In a classic example of "be careful what you wish for," I received a plethora of suggestions to my facebook page of what to buy in the Mall of America.
The request was simple:
Dear Facebook Amigos,
I'm headed to Minneapolis, Mall of America, and I think the only way I will be able to get anything out of such a masochistic endeavor is to do some kind of project while there...so I was thinking of a little scavenger hunt, which is where my little plea for help comes in.
Could you please send a suggestion of an item that I must find while at Mall of America? The more pointless and absurd, the better. These should be things that no one would actually ever NEED.
Much thanks in advance and I hope to see everyone somewhere on the road to nowhere.
The response was overwhelming- I had a list of over 60 things! As I wasn't planning to spend my hard-earned cash on random mall memorabilia, I could only "find" those things that I could photograph without paying. Things like "gold grill with your name in diamonds" were eliminated from the list due to a budget handicap. After such eliminations, I was left with a list of forty items and three must-do activities (ride a roller coaster, go to the wedding chapel, and build something at Legoland). At the end day, we found 23 of 40 items.
Losers on the list: Palm-tree sun catcher, a weather meter, a shirt reading "My aunt went to Mall of America and all I got was this lousy t-shirt," left-handed scissors, a yo-yo, a snoopy stuffed animal, socks with a ball on the back, paisley shoe strings, something under 5 cents, a floral garter set, Elvis bobble head, a hat that holds two beers, a coconut bra, huge sunglasses, and a Woodstock '69 t-shirt.
Let's talk about this loser list. Here are two small observations from the Mall of America: Snoopy and yo-yos are sooooo two generations ago. Word on the Minneapolis Street has it that Snoopy fell victim to a coup staged by Sponge Bob who now dominates the kid's area of Mall of America. Travesty!
Trends travel fast in this here US of A. Apparently, joke shops and novelty shops are also on the decline, although we later heard there is one on the first floor that we must have passed up.
For all our heart-felt disappointment in not finding every item on the list, we had a blast with the others...they seemed to appear like magic from the depths of consumerism...
Found: Santa Claus Tie
In the tie shop, the clerk was a very enthusiastic tie merchandiser. He showed us his two favorite ties: a bright orange grid tie full of binary code and a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon tie.
"You guys are probably too young to know Pink Floyd, huh?"
"No way! I love Dark Side of the moon!"
He was a cool tie guy, for sure.
Found: Real chopsticks
We were unsure what constituted "real" chopsticks, but I thought a little Asian art exhibit constituted realism...I hope...
Found: Single Egg Poacher:
Something magical happened here. I had no idea that such a thing existed...but I found myself salivating over the single egg poacher once I found it. A little creative display and I'm a goner. Could I have fallen victim to consumerism "infantilism" that Benjamin Barber illuminates in Consumed? "Today, consumerist capitalism profits only when it can address those whose essential needs are already satisfied, but who have the means to assuage "new" and invented needs." Hmmm....
Found: Rubber Chicken
The rubber chicken appeared magically in the game area by the roller coasters.
Tiny kaleidescope that would once have appeared in a cracker jack box, but now costs $2.75. Inflation is such a bummer.
Found: A John Deere T-shirt...and a John Beer T-shirt
Found: Pink Flamenco (but it isn't a lawn ornament...)
Found: Something with a Pink Ribbon on it.
The American girl shop where we found the "something with a pink ribbon on it" could very well be the scariest place on earth. Ubiquitous gender imprinting and nightmare material...Help!!!
Found: Lots of Minnesota Stuff:
Cultural Note from Brian, native Minnesotan and former Peace Corps Volunteer in Ouesse, Benin: "We Minnesotans are pretty solitary, except at two times: the county fair and Christmas time at Mall of America."
Evidently, only turkeys, loons, and wooden carvings of Minnesota can bring these Nordic Viking beings from their caves.
Found: Legoland, the wedding chapel, and roller coasters...
Let's get real. Where else can you shop, play, and get married all under one roof? At one point, I turned to Brian and said, "I cant believe it...I'm having fun."
Nothing like unexpected fun to teach you to lighten up...although if we'd arrived with Reverend Billy to protest the "Shopocalypse," we might have been less welcome: