December 21st, 2010

Rose-coloured reviews the Eaton’s Centre

If they found themselves alone without plans in the late afternoon on the Saturday before Christmas, perhaps most people would not have wandered–lonely as a cloud–to the Toronto Eaton’s Centre. I have heard much about the crush and crassness of malls in general and Eaton’s Centre in particular.

The thing about me: I love malls far more than people who actual attempt to buy things in them on a regular basis. Starting with my rural, driver’s-license-less youth, I have rarely had the holy trio of the time, access, and money to shop in malls as often as I would like. Even when I was broke, I was still content to “recreationally shop”–ie., wander around and look at stuff, try things on, maybe eat in the food court. At that point, I called Eaton’s Centre “The Museum of Nice Stuff.”

Currently, what I lack is time–shopping is completely non-recreational, limited mainly to groceries. When I really need something mallish, like a gift or a specific item of clothing, it usual turns into a frantic 30-minute slalom through 3 stores, after which I have to get somewhere else immediately–ie., no fun.

So, since I was without plans last Saturday, wander to the mall is exactly what I did. It was nice because I am pretty much done shopping for gifts and didn’t really need anything at all–pure recreational shop, except some gum and pop supplies to consume as I strolled. I was actually really excited for the bustling crowds, and they did not disappoint on the bustle front, though it really was not as crowded as I expected. I was worried for our economy. But then I heard on the radio this morning that 100 000 people will pass through that mall…ok, I forget if it was in a day of Christmas shopping or a season of it, but whatever, they sounded pleased with the number, so I figure it’s a lot.

I definitely didn’t feel wringer-washed and paranoid, they way I sometimes do in really crazy crowds. It was just a nice semi-crowded mall. In fact, I don’t even know if things would’ve felt as crowded as they did if the Eaton’s Centre hadn’t been *under construction* during the busiest retail season of the year. What’s up with that? They had tried to disguise all the big half-built kiosks and random other plywood boxes by covering them in gift wrap and festive signs identifying what store they were in front of, but it still seemed a bit sloppy and awkward to me.

But who cares? I got a free dark chocolate Ferrero Roche at the Ferrero Roche tree, which was very pretty and odd. And then, and THEN, there was the Swarkovski Crystal tree, which was there last year and which I love very much. It’s so sparkly and so tall and lit from below somehow I’m not sure how. And maybe they do this all the time and I just never knew, but it seem totally magically that as I was walking towards the tree, they turned on the snow. As I walked closer, I kept trying to figure out how they were doing it, but I didn’t really care because it looks so incredible to have a) snow indoors and b) snow coming down over those lights facing up, to create a wild shadow effect. Finally, a lady with a hijab standing beside me (there as a bit of a press up close) put out her hand to grab a “snowflake” and showed it to me–a tiny clump of soap bubbles. We were both charmed.

That was pretty much the highlight. I went into a few stores, but of course didn’t get tempted to try anything on. The jewellery, high-priced cookeware, and Apple products were my favourites (oh, MacBook Air–now I see!) Eventually, I got lonely in the crowd–the cliche is true! And the other cliche, about social mall shopping being the domain of silly teenage girls, wildly untrue. Everyone was shopping in couples and groups–not just teenagers, everyone. The few people I saw on their own were on cell phones (one middle aged, jovial-looking gentleman was listing a series of chores, one of which was, “And you’ll mix the martinis.”)

It was very festive–I don’t know if it was the spirit of giving that inspired all of those people into the mall, but it was nice to see them all together enjoying themselves. And people were enjoying themselves, despite the ugly construction and crass commercialism and the fact that there is a whole kiosk for “skins,” whatever that means. It was a smiley crowd at the mall, and I was happy to see it. But I really should have manufactured an errand or a goal of some kind; I didn’t really fit in as the sole Eaton’s Centre flanneur, and after less than an hour, me and my Fresca were on our way home.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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