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The mall, new Versaces, and recovering America

August 11, 2008

Some weeks, like the one immediately past, are neither dull nor memorable.  Worse than dull is a week that culminates in exigency on Sunday afternoon. But exigency is worth the frazzle if it culminates in resolution of a nagging matter.

In this case, the nagging matter had actually nagged very little; in fact, it had gone unnoticed. Specifically, I noticed its effects, but uncharacteristically, I did not examine the source for a cause. The matter was my glasses; something was the matter with them.

Normally, I am hyper-attentive to anything concerning my glasses, because they are so necessary to visual life. This time, I simply didn’t particularly wonder, or at least care to know, why, for the past several weeks, my glasses were pulling my hair out when I took them off, or why they were pricking the back of my ear. But yesterday the source of the nuisance cried out for discovery, and I noticed that the end of one of the temples had become delaminated, leaving the smooth plastic a jagged jaw. This immediately won emergency status and pre-empted all plans of doing nothing for the afternoon.

I called the megacorporate optical shop in the mall and read off my prescription to one Bob over the phone. Can do. They had such lenses in stock. What a wonderful thing, to be standard in a world that penalizes the exceptional with special orders.

Lens guy Bob said my glasses would be ready in an hour and a half if I could get there in an hour. Even though my husband forgot how to get to the mall, we were there in 25 minutes. It’s a round world, and there are so many ways to the mall that it didn’t matter.

Neither of us had been to the mall in at least two years. We had no idea where the optical shop was, but decided just to park and combine the exigent errand with a walk.

It turned out we had parked at the opposite end of the mall from the optical shop. It also turned out that the mall still had the same hard tile floors it had always had. Walking in the mall tends to disarticulate my joints, a small matter in the face of the excitement of getting new glasses.

And the prospect was truly exciting. I have worn progressive lenses for many years, and had wanted for the past year to try lined tri-focals. I was tired of the progressives’ narrow field of view. I didn’t like resorting to bifocals to read because the reading field in my crunched progressives was too small. Lined tri-focals were my only shot at life in one pair of glasses, but two opticians had said no, it wouldn’t work with my prescription; the differential between my distance and reading refraction was too great, or something like that. But can-do Bob said it would be no problem. Corporate America was going to come through where neighborhood small business had failed. I didn’t like it, but I’d take success where I could get it.

I tried on a few frames and decided on some Versaces, made in Italy. They seemed more suited to a super-model who owns an airline, but they had to do; at least they weren’t made in China, and they were big enough to provide ample viewing areas for the three fields. I picked the plain ones, without crystals. My glasses would be ready in an hour and a half.

We had already been out to lunch, and we had no idea what to do in the mall. We both lack the mall-maundering gene, we hate to shop, and we weren’t hungry. I recalled that I had been longing for some time for an effective bread knife, and we found one at Excalibur. The salesman considerately cautioned the young man checking out Samurai swords not to swing the one he was holding while we were standing behind him. I had already planned my disarmament strategy, and I knew my husband certainly had one.

We entered a kitchen store to see if we could find a toaster made in the U.S.A. Toastmaster no longer manufactures in the U.S.; their toasters are now made in China. For $600 we could get a professional toaster made in Canada, but I couldn’t imagine ever feeling professional enough at making toast to justify such a thing.

We went to Sears and I regretted not having brought my camera. An entire wall displayed Craftsman wrenches, forged in the U.S.A. I’d have sent a photo to Matthew for his Made in U.S.A. blog. I felt more sentimental looking at those wrenches than I do looking at the American flag.

I had a sudden Mom moment as we passed See’s and thought I’d get a box of chocolates to send my hard-working kid in Alaska. But the line inside was so long that I decided to hold that thought and send her an equivalent token from Trader Joe’s.

Malls do kill time. We were approaching the time of my transformation into a wearer of Versace lined tri-focs. We decided just to return to the optical store early. Hailing frequencies were screaming in my left shoulder, right hip, and both knees. At least we could sit down and wait in the store.

My glasses were ready when we arrived and they were perfect. I was issued a smart white case, an enveloped receipt, and a snazzy gift bag.  My new glasses cost less than my old pair did three years ago; there was some kind of megacorporate sale. The service had been excellent. Corporate America came through and I had new glasses in a little over an hour on a Sunday afternoon.

On our way home, my husband remarked that Tacoma Mall seemed to have reverted to normalcy since our last time there. He was right. The mall was full of people–the recession didn’t seem to be hindering their consumption. People weren’t just browsing; nearly everyone toted store-brand bags. And no one was in costume.

The last time I was at the mall, I saw lots of people in theatrical make-up, punkface, and costumes. It was a thing–people dressed up in chains and vampire gear to go to the mall to entertain themselves with their own shock value. This time around, I saw no one dressed to chill. The scene was suburban America: people you would ask to hold your baby if you had to pick up something you dropped, people with kids in strollers, and coffee cups in their hands. And me, in my new Versaces, just wanting to leave it all behind, yet infinitely relieved at the intactness of it all.

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6 Comments
  1. Laura permalink
    August 11, 2008 12:23 pm

    You got the ones *without* crystals? How could you?? ;) Congrats on the useful acquisition, anyway. My glasses were made in Italy, too.

  2. August 11, 2008 12:26 pm

    The real test is, where was your toaster made? ;)

  3. August 11, 2008 1:42 pm

    Here are some American-made toasters:

    http://www.jitterbuzz.com/indtoa.html

    Some of them look a little dangerous, and all of them look quite used. Probably not something we’d find at the mall.

  4. August 11, 2008 1:56 pm

    The “Toasters and marriages used to last forever” site is quite a chronicle of vintage toasters. I especially like Mrs. Horne with her Truman toaster–she sticks her fingers in the slots just like Truman did. And the schematics are good to have–maybe we can build a replica. Or stick with the panini grill.

    At least our marriage has outlasted two toasters.

  5. Laura permalink
    August 12, 2008 6:09 am

    Aha! Do I pass if I *have* no toaster? We currently use the skillet. . . which, I’m sorry to say, is of course Made in China.

  6. August 12, 2008 6:14 am

    I’d say that shows resourcefulness, and it’s better to have one thing made in China than two. And, you don’t have the chronic wave of toast crumbs on the counter.

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