..[Los Angeles without a car, work permit or superpowers]

Friday, January 28, 2011

Miss Manners at the Mall

- Acne Thrives On Your Indecision

- Reinvent the 5 pocket pant!

- GIVE freely with a mall gift card

After two years of incomprehension in Germany, American signs bully me; apart from this, the Westside Pavilion shopping mall is as anodyne as a hotel bathroom, and an ideal antidote to LAX.  As it's only a mile away through a toytown suburb, and Los Angeles has been blue-skied for twenty-five consecutive days, I walk. This surprises several side-road-turning drivers, including one with the vanity plate AH0Y M8E and another whose car is decorated with red handprints. Maybe when the Big Bumper finally gets me, this'll be it: palm trees, roses and astroturf-perfect lawns. Except for a mock-Tudor two-storey with a Zen garden, nothing rises higher than a bungalow. By the freeway underpass I surprise a transient taking a leak in a miniature hedge. We're the only pedestrians.

It's only a shame that by the time I get to the mall I look like an extra on Miami Vice -- rolled up jacket sleeves, slicked back hair, suspiciously sweaty. The typical American mall always makes me feel shabby and apologetic, especially when it's nearly empty on a Friday afternoon and everyone wants to be your friend. Two women in Victoria's Secret enquire about my feelings on lingerie. Someone at a concession stall tries to sell me $9 soap. I buy nothing, as per instructions to lay low -- belly-on-the-floor low -- until Dr Strangename's paycheck clears on Tuesday, and scutter guiltily through the neon gelato and colour-coded Gap shirts to Barnes and Noble, where I read a book about ballerinas. Then I walk home. The transient is now sitting on the low wall outside Winchell's Donuts, eating a cruller. He calls me Hey Babydoll, and I don't reply.

- You got no manners,

he observes, correctly, as the Big Blue Bus comes through the underpass. I get onboard, reflecting that accomplishments today have been limited to a ten-minute phone conversation with our dental plan provider. When we arrive at my stop, a woman calls me sister and asks for bus fare, so I give her $2; around here that's enough to get you there and back.


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