I Went To The Mall Today

As some of you probably know, Florida has been re-opened since May 4. For the internationals reading, you should know our state governor Ron DeSantis is fully Trumpian. One of his talking points when asked about Florida’s half-million Coronavirus cases is the increase of testing. He’s been seen at press conferences wearing his mask incorrectly and touching his face repeatedly while urging constituents not to so he’s not exactly an example of reasonable leadership during a pandemic.

He does, however, understand that Florida’s economy relies on tourism. This means our survival is dependent on keeping the lights on and we peaked at 15,300 new Coronavirus cases on July 12. Florida’s reporting system has also been riddled with controversy so it’s likely the figures are completely off, but I digress.

Given these political circumstances, the local culture here is proceeding with life as it formerly existed simply with masks, disinfectant spray, and utmost caution.

I don’t really have much incredulity to lend to this fact because I still see Trump lawn signs on my local runs. I am cautiously optimistic about the Biden/Harris ticket but we can all agree we are so far from ideal or agreeable circumstances in any case.

So it goes.

With this in mind, I’ve been trying to find creative ways to make outings that provide some break to the tedium of post-COVID living while keeping myself and others safe.

My office has announced we should expect to be remote until 2021.

Roy and his colleagues have a also been working from home. We have made a comfortable routine, but at times we can feel the space in our home shrinks the longer we exist in it. I can only imagine the severity with which friends in New York City felt this at the peak of the pandemic’s crest-wave in the city.

After editing 90 pages of copy today, I spontaneously drove to Millennia Mall. This is the ritziest shopping area in Orlando as it’s a mid-level to high-end mall. You can find H&M, a Johnny Rockets, and Chanel within walking distance of one another. What’s not to love?

I figured I’d distract myself from the state of the world with some window-shopping while fulfilling my quarterly visit to the only Lush store in the tri-county area.

I’d also been eyeing a few shirts at PacSun and thought I’d go see them in person since it’s been years since I bought anything from the store. My hopes for purchasing these YG and Matisse tops were abandoned when I learned Millennia Mall does not have a PacSun.

Upon giving up my search for cool graphic tees for the summer, I began wandering into old store favorites and new curiosities.

Each brand varied vastly in their post-Coronavirus approach to welcoming customers back. Some had promotional safety guidelines.

Others felt like clubs with employees monitoring the entrance like bouncers for capacity. The doorman at Sephora asked me if I’d been in since they changed things and once I confirmed I had not, he instructed me not to touch the testers.

At some point, I wandered into Hollister. I don’t know what I was expecting but everything was marketed towards Gen-Z and I felt distinctly aged out. I was hit by the nostalgia of British chavs in high school wearing Hollister sweatpants to school to lazily emphasize their wealth.

Even their sweatpants cost $45.

I could never afford anything in there as a teenager but I distinctly remember falling in love with a low-rise pair at $78 jeans and by the time I’d saved enough money slinging açaí bowls at the local Planet Smoothie to buy them, I never found them again.

The most shocking difference I found had to be the Apple store which has historically been their busiest location for sales in Central Florida. All products were stored, two letter-size sheets were taped on the doors explaining their absence on the doors and I wondered what the company’s pandemic compensation policies must be.

While I expected each store to emphasize safety and caution, I did not expect to see many stores closed due to limited hours. There were also an unusual amount of sales. You got the sense stores were doing everything to push seasonal merch out the door. I’ve even seen holiday decor in retail stores lately so it makes sense that brands are retiring Summer capsules to make room for Fall and Winter.

I briefly wandered into Banana Republic where a 19 or 20-year-old girl greeted me at the door. I thought of my summer spent with an aunt in New Rochelle where I was the teenager working at the White Plains Banana Republic location taking advantage of my employee discount to build a proper professional wardrobe.

How things have changed in the decade since.

I witnessed every age group and every demographic shopping, everyone I saw wore their masks correctly. And honestly, the mall felt far less populated than it usually is on a Thursday afternoon which I actually preferred. Meanwhile, I was surprised to find that the syrupy prompts from associates to assist you as soon as you cross the threshold of their store had not relented.

I was the only customer at White House Black Market where I tried on this gingham print midi dress which fit like a dream. I wondered where I would wear it to and settled on a pair of two-tone mules instead.

I also bought a wedding reception dress not featured here. For a party that may not happen this year as planned but the next.

In any case, joy is not to be made a crumb.

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Author: RJ Bohyn

My name is RJ, I'm a writer and consultant based in the South. If you're reading this, you've arrived at the corner of the internet I've cultivated to share life, reflections on faith, style, and just about everything in between with those generous enough to read.

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