I don't go to the mall often, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis.
Shoot...blew my cover.
Er, what I meant to say was: I don't go to the mall often, but when I do, I prefer to go through a main entrance. I find this is almost never the case when I go with anyone else. For some reason, it's a virtual compulsion of family and friends to want to walk straight into an anchoring department store. Not because it’s necessarily closer, but just because, I guess.
I tend to not want to do that for three reasons: 1) I like the architecture and the bustle of the mall itself; 2) The stores that cater to things I like tend to be deep within the mall; and 3) Most department store ground floors do not appeal to me, because I don’t wear lingerie or trendy anything.
Nevertheless, I found myself in Baton Rouge with an hour of free time yesterday, so I decided to check out the Mall of Louisiana for the first time. I found what I thought was the main entrance, but was partially obscured by a hill. The hill had what I thought was a staircase, so I parked my car in front of Dillard’s. Once I realized the staircase was a hallucination, I decided just to go through Dillard’s.
“I can remember this,” I thought. “I came through Dillard’s.”
After 45 minutes or so checking out what the Mall of Louisiana had to offer someone with enough money for a gumball (answer: no gumball machines), I decided to head home. I went through Dillard’s and out the side door — only to find that it was the wrong exit. OK, big deal. All malls are like this. I obviously went through the wrong side, and just have to find the other one. In this case, the hill was on the left, when it should have been on my right. Well, that’s easy enough to remedy; after all, I have a working sense of spatial reasoning. The answer is to find the other side entrance.
But I never found it. Then it occurred to me that there are actually two Dillard’s in the mall, or four if you count the split-level storefronts. Why it’s that way, I can’t imagine. I do know that one caters to women and the other to men. Separate but equally mystifying.
I had no memory of passing the giant children’s playpen that’s in front of the men’s store, but at that point I wasn’t exactly trusting my memory. The side doors of that store also yielded nothing familiar, though the lots looked just enough like what I recalled to keep me wandering for awhile.
Finally, I went back to the women’s Dillard’s, convinced that was the correct store. A cute sales clerk approached me and asked if she could help me.
“No thank you, I’m just looking for my car,” I replied.
“Well, look for it with this Prada fragrance sample,” she said. “It makes a great Father’s Day gift. Keep it in mind, OK?”
Note to Dillard’s: she didn’t tackle me or shove a clipboard in my face. Clearly, Sears is winning the aggression competition.
I went outside and thought I’d hit pay dirt. I saw what I thought was the other side of the hill — the same thing I’d seen the first time, but this time I decided to hike it. The sucky thing was, you can’t just climb over this hill, because it’s too steep and laden with obstacles; instead, you have to walk all the way around to the tip, which is perilously close to a stop sign. That makes it a really long walk in the heat. But I brave it, because I just know my car is on the other side. I’m so confident about my success that I text to my friend that I’d finally found my car.
Oops. Spoke too soon. This is a completely different parking lot! What kind of Blair Witch crap is this?!!!
But of course, there’s a Dillard’s entrance there (like with every other corner of this massive mall, apparently), so I stagger in. This time, I’m just ready to throw in the towel. I walk up to a man offering cologne samples (again, like everyone else at Dillard’s). He hands me a few while calling me “boss,” then turns away before I can talk to him. A woman nearby asks if I need help, and I explain my situation. She asks me if I remembered what I saw when I walked in.
“A bunch of stuff I was not planning to browse or buy,” I should have said.
“Sounds like you could have come in from upstairs,” another associate with a curious grasp of logic said.
“Security could probably help you,” said a third woman in a tone that suggested the other two stop talking to this monetary dead-end.
“OK, thanks,” I said to the trio. But then the third woman said, “If you’re thinking of that big dome next to the hill, that’s in the women’s store next to Sears. Go this way and that.” So I was in the men’s store, apparently. That was a long hike.
So I finally found it that way. I think. By then I was dizzy. This whole episode took 25 very economical, long-lasting minutes. It felt longer than the drive home, and that took more than an hour.
To close with another Dos Equis reference, parking at the Mall of Louisiana is a good way to stay thirsty.