Is there anything more demeaning than doing our shopping at those temples of consumerism, the Shopping Mall? It involves so much more than just shopping; is it just a lack of time or the convenience of it all, or are there more sinister issues at play?
Let’s sit down and discuss, shall we? We have to get to the bottom of why we insist and justify, strolling around those cathedrals of despair, whereby we furtively eye each other in some hope of recognition by another soul seeking salvation from the terrors of life and of shopping till we’re dropping.
After all, why do we drive and go through the horrors of finding a parking spot at those acreages of echoing concrete jungles hidden below ground and lit by ghoulish blue neon-lights? The lost trolleys totally abandoned but sunning themselves in suburb’s grassy kerbs and knolls, lost hope for retrieval a long time ago, no matter how high the rewards. Why haven’t we followed their example? How on earth could we ever have been seduced away from our beloved corner shop and how can we possibly find our way back, make amends.
The friendly corner shop with their owners peering so amicably over their rimmed spectacles, wiping hands on flowery printed aprons have disappeared by the thousands. Do you all still remember the joviality of: “who is next, please?” Also, “I haven’t seen you lately, Mrs. Murphy, where have you been?”
What did they do wrong to deserve their total annihilation by those giants of Westfield- Centro- Merchants and so many other Mecca’s for detergents, away from those well known and much loved suburban shopping strip? Those strips are still there and students of eras long bygone can study its history by deciphering faded sign-writing on their rusting awnings. A chemist here, a butcher there (with lamb cutlets on special at $3.50 a kilo,) the hardware store with his barrows out at the crack of dawn, remember, it’s all gone…So many now up for rental. Thai massage parlours with large lettering and arrows pointing to discrete entries from the back lane are now mushrooming, displacing the plethora of those much loved Galanopoulos & Spiros’ milk bars. At least they might give some welcome relief to the ennui suffering lonely Mall shopper, steeped in clear-sighted despair.
Even hardware stores have been hi-jacked by big terminal capitalism. There is now just Bunnings. One here in Mittagong so big it has its own internal climate. The ‘Highland News’ reported a small lightning strike only last Thursday above the caulking compounds division. Pigeons fly around merrily, a stray dog cocking leg against elderly gentleman immersed in studying tap washers. Bunnings don’t have a food-court but does provide barbequed sausages on sliced white Tip-Top bread. They sell those sausages on a crispy roll to raise funds for the Rural Fire Service or sometimes the Lions Club. Last time I was there for a silicone tube, I noticed a woman with FUK- U silk- screen printed on her T-shirt. I avoided eye contact. She was buying a large fiery red painted plumber’s pipe- wrench and seemed in a hurry.
The convenience of doing all our shopping in the one place we had at our communal suburban shopping strip. You walked from shop to shop and with you own vinyl covered shopping trolley. It was very convenient. Often we walked to those shops from our homes and this kept us slim. An extra bonus was the social intercourse with both shoppers and shop owners. Dogs used to cozily saunter in and out of shops, looking for their owners. Kids were given treats and there were mother’s galore admiring each other’s bonnie babies.
Now we get the two fingers up your arse greeting, trying to find a parking spot at the Westfield Mall bunker, after having driven for hours. By the time we have liberated a cold and heartless stainless steel trolley away from its tightly packed brothers we find the wheels are jammed or it has a will of its own and wants to go into a different direction, wanting to escape to a grassy knoll. I have often seen shoppers taking the tissues out having a little sob and cry behind the margarine division, heaving with bitter regret. Ambulances respond to security having found yet another elderly, totally confused and de-hydrated pensioner shopper, lost between the corridors of “Travel-Smart” and “Bra’s for the busty, 16+” She had spent the entire night there, all huddled in fetal position. What a pitiless way to shop and how demeaning. Shopping till we are dropping? How could our shopping habits have gone so wrong? Why were we so easily seduced by this farce?
Go back… come back…. Come again to the friendly corner shop. Revive and come alive!