Monday, June 18, 2012

In media res...

I think I'm finally settling into a mindset where I can be OK with remaining in Ohio. I miss SoCal, of course, but I'm revisiting the feelings I had about it that I experienced back when I was in my early teens. Then, it was a far-off, almost mythical dream to want to go there. The further I get from SoCal in time, the more I flash back to 1979, sitting in my buddy Rick's basement on cold winter nights, poring through old comics and girly mags, dreaming of the girls in California.

Adding to this melancholic feel was the trip I made out to a local Sears a week ago. I had to pick up a "laundry work surface" that goes on top of the washer/dryer set my mother just bought. They messed up the delivery, so I haggled a discount on the "work surface" as compensation. Anyway, this Sears is out to the west of where I live, about 7 miles. That area really shows the decline of Ohio. The Sears is on the Midway Mall, one of the earliest malls built, being put up in 1969. The place used to be hopping; it borders a couple of highways, including the Ohio Turnpike. Now, the lot is mostly empty, and a lot of the storefronts are vacant. The Sears was eerily quiet. I had to go up to the second floor to get the receipt I needed. The entire floor was silent. I looked for a salesperson. A couple of guys came up the escalator to look at TVs or appliances, then left. I almost gave up and went back downstairs when a woman finally came up the escalator and turned out to be an employee. She helped me out, and I went down and out and drove around to the pick-up area. It was even more silent and empty. Grass grew up in cracks in the asphalt. A row of parking spots had signs to park there and dial a number for them to bring out the merchandise. The first space had the last two numbers of the phone number peeled off the sign. I moved to another and dialed. It rang well over a dozen times until a robot answered and didn't even mention Sears; it just said "We are not in right now. Leave your name and number." Screw that. I drove up to the merchandise pick-up doors, parked, and got out. The old pick-up area I remembered from years ago had the window boarded up where you would show your receipt to a person. Now, a computer station was set up to scan your receipt. I did so, and watched a countdown on a screen above me that guaranteed I'd have my item in under 5 minutes. Again, the silence and lack of any kind of activity was unnerving. I noticed the landscaping around the place was old and weedy. No trucks were anywhere nearby, even though numerous dock doors stretched off into the distance, servicing various other stores. I reflected on how far Sears has fallen. Once a juggernaut, it staggers on, barely avoiding falling flat on its face. Suddenly two guys burst through the pair of swinging warehouse doors into the lobby where I stood. They brought out the item, and looked dubiously at the Focus I was driving. 25+ years of doing that exact kind of job took over and I slipped the "work surface" into the car with a bit of maneuvering. The two guys seemed genuinely surprised. I scoffed silently - you guys should know how to do this! my inner monologue growled.  I hopped into the car and was only too glad to get the hell out of that empty place. I can't imagine that place not giving up the ghost soon.

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