Monday, May 02, 2011

Post Traumatic Mall Syndrome

Author's note: It's been forever since I posted here (sorry guys). I've been too wrapped up with ghosts and goblins over at I promise to spend more time over here at "Poop's Funny."

I’ve never been a fan of shopping malls. Parking lots pitted like the lunar surface, the cramped food court, Goth kids trying to show their individuality by buying from Hot Topic. Everything.

I’ve always known malls are strange places; I just never thought I’d be afraid of them. Maybe it had something to do with the Christmas rush.

It was Dec. 22.

Although my wife and I usually try to avoid places that hold vacuums over our wallets, her brother was tough to buy for. All she could think of were chocolate-covered espresso beans. Not a popular convenience store item.

“Oh, let’s look in here,” my wife said, pointing to a store I briefly considered physically injuring myself to avoid. “It’ll just be a second. Here; hold my purse.”

To guys, shopping means buying beer and maybe something salty and crunchy to go with it. To women, shopping is fun. Ladies, I’ve had fun before. Shopping ain’t it.

Standing in a store full of women’s clothing holding a purse, knowing my wife wasn’t going buy anything, meant three things, 1) there was no beer here, 2) there were no snacks here, and 3) if I were a dog I’d be that thing Paris Hilton carries around in a little bag.

“Can we go now?” I asked just before begging kicked in.

“Of course,” she said.

Three stores later we bought the stupid coffee beans.

“Now we can go,” she said.

I shook my head. Walking into three women’s clothing stores, a child’s clothing store, and a coffee bean store had been too much. I headed for the bathroom.

Bathrooms are the only sane place in a mall. They’re clean, the toilets flush by themselves, and they’re usually full of crying husbands. I did my business, wiped my own tears and walked out.

“Now we can go,” I said.

We grabbed two cups of overpriced coffee and walked through the crater lot. We were lucky; Neil Armstrong hadn’t planted a flag on our car.

This wasn’t the experience that made me afraid of malls.

This is:

A few months later, I ran into a friend and he grinned at me strangely. I didn’t like that. He was big.

“So, how’d you like (name of women’s clothing store)?” he asked.

Suffering from Post Traumatic Mall Syndrome, I had no idea what that meant.


“At the mall,” he said. “You entered that store at 2:45 p.m., Dec. 22.”

He worked security at the mall. I’d looked for him that day, but never saw him. I. never. saw. him.

“At 3:12 p.m., you and your wife – who wore a red top under a green coat, you a beige top under a black coat – entered (name of second store).”

He listed everything we did. Every store, my long stare at the Victoria’s Secret display pictures, even me crying in the bathroom.

“How’d you know all that?” I asked

He smiled.

“I followed you.”

This is why I’m afraid of shopping malls. Malls employ people who are quieter than hybrid cars, more cunning than ninjas, and stealthier than the B-2 bomber.

And they’re watching our every move.

Copyright 2011 by Jason Offutt

Jason’s latest book, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at