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Dear well-intentioned entrepreneur,
I'm afraid I'll have to pass on your offer. In the creation of your digital "mall", it sounds like you're forgetting the all important social aspect of a physical mall. For instance, I'll be arsed if any one of your clients has a decent food court, restrooms, Big Name department stores like Sears or J.C. Penney, or a multiplex complete with ne'er-do-well teens congregating outside, smoking cigarettes as if they were old enough to buy them while gossiping about "who likes who" and waiting for a good parking lot fist-fight to take place.
What I'm trying to say here is that a day at the mall is an essential American cultural experience that simply can't be replaced by technology, particularly for the children. I live in Kingston, NY, right near the Hudson Valley Mall. It's pretty much the only mall for miles. Kingston's an interesting place. All the residents are either 17 and younger or 40 and older. I'm an aberration in my late-20s. I'm too old to run with the army of teens, and too young to be their father. I'd like to think I fulfill a special role here, particularly at the mall where I've taken on the role of being an unofficial guidance counsellor. The kids you have aimlessly wandering around your web mall on a Saturday night aren't in the environment that will help them become adults, merely consumer shut-ins.
Sure it's not all positive down at the proper mall. One time I was wearing a checkered button-down shirt and jeans, looking extremely nerdy to the youngsters, when one of them passed me by and said, "Dude, I think you left your pocket protector at home", to which I replied, "Actually, I probably just left it at your mom's house last night." His friends then laughed and enjoyed the quip enough to restrain him from pummelling me. Sometimes the kids merely cough "*freak*" as they walk by me just before I trip them.
Yet there are experiences in the mall that are amazingly rewarding, and essential for these kids' character building. These can not be taken away from today's teens! Let me tell you a story that started on a Friday night many months ago that proves my point.
I was buying cleaning supplies at Target and checking out. I saw a new register opening up, and I darted to it with my shopping cart at full throttle, causing as few casualties and as little property damage as possible. The cashier's name was Judy (according to her helpful name tag), and she was just finishing up a conversation with her boyfriend.
"So my parents went away for the weekend. Why don't you come over so we can finally... you know..." proposed the suave lothario.
Judy giggled coyly, "OK, I'll be there after I get off at 10."
Even though it was a sex thing, It was very sweet and innocent. She kept her eyes fixed on the boy as he walked out of the store.
I broached the subject tenderly, "You two are a cute couple."
She let loose a blushy smile, "Thanks."
"So tonight's the big night?"
She turned bright red, "Yeah."
"First time? For both of you?
I smiled and tried to be helpful, "Well, have fun. I don't need to give you a lecture about protection, right?"
She broke into what looked like a sunburn, "No, we're all set. Thanks."
As I was signing my credit card authorization, a serious question was raised in my mind.
"Listen, " I said, "I would feel irresponsible not telling you this, but as someone who's slightly older, lightly wiser, and has been around the block enough to pass 'GO' and collect $200 dollars several times - not literally of course, no one's ever paid me for sex - there's something very important you should know about losing your virginity. Something that They don't tell you."
"It's really going to suck. Not necessarily in a painful sort of way, although that's not out of the realm of possibility, but because both of you have no idea what you're doing it'll be just awful. Seriously. I guarantee you that the following exchange will occur initiated by one or the other of you: 'Is it in?' 'I'm not sure' 'How about now?' There's going to be an absence of the appropriate amount of foreplay, misdirected from the appropriate places to a brief amount of kissing, and gratuitous breast manipulation. Then the ill-prepared thrusting begins. Just take it slowly, and make sure you're both ready."
"I don't mean to offend you in any way, but such is the way of life, so try not to build this up into some big thing. You won't orgasm, and it'll be a logistical nightmare. Sex truly gets better with experience."
"Thanks, I'll remember that... really."
Then I decided to do the right thing and help out a teen in need.
"Now, this might sound a little strange, and I'll preface this by saying this: I'm not hitting on you. I'm merely providing a valuable life service for someone in need. So here it goes: Like I said before, I'm older, and wiser, and I know what I'm doing. If you want to have proper sex with someone who can show you more or less what it's all about, I'm up to the task."
All of a sudden there was a violent change in her demeanor, "Get the fuck out of my business you fucking creep!"
"God, I thought you might take that the wrong way. Here, I'll give you my phone number and address just in case. Please think about it. I'm seriously just trying to help. I don't see you as a hot, shapely, naive young girl, just as a blooming flower who needs a good watering with a powerful hose. Wait, that didn't come out quite right."
"GET OUT OF HERE!!!"
I did. Quite fast at that. I put my purchases in my car, trying to figure out where I went wrong to no avail. I then drove around to the movie theater. That side of the mall was hopping.
I was thinking about seeing a comedy, when I noticed a group of four goth kids being refused admittance into the latest horror movie. I stepped in, and tried to be more helpful with a more trivial matter as opposed to taking on the hard and heavy issues of mere minutes before.
"Excuse me." I queried to the cashier, "What seems to be the problem here?"
"These kids have no ID, I can't let them into an R rated movie."
"I see. Well, I'm their legal guardian. I've allowed them to go see the film."
He wasn't buying it, "Do you have any proof of that?"
"I'm not in the habit of carrying around documentation of my children's relationship to me, but I can fill you in on their lives before I adopted them."
