Soon after we arrived at the mall, I discovered that I had left my wallet at home. While this was not an immediate problem during lunch at Salsarita's (lunch is way cheaper when you forget your wallet!), the prospect of spending a couple of hours at the mall without a dime in my pocket felt both frustrating and demoralizing.
How would I survive? What would I do? What is the point of being at a shopping mall if you can't shop, and by "shop," I mean buy?
Pseudo-philosopher that I am, I decided that this would become a morally-instructive experience, that I could learn much about myself by merely observing the activities that everyone around me was indulging in. I would be able to weigh in on our capitalistic society. I could articulate an understanding of unnecessary impulse buying by watching it in others without the distraction of my own impulses.
Alas, that was not to happen. I had a friend with me--my iPad--and I brought him with me into the mall.
Rather than get caught up in a store-to-store study of Saturday buyers, Mr. iPad and I would "opt out," would stake out our spot in the first store we entered, which happened to be the Barnes and Noble. We would get a seat. We would do business--emailing, reading, maybe even a little writing like this, and make productive use of our time.
But then I got an even better idea. In the Barnes and Noble Starbucks outpost, my daughters were buying drinks to accompany their shopping. As I approached them, they saw me, but didn't offer to buy me one, but I realized they might help me in a different way.
"Did either of you bring a pair of headphones?" I asked. My older responded affirmatively.
"I'll just be sitting here," I said. "You call me or come find me when you are ready to go."
They nodded and went back to their order.
And what I decided was that I could use the time to start catching up on Game Of Thrones. Or maybe something else. I could sit down to a show or a different movie.
And that's when I realized, wait a second, no money? Who am I kidding? I'm sitting in B & N with an iPad that's loaded with an HBO app, a Comcast Infinity app, an Amazon Prime app, a Kindle app, an iTunes store app, and any number of others.. I can shop 'till the cows come home--for books, games, movies, songs, or just more apps. I can indulge in the fruits of the money I'm already spending with my various subscriptions and funded accounts.
Certainly, I don't have to lament my "poor" status at the mall. I'm carrying an entire mall with me, and it's way bigger than the one I'm sitting in! It contains every store in the world. And most of what I buy these days isn't tangible anyway.
So did all of that make me feel better or worse or what? Well, I'll leave that for you to decide. Rampant (or even intermittent) capitalism makes me uneasy, but it hasn't prevented my indulgences, so I swallowed whatever hypocrisy I could and sat at a table in the "Pet" section of a bookstore near the bathroom, put on headphones, shut out the consumers around me, and watched two episodes of people living in a world in a time, distance, and imagination from us who seemed to be doing exactly the same things we are doing.