I decided yesterday to get an Uber to the Serramonte Center. It's a nice mall about 2 miles from the airbnb. I puttered around at the mall and settled for an easy dinner consisting of a fresh baked potato with sour cream, chives, and some sauce or other. The food court offers dining with tables separated by about 10 feet and patrons never crowd the lines for the food. Many shops have signs asking you to wait at the door while they serve another person. Especially cell phone stores. This means they can get 3 to 4 people in at a time.
Since I'm an inveterate armchair anthropologist, malls are great for the observer part of the participation-observation approach that cultural anthropologists use. I can sit at some table or bench and simply watch. There is no participation. It all reminds me of the cult of the nacirema. Have you heard of that culture? Interesting reading about body rituals on a relatively known group.
My little part of the study will never be published I fear except to the readers of this blog. I observed people willfully wolf down burgers and fries, gobble up ice cream shakes, and mumble discussions while perhaps engaged in the simple act of being out. Each person wore a mask while traversing the mall I could see. Young and old faces were covered up. I have noticed with such things covering the lower part of faces the eyes become a focal point. In Vietnam the eyes blazed with colors and smiles would crease the eyes at distinct points. A muffled hello or Xin Chao was mostly heard. Here in the mall, people simply nod their heads or offer,
how's it going
Or just the less obtrusive head nod. I believe head nods can be harder to see and recognize in malls but sitting at the food court with the distance between tables, masks are dropped down. I would like my graduate professor in urban anthropology to have been with me. I think J would have noted the social distancing perhaps instead as proxemics at work if it were not for the virus and how well most Californians observe the requirements. Observe perhaps the distance between chairs around a table or how close or far apart people will sit around a camp fire.
In the mall proper I wandered to find nothing at all. Through a large Target Store and then a Macy's I did not go into. It was a good way to do nothing for quite some time and also just watch how people come and go. Did I see happiness and joy? Yes. People are basically happy to be out and about moving. Maybe not necessarily around other people doing the same but the basic act and art of moving socially seems to bring joy especially to the kids that run and dart and do circles around parents who just watch them pretending irritation. It reminded me again of watching moms and dads in Vietnam pretend to get annoyed one time in a KFC restaurant when they had a birthday party. One of the moms saw me and smiled and shook her head. As the kids ran gleefully up and down, playing games in the restaurant, teasing the adults.
So there's a yesterday gone and I sit with coffee in the airbnb. Quiet times and percolating thoughts. When I used to do archeology we gathered in the mornings often a bit hungover but watching the morning in the Mojave do its dance. RWR would mention then,
yesterday was a good day
Yes it was RWR.
Then I made my way home walking the 2.2 miles and the time whirred and danced and life spun on each footstep. Until I bought the can of Foster beer for last night.