Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mall Madness

Mall Madness
By Paul Greeley

If you see me at a shopping mall, call the police. Because I joke that the only way I’ll go shopping at a mall is at gun-point. It’s not the mall’s fault; it’s me. I have trouble resisting their temptations--the sights, the smells, the sounds are capable of driving me into a shopping frenzy. When I walk by the stores that sell music, electronics, sporting goods, food, even fashion, I have to steel myself, put my hand on my wallet, stay the course in the middle of the mall, like Ulysses tied to the mast so he won’t be tempted by the nymph’s singing on Sirens’ Island.
“Your spirit is strong”, I say to myself, “but your Visa is weak.”
On the few occasions I do have to shop for Christmas or someone’s birthday gift, I attack it like a well-planned military assault. Make a detailed plan, then get in and get out alive.
I don’t need anything anyway. I keep shoes forever. And men’s shoes haven’t changed much since the Ice Age. They recently unearthed a neandorthal wearing wing-tips. And when they do come out with something new, they look old, like those square-toed dress shoes they’re selling now-- put a buckle on them and you look like a pilgrim! Plus, they ain’t cheap. I saw a pair of shoes on clearance at a well-known, high-end dept store recently that cost more than the gross national product of many small countries!
I see other men like me sitting on those benches in the middle of the mall. They’re not relaxing; they’re resisting. We nod knowingly to each other in passing, silent encouragement to keep it up.
But these days even the middle of the mall has its own temptations. Now they have kiosks, huts, stands, shacks, and tables lined up everywhere you walk displaying everything from hats (lids!) cell phones, computers, sunglasses (shades!), make-up, hand-bags, insurance, carpeting, landscaping, tropical fish, even cars. And of course, jewelry.  Nothing quite says love like when you buy your girlfriend a bracelet at a jewelry kiosk in the mall. Rosetta has a stand so you can practice Italian while you’re shopping and learn to say ‘ciao’ to your money.
By far, the strangest activity I recently witnessed at the mall was something new I’d never seen or heard about. A lady is sprawled out on a table while another lady hovers over her face working a long piece like some kind of magic ritual.  It looks like some kind of adolescent rite of passage you might see from Borneo on National Geographic. I watch in amazement wondering what in the world are they doing? I ask another lady who is signing up for the next appointment.
“Oh, it’s called eyebrow threading. It’s a lot less painful than wax.”
If they can have a side-show in public showing ladies getting their eyebrows plucked one by one right in the middle of the mall, what’s next? Plastic surgery?
“Honey, I’ll be back in an hour looking 20 years younger. I’m getting a face-lift at the mall.”
Definitely bring your Visa for that.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Man’s Home is his Castle

     A man’s home is his castle.
     Until he puts it on the real estate market to sell it.
     Then it’s an open house for total strangers to come in, walk around, peek and probe, ridicule and criticize.
     The internet has dramatically changed how homes are marketed these days. Now, potential buyers can go on-line to a 360-degree camera view of your entire house, room by room, including the outside. The camera lens would make even a closet look like a cavernous gymnasium, every edge rounded and extended. When I first saw our house this way, I thought they shot the wrong house! Add the soothing music that accompanies the video, if you lean in close enough, you can just catch the faintest wisp of a home-made apple pie cooking in the oven.

     But before you even get to the pretty pictures and marketing, you’ll need to remove the clutter in your house. What is clutter? Pretty much anything and everything in your house that you treasure, and make the house feel distinctly like your home. Gone are the precious family photos hanging on the walls. Hide those knick-knacks, candles, and plants. Box up your movies, CDs, and books. And for God’s sake, make your bathrooms spotless---re-caulk every nook and cranny, put the shampoo, conditioner and soap under the sink. No towels should hang anywhere. Kitchens ought to look as sterile as an operating room.
       The barer the house, the better. If your house looks like no one has ever lived there, let alone lives there now, you get the idea.

     Now it’s time for the showings. That’s the time when every realtor who’s ever gotten a license can make an appointment to come to your house any day or night of the week with strangers who may or may not have the money to buy your house. Like the cable company, they make appointments in two or three hour blocks. At first, we’d all high-tail it out of there for two hours. Then as we got more used to the process, we’d wait until they’d ring the doorbell and then rush out the back door, dog in tow, to lurk across the street in the park or park up the street in the car. From both vantage points, we’d watch the front door, waiting for them to leave, so we could go home. If they stayed too long, we were mad, because we were inconvenienced. If they stayed too short, we were insulted because we figured they didn’t like what they saw.
     One Sunday night, 20 minutes after the showing window closed, and just after I opened a cold beer and started the barbecue, a realtor showed up with a whole family including 3 kids. I hate to admit it but as I backed out of the drive-way, I caught the realtor’s eye and tapped my wrist-watch menacingly. By the time I got back, my beer was warm.
     The dog, however, loved the whole process for all the walks he got.
     These days, almost immediately after the showings, you can go on-line to view the potential buyers and realtor comments about your house. But be prepared to be insulted!
      “The yard was too big.”
      “The yard is too small.”
      “Oh, I didn’t like the pre-fab cabinets.”
      “Loved the two-story windows that opened to the backyard.”
      “Hated those high windows—where are the blinds?”

     After failing to sell my house for 6 months, and about 150 showings, and investing about $10,000 in upgrades, I called our realtor up and told him to yank the sign out of the yard. Immediately after that, I grabbed a hammer and hung back the family portrait over the mantle, grabbed a cold beer and fired up the barbecue, because after all, a man’s home is his castle.