Garden State Plaza Mall Shooting: a Symptom of the NJ Mall Sickness

As if there already aren’t enough reasons to hate going to the mall, a tragic shooting incident at the Garden State Plaza solidifies exactly why I avoid the places if at all humanly possible. In light of this event, which I do want to stress I take very seriously, I feel compelled to rant about why malls, particularly NJ ones, have me pretty disgusted right now.

Living in Passaic county and working right of Rt. 4 near Paramus, I deal with the malls every day, even though I hardly go inside them. Merging onto 4 from the Parkway every day, I’m confronted with all of the following:

Horribly uncoordinated and unskilled merging
Minivan driving that a goldfish could outsmart
People cutting me off like they’re driving blindfolded
Drivers performing a dead stop at a yield nearly killing everyone near them when all they have to do is drive forward
Not to mention the people who wait until the last minute to merge onto Rt 17, only a nosehair away from the mall ramp
It’s a real day starter!

Second, just to grab lunch in town during lunch is a chore in itself because of the volume on Rt 4. Where are the majority of these people going though? Shopping of course! Recession my ass; just look in the lots of the Plaza, Riverside Square, Bergen Town Center, or even the more lightly utilized Paramus Park at any time during their operational hours. Friggin places are filled to the rafters!

If you dare to actually enter the parking lot, be prepared to fight for a spot, not figuratively, literally. I know more than 5 people personally that have been in confrontations with idiots actually willing to physically fight for a good spot at the mall! What is that? I make sure I park all the way at the edge of the lot, the furthest away from people as possible. I like knowing my car won’t be scratched by your thoughtless rush to get inside and spend your paycheck you cashed one minute after it was in your greedy little hands. Last about the parking, are we really that lazy that we will wait a good ten, twenty minutes for a “close” spot? I’ll be in and out with the item I came for while your dumb ass will still be waiting for that awesome spot. Thanks!

As we unfortunately were reminded a little more publicly yesterday, safety has become a real concern at the malls in NJ. I won’t re-state the obvious about what I’m sure most of you read about the shooting, but muggings and assaults happen ALL THE TIME at our malls and it’s nothing newsworthy. My friend was mugged in the parking deck at Garden State Plaza last year with her children in the car. They were there to take pictures with Santa. Just terrible. Hold onto your bags, wallets, and look over your shoulder every five seconds. Real relaxing.

Finally, my biggest rant: the mindless shuffling and aimless consumption. This weekend, at a mall I won’t call out because the only reason I went there is for sneakers that no one else within a radius of 30 miles carried- they happened to have one pair left. So I will say that in special, rare cases, this is what a mall is helpful for.

However, after I parked in my usual position about a mile away and gasp, WALKED a little distance to get inside, I saw mobs upon mobs of people coming at me from all directions. Just getting from Sears to the main mall, there must have been 400 people in the pedestrian byways. If Sears is that packed (sorry Sears, you’re an American Classic but also like the Caldor of the mall) imagine the sight to behold once I reached the massive main wings. Thousands of people, most of them slowly shuffling, totally oblivious to anyone else trying to pass (like me and maybe 5 other people with an actual shopping item in mind) with a zombie-like look on their faces like the air was filtered with Xanax. Staring in windows in a trance, stopping at every single one with total indecision and utter intoxication of wanting to consume whatever was being sold: status, sex, food, fulfillment, among other manufactured dreams that for most of us, will never actually come to pass.

It was November 1st and I was waiting to check out with my sneakers at the register. Faintly I can hear a song about Santa playing on the public address. This really started pushing me over the edge; I guess the old after Thanksgiving rule has been retired like most other American values today. Who gets to decide that? I guess it’s been working though based on the amount of shopping I see going on. Nothing like a little subconscious mind control to get you in the holiday spirit.

Most shameful and what will ensure I do not return to the mall and shop small local stores or online was the treatment of an elderly war veteran, who was greeting people at the threshold of the main wings and Sears. Just the way people stared at him with annoyance or just simply ignored him made me feel like I didn’t know whether to cry or lash out in anger. I was the only person I noticed out of at least 50 ahead and behind me that acknowledged his presence. I asked if I could shake his hand and thank him for his sacrifice. He happily obliged and I felt as if I might be the only person out of thousands that day that might hold this man’s hands, look into his eyes, and show some gratitude, reverence, and respect. If that were my father or grandfather, I’d really want to hurt someone if I had to witness someone I loved, who was willing to give the ultimate sacrifice be treated so disrespectfully so we could shove pretzels in our fat mouths, blow through cash on shit no one needs, and push and shove each other like cattle in the mall.

So if you dare go to the mall this holiday season, be careful. Also, try a little reflection on what you’re actually doing there and how you treat others there with you and outside the mall. Remember the true meaning of the holiday season and pray for people who lash out because they have reached their limit, like the young man yesterday at the Plaza.