I've recently learned of the existence of an entire subculture of etiquette, known only to the chosen few who comprise this subculture-the Mall Shoppers. The Mall Shoppers follow a strict interpretation of Mall Etiquette, and violators are dealt with harshly.
As you might expect, Mall Etiquette was devised by the mall shoppers' primary demographic, our female friends and colleagues, and it is designed to trap men into committing Mall Violations. I'd like to offer myself as a prime example of someone who committed a Mall Violation despite his best intentions. As my dad once said, everyone has a purpose in life, even if it's only to serve as a bad example.
Case in point: Editorial Director Ronda Faries is still getting sympathetic nods with her version of the story that I allegedly left her at an outlet mall in Worcester, MA, during PCB Design Conference East 2001. First of all, the very phrase "left her at the mall" triggers an inaccurate connotation in the reader's mind. This makes it sound as if Ronda and I were at a mall 20 miles from the hotel when out of the blue, I jumped in the car and "left her at the mall." What a thoughtless bastard, you would rightly think. Visions come to mind of Ronda hitchhiking on Mass Pike, flashing a little leg for the cause.
Actually, the mall was down the street from the Centrum where PCB East was held. We walked down before the Porch Dawgs show so Ronda could buy a shiny shirt to wear onstage. I was out of clean clothes and I needed a shirt to wear on the way back to Atlanta. With an outlet nearby, it's cheaper to buy clothes than to do laundry.
Ronda found a store with a supply of stageworthy tops and I went next door to look for a shirt. I bought another timeless Hawaiian shirt and headed back to find Ronda. She wasn't in plain sight, but I didn't give up. Oh no. I asked the sales girls if there was someone in the fitting room. They said there was, in fact, a woman with short black hair. So I hung out for a while until a Hispanic girl with short hair emerged from the fitting room. Then I asked the sales girls if this was the woman they had been referring to and they said yes.
So I went back to the Hawaiian shirt store and no Ronda. I went back to the stageworthy tops store again to see if anyone else had come out of the dressing room and I was sadly disappointed. So I stood out in front of the stores for a while to see if she'd turn up. I even peeked into the leather store on the other side.
I waited a few more minutes and checked the original store one more time. No one else had come out of the dressing room. Then I figured maybe Ronda had gotten a phone call and had had to leave. So I said the hell with it and walked back to the hotel. On the way I passed HDI Conference Coordinator Kendra Plotkin. Little did I know Kendra would be an informer. Kendra knew that Mall Etiquette requires one shopper to inform another of a potential violation in progress.
Of course, Ronda was still in the dressing room trying on 14 different shirts (she claims it was only two). When she came out the girls told her that her "husband" had left. She went into the mall to look for me and naturally didn't find me. (I was probably eating dinner at the Irish Times by then.) Ten minutes after emerging from the store, Ronda spotted Kendra who ratted me out, and thus was born the myth of Ronda being "left at the mall."
Later, I ran into Ronda at the Irish Times where she was telling and retelling the tale of my transgression to all who would listen. I was booed and spat upon.
"You!" she pointed. "You have violated Rule 1 of Mall Etiquette: Never abandon your partner!" The mob began to call for swift justice and I was fortunate that there were no gallows nearby.
I'd advise all guys to view this particular mall rule as an extension of the Forest Rule. In early childhood, we are taught to stay in one spot if we're in the woods and we get separated from the rest of the group. Just think of the mall as an indoor forest, where you hunt for bargains instead of ducks and deer.
Whatever you do, don't be a Mall Etiquette Violator!
2001 CMP Media LLC.
11/1/01, Issue # 1811, page 40.
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