I know, crazy, right? Taking a risk like that? Am I insane or something?
No, just painfully bored. After walking around the block about a hundred times in the last few weeks, my neighbourhood has lost its allure. I know exactly which houses still haven’t taken down their Christmas decorations.
Now, I didn’t go to the mall to do any shopping. I’m not a shopper at the best of times; if Canadian retailers depended on the spending power of people like me, the economy would have collapsed years ago. No, I just went for a change of scenery.
What did I find? A giant, slightly eerie ghost town.
I didn’t go for a stroll in just any mall, but THE mall – West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America. I went there last week, before the Great Panic of 2020 was in high gear, and it was about 80% shuttered. The food courts were still open, but customers were few. But on Saturday, the mall was, by my scientific calculations, 99.242% closed.
I started at a food court, hoping to cash in on a free cup of A&W’s new coffee, which is a real improvement over their old coffee. (This is not saying much, however; I’ve always found A&W coffee tastes like stuff that was rejected by Folgers for being too crappy, which would make it the crappiest coffee in the world. But I digress …) The food court, however, was entirely shut down – with one exception. In a sea of shuttered shops, the Harvey’s/Swiss Chalet was open, with one sorta sad looking woman behind the counter, waiting for customers who will not show.
Walking through the mall, I could count the number of visitors on one hand, if I had a hand with eight fingers. Outside the skating rink (for out-of-towners, WEM has a regulation-sized skating rink), I saw two seniors sitting rather sadly, looking as if they were hoping that somebody, anybody, would come by to talk to them.
As I walked past shuttered store after shuttered store, there was still one olfactory sign of life; the scent from those stores that sell nothing but highly-scented soap still lingered. How do people work in those stores?
At about the half-way mark of the mall, I found an open store – the T&T Supermarket, which specializes in Asian foodstuffs. The store was cooking, literally; you could smell the Chinese food from metres away. (Insert your own ironic comment here.) They seemed to be doing a pretty good business.
Not far from T&T is the relatively new Louis Vuitton store, which sells the highest of high end crap to rich suckers. It, too, was closed, but Louis took it one step further – all of the merchandize in the store was gone, like it had been cleaned out by one of those heists they make bad movies about. Funnily, on the door of the Vuitton store there was one of those stickers you get when a delivery is made, but nobody is home. I’m going to hope that the UPS guy didn’t just leave the box outside the door.
I walked the length of the mall, and found six locations open out of the 800 or so stores and eateries – London Drugs, a Second Specs kiosk (great place to buy inexpensive glasses, by the way), the lone Harvey’s/Swiss Chalet, a supplement store, the T&T supermarket, and the Aurora Cannabis outlet. I went home about a brisk 45 minutes or so, only to notice for the first time a sign on the entrance that stated that the government had mandated an end to “mall walking”. That’s a lie. I checked the government’s website, and there is no such restriction. WEM just doesn’t want people aimlessly wandering their halls, unless they want to buy something.
Regardless, I’m done with mall walking. It was, if anything, even more depressing than seeing houses that haven’ taken down their Christmas decorations.
Since there is literally nothing else to talk about, I thought I’d share a story from the New York Times about how Sweden is handling this crisis. The ski hills are still operating, and restaurants and shops are still, in the main, open. The Swedish view is to mitigate the damage without shutting down society completely, as we have done here. (The City of Edmonton banned children from playgrounds this week, which struck me as the ultimate in over-reaction.) Here’s the story.
As promised last week, here are a couple of fascinating nuggets from The Body, A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson.
- All penicillin in history is descended from the mold scraped from a single random cantaloupe.
- There is a medical condition called cacosmia. For the “especially wretched” people with this condition, everything smells like feces.
- In 1929, a young German doctor wondered if it was possible to gain direct access to the heart with a catheter. So, he experimented on himself by inserting a catheter into an artery in his arm and carefully pushing it until it reached his heart. Knowing he needed proof, he walked to the hospital’s X-ray ward and had some photos taken.
- Each day, a kidney processes 190 quarts of water (which would overflow a bathtub), yet this workhorse of the body weighs just five ounces.
Next week, let’s talk TV and movies. Since we’re stuck inside with only our televisions and computers to keep ourselves occupied, I’ll share some of my streaming favourites. And I welcome anyone reading to send in a response about your favourites as well. It can’t always be about me, can it?