I pointed to the one closest to me, "Nancy here is the daughter of two trapeze artists. One time they were performing as part of a circus troupe when a rival group of entertainers wheeled into town. They loosened the safety net before one of Nancy's parents' performances, and then blasted a large noise during it. The usually dexterous artistes lost their concentration and fell to their deaths. The sinister clown responsible for the whole thing felt the pressure of the large shoe of the law, but wound up getting off scot free.
"Mark's mom was a trucker. She was doing a run up to Albany with her husband along for the ride when all of a sudden about 15 deer made a run for it across the Thruway. She managed to squash all but one of them like bugs on the grill of her 18-wheeler, but the last one was in mid-air and was hit in such a way to send the creature crashing through the windshield, with one branch of antlers decapitating each parent. Poor Mark had to ID the only head they could find.
"It took me a little while to discover William's origins. After starting a fight in school, I spanked him. He was crying, but frankly I wasn't even putting all my weight into it or following through. I found out he killed his single dad with a knife after a spanking. He was a pro-tennis legend. The only reason why he didn't kill me is be cause an open-palmed slap is nothing compared to the mighty power behind a two-handed backstroke, so to speak.
"And last but not least is Cindy. Of course, I would much rather have been spanking this former child beauty queen. Her parents were tangled and strangled in their own elaborate Christmas lighting display three years ago. To be honest, the G-rated The Santa Clause 2 would be much worse for her to see than the goriest slasher flick you could show her.
"Now, I hate like hell for the kids to be forced to hear all of this and relive the pasts they're so bravely attempting to move on from, but it's just to prove the point to you that any fictional trauma is a cakewalk to these kids."
The cashier was moved. "OK, will you fucking stop already? They can go, but you have to go in with them. Holy fucking shit, can you talk!"
"Please, the language... not in front of the kids."
We all went in. They were very thankful and they thought that I was a good guy. I learned their real names, and I also gave them my phone number and address in case they ever needed anything before I sneaked into another theater where I could actually keep my eyes open and fixed upon the screen without the intimidation of brutal, extensive gore.
Later that night there was a knock on my door, I figured that the girl from Target had thought about what I said and came over for a somewhat clinical, educational, yet thoroughly enjoyable introduction into the world of sexual experience. I opened my door to find Judy, but apparently she brought her entire high school football team with her. They beat me up pretty severely, drank all my booze, and then beat me up again just when I was about to figure out how I was going to get to the hospital without the use of my broken hand to either drive there or call an ambulance. I tried to get them to stop, but they wouldn't. Drinking that is. It was difficult to see between the blood in my eyes and the wincing from extreme pain, but there didn't appear to be a designated driver in the bunch!
Luckily, the police arrived to detain these hooligans. It would appear that the kids from the movie also came over last night to hang out, saw what was happening to me, and called the cops. I'm proud to have made up an elaborate lie about how they were my children. After the cops rid my apartment of the Kingston High football team, my Kingston High goth squad carried me like an invertebrate blob downstairs and got me the medical attention I so richly deserved.
When I came to I was extremely disoriented. "What time is it?" I asked. "It's 9 am... on Monday. We hung around all weekend to be here if you needed anything." Rebecca (a.k.a. Cindy) said.
"Thank you, that's very sweet. Shouldn't you kids be in school?"
"Yeah, but we didn't want to leave you alone."
"I appreciate that. Well, maybe you should go, and if one of you wouldn't mind taking turns feeding me through a straw and changing my catheter during lunch and after school, I'd pay you for your efforts. You're a good bunch."
"Don't worry, man, it's the least we can do."
After about a month they wheeled me into Target for some shopping. When we checked out, the clerk was, you guessed it, Judy. I apologized about the little misunderstanding when we last met, and she apologized as well. She said she figured out that I wasn't such a bad guy after all if I could take the goth kids and make them happy under my tutelage. She also confirmed my fears for her first sexual encounter, which is when she informed her football player boyfriend about what I had said and my offer right before he rallied the troops to kick my ass. As a peace offering she gave me her employee's discount. Unfortunately her boyfriend was visiting her right at that moment.
Later that night, The football team kicked in my door, and beat the living tar out of me again. I attempted to reason with them, but they weren't seeing my point so they broke my jaw. Still feeling I could get through to them I crawled over to a pad and pen to finish my sentence, but then they started working my arms. In a last ditch attempt, I was trying to scrawl out an apology in my own blood on the carpet. That's when Judy showed up. However, this time Judy wasn't there as a wicked observer enjoying her besmirched honor being restored through force, but she actually figured out what the team was up to and came to my house to stop it after what only felt like 8-9 broken bones this time. I was very proud once again.
Judy called up my goth friends and told them what was up with me. She got me to the hospital and the goths met up with us there.
Sometimes life gets messy, and these kids need to learn that. If it weren't for these occurrences in the mall, kids would never learn about the things that kids need to learn about. Sure I could have done without the emotional and physical wear and tear, but the net result made me happy enough to endure the pain of smiling, even if it meant popping the pins out of my jaw.
Judy learned about sex, trust, and the ills of violence. The goth kids learned... well I'm not sure what they learned, but they definitely seem more upbeat and positive then they were when I met them Steve (a.k.a. William) now even wears a BEIGE trenchcoat! The entire football team missed their games for the following week because they were all in jail. I hope they've learned their lesson as well, along with one or two unintentional ones, such as how essential lubricant is to anal sex particularly with large felons.
So there you have it. I mean no ill-will, but I hope your business fails miserably, because if you succeed, it is our children who will fail.
Unofficial Guidance Counsellor
Hudson Valley Mall