Ghost in the mall


Have you ever wandered through the mall and felt invisible? 

I have many times. On Saturday mornings I would sometimes drive out to the mall and just wander around and look at stuff. As I walk through the mall I notice people scrambling around trying to find something to buy. It’s like they had no intent on buying something specific. They pull out their money for the first thing that catches their eye. They seem so focused on this “quest” that they really don’t notice the people around them. I have found that I could walk from one end of the mall to the other and it seems that no one notices that I am there. It is like I’m invisible. There are times when I become visible again but only for a moment- I enter a store and a clerk asks me if I need help. I answer “Nope, just wandering.” They smile and I smile back. I then become invisible again. I am not a customer anymore so they no longer see me. While I am invisible I observe people. They walk up and down isles of stuff not knowing what they should spend their money on. Why do people try so hard to give up the money that they worked so hard to earn? Then they wonder where all of their money is going. It’s kind of a scary thought. Do they not realize what they are doing?

 Why do people buy so many things that they don’t need? 

I used to be like that yet I can’t understand it my self. Maybe it’s trying to fill some kind of need. Maybe it’s out of boredom. The scary thing is this cycle continues over and over. Within a week that thing they thought they needed now sits in a closet with all the other mall purchases. That must have DVD now sit on a display shelf. It probably won’t be played again for another 3 years if ever. It’s that new pair of shoes that will go into the closet with the 20 to 30 other pairs and will probably only be worn a couple of times. That feeling takes over. They have to have (fill in the blank) in order to feel complete; in order to feel happy. They leave the mall more empty than they came in only to return a week later. The problem is they fail to realize that stuff doesn’t bring happiness.

Can people ever change?

Yes. I was once just like them. I bought way to much stuff. Here is what I learned: No thing can make me happy no matter what some marketing campaign says. One day I was walking through the mall to buy an item that I didn’t necessarily want but I felt I needed it to complete a collection. I had that item in my hand. I pulled out my wallet. Then I stopped myself and stared at the item for a second and then said to myself, “Josh, why do you need this? You don’t even like it and yet you are willing to spend 10 dollars on this?!” I put the item back on the shelf then put my wallet back in my pocket. I left the mall that day without anyone noticing because they could no longer see me. I was invisible. For the first time I was able to experience that contentment that I sought every visit to the mall. I experienced joy with the revelation that I didn’t need to buy anything. Every once in awhile I have to remind myself of that moment because I am far from perfect. As time goes on it becomes easier and easier to stop myself.

Originally posted August 2007

Updated on: August 29th, 2011