At 11:15am on a Friday the traffic was not that bad. It was the last day of school before the holiday break, and a nice lull between morning coffee runs and lunch time escapes among regular employees. It was not until I had to wander up and down multiple parking aisles was I reminded that this was still a major shopping season. And here I was, voluntarily at a mall just a week before Christmas. What was I thinking?
Thor. I was thinking about seeing Thor. Okay, to the far side of the parking lot I go because there will be no superhero goodness if I cannot get out of the car.
I had an hour to spare before the start of the film, so first up was the pain and joy and more pain of clothes shopping. My jeans had been feeling a little too loose for comfort (like they are going to fall off if I walked too quickly) so with a singular goal, and the promise of a Asgardian god later on, it was through the mall I went. Due to my weight loss since seven years ago, I’ve discovered that there are a lot more clothing options in the world than my 3X, size 22 pants got to try out. But its still overwhelming to me each time I shop. Like Ikea on a Saturday afternoon overwhelming with what feels like thousands of options, with only a few things that will really truly fit. During this shopping trip I wondered if those around me were as stressed by the process as I was, or if they were actually enjoying the challenge of finding something among all the stacks, tags, and complicated sales signs.
With a bag finally in hand, I wandered through the food court to an open section where I wouldn’t be in the way of those who had actually paid for food (contrasted with the Diet Coke and granola bar from my purse).
Really all of these details are just the context to yesterday’s daydream about a woman I watched but never spoke to. A woman whose story I found myself wondering about for the rest of the day. A woman I decided to call Ruby.
She adjusted the reindeer antlers on her head, hearing the now familiar jingle from small bells hanging on each side. At first it had been a little tight, and a little embarrassing to wear, but after a few weeks, Ruby barely noticed it any more. She might even miss the smiles they brought to kids faces once the season was over. The music pipping through the carousel, that she definitely wouldn’t miss. Instead of a good mix of pepping pop songs and some rock and roll classics, she had been stuck with just a small assortment of Santa-songs for the past month. If only Mariah Carey or Kelly Clarkson was allowed on the playlist, but the boss was too worries about extra cautious parents. So Rock Around the Clock was only for the tenth time this shift.
A brother and sister wanted to ride together on the ferris wheel. Only eight seats were on this little wheel, and usually no more than two or three were filled on a ride. The younger sister was the perfect size, and brave enough to get reach toward the ceiling. But big brother was sadly just an inch too tall. This was one of the worst parts of the job: telling a child they were too big to ride. This young boy was probably stopped from so many other adventures in life and now he couldn’t join little sister. Since mom only had enough money for one ride, it was over to the merry-go-round instead, which brother clearly wasn’t excited for. But it was something other than shopping so onto the horses they both went.
When it was quiet like this, that’s when Ruby would like the ride go for a minute or two more than she was supposed to. No one was waiting and these kids needed their break from all of the bags and lines. Around the circle they went, and Ruby looked on to enjoy their smiling faces. She could handle as many Santa songs as she had to as long as she got to see those faces. That was why she went for this job rather than selling clothes to too-cool teens. And it was so much better than the greasy jobs in other corners of the food court. During breaks she would go over to visit with friends from school, compare tasks, and maybe glance out the window to see what the world beyond the mall walls is like. Come spring maybe she would apply to Enchanted Forrest or somewhere else with a bigger ferris wheel and some open skies overhead.