It would take awhile to find, but somewhere there is a newspaper clipping with a photo (circa 1974) of the Day-after-Thanksgiving rush inside the men’s department of Loveman’s at Eastgate Mall in Chattanooga, Tenn. I’m working the cash register — while wearing my stylish green, 100 percent polyester leisure suit.
Styles may change but the rush comes back year after year. Due to a full day of driving, a quick stop at a Panera Bread near a Florida mall was as close to the mess as I encountered yesterday.
But unlike many men, I enjoy visiting malls. Several years ago, in fact, I wrote a magazine article titled, “Confessions of a Male Mall Walker.”
Back when my work schedule followed an academic calendar, there was much more free time during the holidays. So I found the many malls of Atlanta to be enjoyable places to walk, eat and observe as well as shop for Christmas gifts.
Among the advice offered in the article, I urged men (and this applies to all shoppers) to pay close attention to where one parks. It is humiliating and frustrating to look upon the sea of cars in the parking lot with no idea as to where to find one’s own.
The old Eastgate Mall of my past had signs with different animals on various light poles. I’d rather know that my car was three spots down from the giraffe than to spend an afternoon walking up and down the rows with key in hand and the fake look of confidence on my face.
A second word of advice was to never shop in coat and tie. Other shoppers mistake you for an employee and cannot be convinced otherwise. You will be expected to help the dear woman find a sweater to go with the hideous shirt she’s picked out.
Oh, there are others like avoiding survey takers and the well-dressed scent shooters who spray your wrists with cologne that Ajax couldn’t remove.
And phrase your questions carefully. I still have pain from biting my tongue more than 30 years ago when a dear woman, in her hectic effort to complete her shopping list, asked: “Sir, where is your underwear?”
Dear old Mr. Wilson, my boss back then, would not have been pleased if I’d replied: “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”