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Watching the world go by at the mall

It takes quite a bit to make me blush, but I did.

The two guys -- in their late 60s or early 70s sitting next to me -- I thought would lose their lunch.

There, in the middle of a crowded mall, two young people started to kiss. It wasn't your normal peck on the lips. It was like a scene from an R-rated movie.

They were groping and kissing, kissing and groping, neither seeking what I thought would be a much-needed breath of air. The corner of the bath and body store they were up against all but had steam coming from the glass storefront.

``Look at them two,'' one of my sitting pals said. ``If I did that with a girl when I was that age, her father would have shot me. A girl in my era never would have let that happen, especially not in public.''

Ah, life at the mall.

Unlike most males, I like to shop. I don't admit this regularly, for it's not the ``guy'' thing to do. But I like to feed what is a hearty clothing appetite, and that means malls, walking, shopping and most fun of all -- watching.

Watching people in the mall is cheap entertainment. If I had to spend $7 to see a first-run movie or spend nothing and go to a mall and watch the way people act, I'd opt for the mall.

There's more comedy involved.

Scenes involving husbands and wives, with the husband not wanting to be there and the wife making him shop, are outrageous. ``Please, honey, just one more store,'' she says as he rolls his eyes and gives in. ``You can watch all the football you want if I can go to one more store.''

Then there's the obligatory group of women shopping. If it's the holiday season, the holiday sweaters, sweatshirts and decorative earrings are out in force. Each group dresses for a season or a particular holiday.

Whatever the occasion might be, women are amazing when it comes to working their way through a mall. They possess the ability to walk, talk, share gossip and catch a ``sale'' sign 10 stores down, all while carrying two armloads of packages.

You can spot fashion-scene trend-setters -- or they think they are -- walking the malls showing off what's new on the clothing front.

``I like the short skirts,'' one of my sitting pals said with a cheesy smile.

There are soft moments, too.

-- A dad strolling with his new son or daughter, pushing proudly at what he's helped bring into the world. People always stop and gawk at a little kid, which warms your heart.

-- A mom walking with her daughter, just a ``girls'' night away from the boys.

-- Couples, unlike the two teenagers, walking hand-in-hand trying to get a little shopping done or off to make a major purchase together.

Mall walkers.

As my two pals informed me, these folks rule the mall. They stop to talk at various spots or the food court, but while getting their exercise, they work in a business-like fashion.

``Stay out of their way,'' both warned.

For one of my new friends, his seat for watching is in the middle of the mall. His wife of 43 years shops 'til she drops but refuses to deal with traffic heading in and out of the mall. He refuses to trek to each store, so he stops at the Popcorn Company, gets some caramel corn and watches. And when his bride is ready to go, he goes.

``I sit and watch almost the whole time I'm here,'' he said. ``This is fun. I usually stay on one spot, but I have a few other benches I sit at. The best part of shopping is people-watching.''

It's certainly the funniest part.

-- By John Marx (January 26, 1998)

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