If you asked me a decade ago to bet on whether I’d ever spend a night in Wilkes-Barre, PA I most certainly would have taken the no side. As it turns out I would have lost. I’m okay with that, it turns out, but also incredibly amused.
As part of our stop there was need to forage for supplies. Our goal was something close to the hotel (the Microtel is brand new and very nice for what it is) and so, at the suggestion of the front desk clerk, we made our way a mile or so up the road to the Wyoming Valley Mall where a CVS awaited us inside. As did a flashback to 1990.
The four of us were each amazed in our own way, recognizing bits from the past which jogged a particular memory or thought. Orange Julius is still in business; it has not yet been fully supplanted by Jamba Juice. Sears, Macy’s and JCPenny’s served as anchor tenants, just like at the mall I grew up with in North Florida (we had Burdines instead of Macy’s). There is a GameStop and a FYE, both brands I hadn’t heard of for years. And, perhaps the coup de grace: Spencer’s still exists, selling useless crap to another generation.
And so we laughed – a lot – as we meandered through and did our shopping. And then came to a somewhat confusing conclusion.
Maybe we didn’t go back in time. Maybe the mall experience is timeless.
How else can I explain that essentially the exact same environment exists decades later?
It also reminds me that, even as much as I wander about, I do live in a bubble. This is something of a quintessential experience for a decent chunk of the U.S. population and for twenty-something years I could have easily believed it no longer existed. Which is not to say that I plan on cruising the malls across America anytime soon. But it is good to be reminded that it is there and part of my culture, even if not really my personal culture.
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