So, here we are at blog posting #4 (if you're just joining us, scroll to the bottom to read all that's gone before, ahem, yes, cough, all 3 postings.).
I met my bestie, Tara (that's us, left) at Chermside Shopping Centre in Brisbane on Tuesday afternoon. Chermside is Australia's 9th largest shopping centre with over 122,000 square metres of shopping pleasure (or hell, depending on how you view these things). Seems like a crazy spot to meet for someone going on a 12 month challenge to not shop, huh? Well, the reason is that it's convenient for Tara, full-time working mother of three young'un's under 7, a lady with not a lot of spare time..... and it's about as equidistant as we're likely to get coming from two different directions. We also set the date long before the challenge was even a kernel of thought in my mind.
Chermside. When I was telling Tara about the Gruen Transfer, she was sure that Chermside must be the model site for it - a circuitous design that disorients the visitor and leads you further into the shopping centre (leading you past store after store, most of which you had no intention of looking at, let alone going into, but whose wares entice you from their windows -- "visit me! don't I look lovely? you want to come in and pick me up and take me home!".... kind of like a bad night at a local disco). Not only that, but Chermside/Gruen Transfer Model Site has exits that are challenging to find and a general sensory overload that inundates every sense to capacity if not beyond.
At Chermside the other day, 10 days before Christmas, I noticed two types of shoppers. One was the glazed-eye, meandering type who seemed slightly dazed and confused, perhaps uncertain of where they actually were (or what the *&$% they were doing there). They walked slowly and in an aimless fashion, or they stood around with an unfocusesd, middle-distance stare, keening slightly to the left. The other type was the frenzied, harried shopper who was hellbent on achieving some goal (possibly some version of this: get in! get the thing! get out!), who in their frenetic state were knocking small children, elderly patrons and glazed-eye shoppers rooted to the spot out of their way. Both type of shoppers seemed to be over-stimulated but with vastly different results - one catatonia and the other mania. Maybe those states are worthy of capitals, like cities - come to Catatonia: a land of peaceful ignorance, where nobody will ever bother you again (even if you are surrounded by hordes of people!). Or if you prefer, visit Mania: a region full of stimulating sights, sounds, tastes, smells and endless opportunities to lose your mind (and lower your credit rating)!
Whoa - how big can they get? These shopping centres, they're massive. Humungous. Chermside is Australia's 9th largest shopping centres, and the biggest one in Oz (Chadstone in Victoria) isn't much bigger than it (186,000 square metres). But around the world, shopping centres are of city-sized proportions. It's a mind-freak to consider how how huge these places are. The largest shopping centre in the world is in Kuala Lumpur and comes in at a whopping 700,000 square metres. Next up is the South China Mall at 660,000 square metres and another in Beijing at 600,000 square metres. The Phillipines has the next two spots, one at 460,000 and another at 390,000 square metres (400,000 square metres is around 75 football fields).
In the USA, the King of Prussia mall (an amalgamation of two malls in Philadelphia) has the most shopping per square feet in the country, whilst the Mall of America in the Twin Cities (Minnesota) is the most visited mall in the country, some say the world.
In Europe, the largest shopping centre is in Gateshead (near Newcastle upon Tyne) whose tagline is "if we don't have it, you don't want it" - with 330 stores, they might have a reason for making such a claim (unless perhaps it's a consumer debt-free existence you are seeking).
In the Middle East, the Dubai Mall is the biggest, the entire mall is over 600,000 square metres, although the shops take up less than one-third of that space - the rest is for Mercedes Benz golf buggies to be able to drive 2-wide down the aisles. Ok, I just made that up - but it's possible, right?
Is it any wonder? .... that people finid themselves in an "altered state" when they visit these malls? They're overwhelming enough when empty (whenever that is - I had to use my imagination to envision an empty mall). So when they teeming with people, they positively drown the senses and overload the mind. Hello Catatonia and Mania! To stay of sane and stable mind whilst spending any time at all in those places is an effort of such supreme concentration that one needs a long lie down afterward. It's exhausting!
Was I tempted? So, you might be wondering if I was tempted to look in any of the shops or (gasp!) buy anything the other day. Seeing as it was Day One of the challenge, if I had've bought something, I'd have to have committed hari kari immediately in a spasm of shame. So, the answer is NO, but it's not because I have suddenly entered a zen-like state of non-desire (although I can feel some stirrings in that direction), but more because I was very focused: - I met Tara, we walked in a focused fashion to our usual coffee place (the Shingle Inn, why it is named such, right in the middle of a fluorescent-lit shopping centre, next to Target, is beyond me - it no more resembles an Inn than a pork chop and what is shingling is anybody's guess), we chatted for 2 hours, we left. Very similar to the approach we would take to getting to Business Finance in third year of our business degree - let's get there, let's get through it, let's get out. Same same, except the middle bit (the chatting) is much better than sitting through 2 hours of bizfin. Although, such fond memories of attempting to remember how to calculate the adjusted present value of an asset, and let's not even get started with parallel shifts in the yield curve.
I'm also keeping a clothing diary in my head, although I'm considering adding it to these blog
postings (am unsure if that would be pushing the friendship just too far - a rundown of what I've been wearing).... this is to test my theory that I have so many clothes that I'll run out of days (in a year) before I'll run out of clothes if I aim to not wear the same outfit twice in that time period.
All well. So, it being Friday here in Australia and 4 days into the challenge: so far, so good. Am feeling relaxed, a Chill Jill, and as sanguine as I ever get (definition of sanguine: confidently optimistic and (I love this bit) inclined toward a healthy reddish color). Yeah, baby, it's a reddish colour alright. Right?