Reflections on Reluctant Mall Walking

When the weather is nice, my favorite outdoor activity is walking. I enjoy a stroll through the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, and David and I have more recently started walking along a short portion of the Trinity River trail.

Walking by myself is meditative, fun and loosens my sore shoulders and lower back. Walking with David gives us time to simply enjoy each other’s company. When the weather is nice on Sunday afternoons, we include my mother, getting her some exercise, too.

I suppose it’s not very creative to use the same phrase twice: When the weather is nice…

Spring grabbed our attention weeks ago here in Texas, but it was a strange winter. For over 150 days, the temperature here didn’t reach 80. That’s unusual. We rarely see snow, but this time we had a couple of major snow storms and a couple of minor ones. Over the winter, the weather wasn’t nice for walking outside.

So we tried something else.

We spent a couple of afternoons mall walking. True mall walkers circle the tiles early every morning — long before the stores open, although a couple of places in the food court are usually open to provide coffee and breakfast. By afternoon, a few late walkers make their laps while the mother-and-stroller crowd stream into the children’s play area.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

You see, I don’t go to malls anymore. I stopped going to them a decade ago because I buy very little, and there is little there I would even consider buying. The mall nearest me — Ridgmar in Fort Worth — has a digital movie theater, so I visit that end of the place about once a year. (I don’t see many movies either.)

Who really shops in all those little specialty stores and full-price anchor stores anyway? While mall walking, I found the answer: Almost no one. I’m sure the stores have customers on weekends, but during the week the mall walkers and playground seekers take over. The stores are empty, although the food court gets a visit from almost everyone who’s there.

I was thrilled to see so little buying. It’s bad for the economy, I suppose, but it’s good for the household budget — not to mention the soul, I believe — to leave the junk on store shelves. It could be a sign that materialism is falling. More likely, however, it is a sign that malls are failing in this area in favor of strip shopping centers. Or maybe everyone walks and plays in malls, then shops at Walmart.

I’m still not a fan of shopping malls, but they’re fine if you’re there for something other than shopping. Ridgmar has brightened itself up a little and offers more seating in the hallways.

That’s where everyone is anyway.

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