August 28, 2020
Thursday morning I went to the mall. It was a little creepy. Definitely more “Dawn of the Dead” than “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” The parking garage next to Nordstrom’s was empty at 10:00 AM, but I parked my car and headed for the entrance next to the French bakery. It was locked. The sign suggested two other entrances, but they were a long walk away.
Now Lenscrafters must know about my appointment, I thought, judging from the reminder texts, postcards, and phone calls I’ve been getting all week. So I called and a guy named Andrew said he would come let me in. I put on my mask and he came from the inside and opened the door. The mall was empty. There were two sales people visible in Lenscrafters and, somewhere out of sight, back in the examination room, an optometrist. That’s it.
I asked them how it’s been. Quiet, they said. They’ve been open all the time, by appointment only, considered an essential business. A few stores in the mall are open for pick up only. You order on line and drive over to pick up your stuff, kind of like they’re doing with restaurants these days. Some of the restaurants, like Polly’s and Cheesecake Factory, are open for lunch outside on their patios.
The actual eye appointment was fairly normal, except that we were all wearing masks and they were constantly spraying things and wiping them off. The process went quickly, seeing as I was the only one there. Eye exam, vision assessment, picking out frames. Another customer walked in as I was leaving.
In the past I would have shopped around and had lunch at the Food Court while they prepared my new lenses, but this time they said they will call me in about two weeks to pick the new glasses up. Maybe they send them out? By the time I walked out of the store it was after eleven and there were two or three people walking around. I decided to explore, so I walked slowly down to Macy’s. It was closed. All the escalators were turned off. A lone security guard rolled by on a Segway, turned around at the end, and took the center elevator up to the second level.
Most stores were closed. Restoration Hardware, now called RH, was open. So was Old Navy, Chico’s, and the Lego Store. See’s Candy was closed. The restrooms were closed. There were no central kiosks, no moms with strollers, no children in the play area, which would normally be full on a weekday morning. I need to let go of that word normal, I thought. What does it really mean? Just whatever I’m used to? Funny how your mind wanders when you’re alone. I didn’t go upstairs, but I did catch a sad glimpse of Bag n Baggage Travel Gear with a sign that said, “Everything must go!”
Malls are meant to be big and lively places, with music playing and people’s conversation bouncing off the walls in the food court so you can hardly hear yourself thinking. People distracted by cell phone and children and window displays, saying “excuse me” as they nearly bump into someone walking the other way. Kind of like the old days, when we went downtown to shop. Silver bells, silver bells . . . I found myself thinking back, thinking ahead. I wondered if they would have a resurgence at Christmas. They’re allowed to be open at 25% capacity starting Monday.
But now it’s so quiet.
I left through the same door, by the Nordstrom’s. The big automatic doors were turned off, but the side door opened from the inside manually. As I pulled it open and walked out a young man jumped up, ran over, and grabbed the door to let two friends in.
Almost as if the zombies were coming.
Today’s Notable Headlines
“These retailers filed for bankruptcy in August. Here’s who might be next,” CNN, Aug.29, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/29/business/august-retail-bankruptcies-due-to-covid/index.html
“Retail Bankruptcies Will Push Mid-Range Malls Over the Edge,” Bloomberg, Aug. 27, 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2020-shopping-malls-in-decline/
“Here’s what can and can’t open on Aug. 31 in SoCal under Gov. Newsom’s new framework,” ABC News, Aug. 28, 2020. https://abc7.com/california-purple-tier-counties-businesses-reopening-what-does-mean/6393859/
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the events of these days from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.
You are on History’s Edge.