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Laugh all you want, but I can recite every single sale poster backwards. In pig latin.

I’m loath to admit this, so I’ll just say it really fast: Istartedwalkingthemall.


It’s too icy and sidewalk-buried-y to take my usual outside routes, and let us not even speak of that torture device known as The Elliptical in the Basement. So I’ve moved to the mall, earlyish in the morning on preschool days. It’s just me, the darkened stores, and more senior citizens than any of you will see in your entire life, and potentially your entire death.

In a way, it’s very peaceful. My iPod blocks out most everything, although
the swish of nearby houndstooth polyester pants do sometimes make it through the headphones, along with the occasional whine of a maladjusted hearing aid.

It’s also very good for the old confidence, as I lap one retiree after another, nearly a blur as I whip by The Gap (authentic denim is back!), Victoria’s Secret (sale on push-up bras!), Sears (snowblower BLOWOUT!). I sweat my way past a silent Stride Rite, huff and puff by shuttered Pillow Pet kiosks, pound up the escalators.

A couple of weeks ago I started leaving the shame behind. So what if I was walking in a mall? So what if my main competition was on her third grandchild and smelled faintly of Polident? It’s still exercise. It’s still better than doing nothing. SHUT UP. IT IS.

Then yesterday happened.

I was hitting my stride, just about to round the second-floor northeast curve near Famous Footwear. All of a sudden a mall cop swooped out of nowhere on his Segway, dressed head-to-toe in full Mall Cop regalia: helmet with the lightning-bolt decal, black pants, honest-to-God combat boots. It was only the last-minute instinct to press myself against the window of the nearest store (Bath and Body Works; new Hawaii Coconut scent looks promising, if perhaps a little overly toothsome) that saved me from certain and grave injury.

As the mall cop whizzed away, no doubt in hot pursuit of the criminals that plague malls before they open, I suddenly saw What Could Have Been flash before my eyes.


Me: [prone on ground, dewy with sweat but oddly alluring]

Elderly #1: Oh! Oh! Did you see what happened? That whippersnapper riding that what’s-it just knocked this girl to the ground! Quick, someone call 911!

Elderly #2: Here, I have my cellular telephone right here. 9…1….1…wait. How do you make the call go through again? Is it the Talk button or the Send button? I can never remember with all these dadgum gadgets! [throws phone to ground in exasperation, narrowly missing my dewy, unconscious arm]

Elderly #3: I don’t like the way she is lying there. My wife once fell and was on the ground like that and it turned out her hip was broken.

Elderly #1: Oh, I know all about that. My sister, Alma? She broke her hip and it took months of therapy until she was on the road to recovery. Now she has one of those mini-elevator thingies that hook to the banister, just to go up and down the stairs. It’s heartbreaking, really.

Elderly #3: Exactly! Once you experience a fall like this, it’s really all over.

[All Elderlies begin walking in the direction of the food court (Dunkin' Donuts, all coffee $1.25 with senior discount), where they continue their conversation about foregone orthopedic conclusions. In the meantime, I die.]

[P.S. The End.]

[P.P.S. Planning to go back to the elliptical tomorrow.]

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