I especially liked two secrets today, the first one because it's clever, and the second one because it was one of those things that I had never considered before, and that left me wondering in what situation one would "try" such a thing for the first time. Maybe if it were a very, very tight bathroom stall, or something.
(Hover over image for meaning if you need to. I had to look it up.)
It's been quite a while since I've walked around nearby Lake Johnson, and with the weather being what it was today, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. I brought my iTouch and I had the nicest 3-mile walk while listening to the Scenes from a Mall podcast of This American Life, which I absolutely loved. It reminded me of when I first got an iPod.
Most media stories set in shopping malls don't really tell you much about what it feels like for the people who work in a big retail operation, or for the people who hang out at the mall. Because the mall's more than just sales. Today’s show begins at a table in the food court, near Sbarro’s, in the Cool Springs Galleria, outside Nashville. That’s where Ira Glass found Nick, Cheyenne, Natalie and Chase—teenagers hanging out, killing time before a movie. (5 minutes)
|Hanging out in a mall was not something I was ever allowed to do as a kid. It's interesting to me how long these kids stay at the mall—unsupervised, why they hang out there, and what they do during their time there.|
|Act One. Love Line.|
We meet Russell, 19, the best mobile phone salesman in the mall—and possibly anywhere. His talent for sales is matched only by those of his girlfriend, Chandler, 18, a waitress. (6 minutes)
|These two "kids" were adorable to listen to, each proud of "being the best at what they do." He's the #1 salesman at a T-mobile kiosk in the mall—where it's "Verizon country." The kid worked at one T-mobile place, and a secret shopper poached him away to another one, and then another one poached him away from that one. He makes about $40,000 at age 19 selling T-mobile phones and plans. |
When Ira meets Russell's girlfriend and asks her where she works, she says, "Sonic." And Ira says, "Sonic? The hamburger stand?" To which she responds, "The hamburger stand??? Uh, the Sonic Drive-in? The Ultimate Drink Stop?" Ira points out that she is selling with those words, because she's not just a waitress at the "ultimate drink stop," she is the number one earner at the ultimate drink stop. She makes more money than the number one T-mobile salesman, her fiance."
|Act Two. Not Dead Yet.|
Yes, some stores are going out of business in the Cool Springs Galleria, but it's just two stores. We talk to staff at one store that’s closing down, and at another, in the food court, where business is great. That’s maybe the most surprising thing about how this recession is playing out—that some stores are doing just fine. (10 minutes)
|This was an interesting juxtaposition of stories about two stores in the same mall and how one is doing well and the other is closing. The closing story is a sad one told by a lady who sounds to be teetering on the edge of tears most of the interview.|
The story about the store that's doing well in the mall, a Chick-Fil-A, is a testament to the manager/owner of that franchise. She's not unlike the two kids in the first story, in terms of her sales ability. She recognizes two critical things: 1) that her business is all about building relationships, and 2) that a little over 50% of her business is from people who work in the mall, and she works hard tending to both of those things.
|Act Three. Santa Fight Club.|
A tale of two Santas. There's Tim Conaghan, a full-time professional Santa with a big belly and a real flowing white beard. And there's Santa Nick—he too has a belly and real white beard. But the story of Santa Tim and Santa Nick is not like most uplifting Christmas parables. Instead, it's about two men, very much alike, who came to lead rival factions in a bitter Santa civil war, and came themselves to be arch enemies. Josh Bearman reports on the political schism that's overtaken the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas. (27 minutes)
Song: "Get Behind Me Santa!", Sufjan Stevens
|Oh. My. God. I just can't even begin to do justice to this incredibly fantastic tale. And by fantastic I mean in the sense of "so extreme as to challenge belief."|
|Act Four. Job: Security.|
In a part of the mall no shoppers ever see, there's a snug, dark little room with 43 TV screens, one for each of the cameras in the hallways and parking lots, the roof and the loading dock. We hang out with the security people who work in there, seeing what they see. (7 minutes)
|This story made me laugh out loud several times. At least 2-3 times a day the security people at this 6500-parking spot mall help shoppers find their cars, because they've forgotten where they parked. Although often they say, "My car has been stolen," when they come to get help finding it. And about once a week, they accuse the security people of having gotten in their car and moved it to a different parking area."|
The head of security tells Ira about when husbands lose their wives and come to security to get help finding them. "That's when the descriptions don't match anything they say. They don't know what their wives look like. They don't know what kinda hair they got, or haircut they got. You say, 'It's down to her shoulders? What color is it? How tall is she?' And don't ask them what she's got on!"
And then there's the guy they watched pick his nose the whole time he stood at a kiosk and "wiped his boogers on the counter" as he did it. They called down to the kiosk owners after the guy left and told them to take a sanitary wipe to that counter.
Great stories that I thoroughly enjoyed while enjoying the weather and the exercise.
On my walk, there was one very elderly lady on the pier in a wheelchair fishing. As I approached her, I stopped while she put her rod behind her head and cast, and her hook and bobber just whipped around to the front of her, but didn't go out at all.
I waited to see what she was going to do next before daring to pass behind her. Then she just clicked the reel and let the bait and bobber drop straight down into the water. F*ck that casting sh*t. Life's too short.
I stopped by the grocery store on the way home, made a quick pizza for dinner, and met the Mostly Social Book Club out at the Caribou Coffee at Brier Creek.
Janet has finished our book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which she read on her Kindle and being unable to figure out how to easily transfer it from her Kindle to Suzanne's, she just gave Suzanne her Kindle to use while she reads it.
Mary and Sharon are both on the waiting list for a copy in the Wake Country Library system.
I met Joe at Flex at 9:30 for some scareyoke, and before the night was over, we ended up at The Diner, where I had their Cheddar Tuna Melt, which was quite good.
Progress toward finishing my book by March 4, 2011: