Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Mall Has It All

I have about a 20 minute window for shopping. Too much longer than that and I get sort of dizzy and bored and holy crap, why didn't I just order pants on the internet like a normal person instead of driving all the way out here on my day off.

This, of course, does not apply to the countless hours of my life I wasted digging through record and DVD stores, looking for that elusive catch that would make me a more well-rounded individual and, more importantly, the envy of my fellow nerds.

I didn't used to be this way. In fact, when I was in middle school I loved going to the mall. Loved it. In fact, the summer before high school a friend and I would spend almost all day there, even though we didn't have any money. I'd give the guy's name, but I haven't heard from him in years, and I don't want to sell him out in case he's running for office or something, you know? Me, I've got no prospects, so I don't mind implicating myself.

We would walk or ride our bikes there, which from what I remember was quite a trek. We almost always had less than five bucks between us, so we'd have to plot the best way to stretch it to last all day.

That was hard because we were addicted to video games. We'd usually start out in the arcade, which would take a couple bucks out of the pot right from the start, but what were we gonna do, not play Gauntlet?

We could usually go to a couple of the stores in the mall with single games and say the machine took our quarters and get a refund. The managers didn't really believe us, but we'd usually be able to get 50 cents out of that which was enough to keep the video game shakes from returning. If that didn't work, or we felt we had gone to that well a little too much, we could always play the video game systems in Sears, but that was a desperation move, sort of like alcoholics drinking vanilla extract.

Far away from Bradenton, in a wonderful land called California, the Summer Olympics were taking place. The commie countries had boycotted the games, giving America a huge advantage. Why did this matter to two kids in Florida? Well, McDonalds had a scratch off game where you'd win free food whenever America won an event. We'd buy a drink or small fries and almost always end up winning something else - thanks Carl Lewis! When people talk about missing the Cold War, I know exactly how they feel.

After our meal, it was time to hit the movies. We would hang around the outside of the theater until we found two ticket stubs on the ground, which was fairly easy, as nobody cared about littering back in those unenlightened days. We'd show them to the guy at the front, telling him we left to play video games if he ever asked, which hardly ever happened.

Once we got inside, it was relatively easy work to get into whatever R rated movie promised gore or nudity.

And the mid '80s were a glorious time for teen boys at the movies - Porky's rip offs, slasher movies, barbarian movies - you pretty much couldn't lose.

Like all good things, our Celebrated Summer at the mall had to end. One day the theater changed ticket colors,  so when we walked through, the ticket taker called the manager.

We were told to sit in a chair and wait for the manager. Naturally, as soon as ticket guy's back was turned we split up and took off running. I thought I had it made until I felt a tightness around my neck. Ticket guy had some good hustle and caught up to me, grabbing me by the back of my collar and throwing me to the floor.

I was hustled off to the security office and my parents were called. I was banned from the mall for a year. I'd like to think I didn't rat out my friend, but I don't really remember, so who knows. I probably told my parents it was all his idea.

I'd also like to think that this scare taught me that you can't get something for nothing, and scamming free food and movies was no way for a man to live, but that wasn't true at all.  In fact, in just another three or four years, my mom would get a call from the cops telling her that I had been arrested for stealing a pizza with another friend. But that's a story for another time.

Man, was I a shitty kid.

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