Foreigner in the Homeland

We made a trek into the city this past weekend.  Our destination was the theatre, but he headed in early to stop at Pentagon City Mall to check out the Apple Store with questions about upgrades and new products.  Yes, you can get all this on line, but we are too old to understand what half of the data means, and we still like to hold something in our hands before making a decision.

The weather had been dicey the night before with snow and sleet in the mountains, so we headed out after our breakfast and feeding the critters.  The drive was uneventful, and we even breezed through our Trader Joe’s run in under 30 minutes.  That put us at the mall an hour before any of the stores open.  But, the coffee shops were open, and the early bird customers were milling around.

We have not been to a mall in years, except for a couple of familiar locations when we went to specific stores.  We realized how out of sync we are with the suburban culture, as we took a stroll around levels 2 and 1 on our way down to the food area.  I did not recognize most of the store names, let alone fashions in the windows.  We even had difficulty figuring how you got cream cheese for your self-service bagel at Au Bon Pain (is that French for, “This is a Pain”?).  When we asked at the cash register, we did not understand what the woman said, though we spotted what she was pointing at.  Cash?  As I handed her a $20 bill to pay, you might have thought that BofA had a shock collar on her to punish her for not making me pull out a credit card to pay.  I felt badly that I nearly depleted her of her cash drawer for $13.93 in change.  Well, I doubt anyone else tried to pay with cash after me.

The food court area intrigued me with the social behavior at 10:15 on a Sunday morning.  It is a triangular arrangement with Starbucks in the middle hosting circular tables.  I thought we would be rude to sit in front of that coffee shop with our coffee and bagel from the neighboring vendor.  Each side of the triangle has rows of tables.  I moved us toward the middle of the row, as we would be sitting for a while sipping our coffee and eating our bagel with the found cream cheese, and reading travel books which we had brought.

I noticed that we were a minority in several ways.  First, we sat in the middle of the table, where as most others sat on the ends of the rows.  We were a couple where as most of the rest were by themselves, though sharing companionship with someone on their cell phones, i-Pads, etc.  A few read books.  We sat across from each other, chatting about future travel plans, while nearly all the singles sat facing Starbucks, from either wing of the triangle.  We are of the supposed majority ethnic heritage, while more than half of the other folks come from ancestry somewhere else in the world.  We come from a county, which probably houses fewer people than will be inside this mall in two hours.  We were probably the only ones who would slip out of the mall spending only $6.07… Except that Linda just went off the Nordstroms, while I sit here and blog.

Have you felt like an outsider somewhere recently?


About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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9 Responses to Foreigner in the Homeland

  1. Momma E. says:

    Hi – Thank you so much for your comments and the lovely poem. I posted it twice once in my edited Shout out and again when I approved the comment. (Newbie- *sigh) lol I’m now following your blog and look forward to reading more. Thanks again for the share. Come by and be my guest poet laureate anytime! Donna 🙂

  2. Barneysday says:

    Are we outsiders because of our age? Our perspective? I like the part about touching something you may purchase. Many people now touch the product for the first time when they open the FedEx box from the supplier. I hadn’t been to a mall for years and years, until about 6 months ago I decided to venture out to the Apple store for a course. In walking through the mall, I didn’t recognize even one storefront name. No Walden’s or B. Dalton, no local music store, no clothing store that would ever carry anything I might be interested in.

    To my beginning questions: Has time passed us by, or have we grown beyond the material things?

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I believe that generations has something to do with it… LL Bean, Cabela’s, Tractor Supply Store carry more of the clothing that I’m likely to wear, rather than something aimed at the purchase power of young adults. I’m glad to read that you also feel out of place in the mainstream of society. I thought this occurred because we moved the mountains nearly 9 years ago. Wait! You just moved to the mountains. Whow! Are you some anti-capitolist hippy or survivalist type?!

  3. The Vicar says:

    Interesting. I’m reading Howard Schultz book “Onward: How Starbucks Got Back to Charging $3.00 for a Cup of Coffee Without Losing It’s Soul” (not really the full title). Schultz notes, “Valuing personal connections at a time when so many people sit alone in front of screens; aspiring to build human relationships in an age when so many issues polarize so many; and acting ethically, even if it costs more, when corners are routinely cut–these are honorable pursuits, at the core of what we set out to be.” Your observation that most people sit alone at Starbucks connected to their electronic devices jives with my experiences, and draws into question how many “human relationships” are being built at the mall these days.

    On another note: $6.07 at the mall!!!!! How are we ever going to pull out of this recession if all you spend at the mall is $6.07 … IN CASH! 🙂

    • hermitsdoor says:

      The interesting contrast was in the Apple store. Within 5 minutes of opening, the place with pulsing with staff and customers talking about products, problems solving tech stuff, etc. Of all places that you would expect to find a bunch of people with faces lit up by monitors, I saw more eye contact, and heard more enthusastic discussions. The rep. helping us answered our numerous questions, showed us products, but did not even suggest we buy anything nor try to get rid of us quickly when we were upfront that our mission was to gather information for a future purchase. Apple has created a culture. Of coures, I then sat on a bench by myself, blogging, ignoring all the other folks around me, while Linda stimulated the economy (we did not get out for the price of a bagel and two cups of coffee, but that had such a dramatic effect, I decided to not add the real cost later. And, let’s not forget trying to find a machine that would accept cash to prepay the $2 parking garage fee!)

  4. I reluctantly went to that store with a friend who was shopping for her kids…the weekend before Christmas. I will never do that again. It was so crowded I felt like ants were crawling all over me. She said that the Apple stores are often like that, holiday or not.

  5. Pingback: Planning a Safari: Digital Photography | hermitsdoor

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