has a glass lid. Visions of sticky rice, egg custard, steamed pork & tofu, and dumplings suddenly became more real. I’ve been looking for a steamer for quite some time and the only ones I’ve came across were over hundred dollars. Thirteen dollars, baby! Who cares about fitting into a dress made for barbies?!
Not sure where I’m going with this, other than to say that I will avoid malls like the plague. I wonder if it’s possible (actually I’m sure it is), to never buy a new article of clothing again… then again, new underwear is probably a good idea.