“Nice shirt,” Marsha said to the man next to her in the terminal. “Is it a designer?”
“J.C. Penney,” Carl answered with a chuckle.
“Really? I never shop there. Did you get it in the city?” she asked.
“At the mall. I live out in western Pennsylvania,” he said, “near a big mall. I fly in once a week to meet with the execs.”
“Can you believe I’ve never been to a mall? I live in Manhattan and shop mostly on Fifth Avenue,” Marsha told Carl. “I’ve seen clips of them on TV and they look dreadful to me. I can’t imagine being closed into a little city full of stores. What’s the fun? No pretzel vendors and all.”
“Well, they have a food court. They have a pretzel place there called Auntie Ann’s and those pretzels are sinful! Not like the thick ones you get from the street vendors in the city but delicious just the same.”
“A food court?” Marsha exclaimed. “What on earth is that?”
“A kind of courtyard full of tables surrounded by different fast food counters. They’ve got a pizza place, a McDonalds, Chick Fil-A, Subway, Taco Bell. Oh and I think they have a Cajun joint, too. Plus there are ice cream and dessert counters,” Carl explained.
“Why would you put all those in one place?” Marsha asked with astonishment. Bizarre as it sounded to him, her question was sincere so Carl smiled.
“Consider this,” he said. “On a Saturday, you go to the mall with the family. Your kids need shoes, your wife wants to look at jewelry, I need this shirt, for instance, or whatever. Everyone gets in the car and we go to the mall. We wander around in the climate controlled environment with skylights in the ceiling that let the natural light shine through.”
“You’re kidding! They have skylights at the mall?” Marsha asked.
“Yup. We shop a little and then go to the food court and the kids can get pizza or a Happy Meal and my wife can get gourmet coffee and I can get a sub. We all sit down together with our different food and eat while we watch children playing on a huge slide surrounded by the tables. It’s kind of a family outing but we don’t all have to eat the same food. They have a multiplex, there, too.”
“What’s a multiplex?”
“You’ve never heard of a multiplex? It’s a movie theater – well it’s a bunch of movie theaters all in one place with different movies playing in them. They have stadium seating so you don’t have to worry about some guy with a big head sitting in front of you and blocking your view like in Seinfeld,” Carl explained. “We can all see the same movie together or the kids can watch a G-rated movie while my wife and I go and watch something a little more, uh, mature.”
“I can’t picture it. No cars, no weather. No hoards of people rushing down the sidewalks. No skateboards or bicycles. They don’t allow bicycles or skateboards, I imagine?” Marsha asked.
“Oh no,” Carl laughed. “That’s the beauty of it. It’s a leisurely environment and you don’t have to worry about rain or being cold in the winter or hot in the summer. It’s life in the suburbs.”
“I’ve been in the city all my life. Lived there since I was a kid, Marsha told Carl. “Took subways and buses everywhere. I don’t even know how to drive.” I’ve actually never been out of New York except to the other boroughs. I can’t imagine not being able to run into a Broadway show on a Saturday afternoon if I have the time and the two-fer window has tickets.”
“What’s a two-fer window?” Carl asked.
“It’s a little booth at Times Square where you can buy tickets to Broadway shows at the last minute if they’re not sold out. You can get two tickets for the price of one. And there are so many movie theaters that you can see movies dating back to, oh, I don’t know when, right up to the new releases. Well, you said you watch Seinfeld, so you know what I’m talking about.”
“I can’t imagine raising kids there. It just seems so, so, I don’t know, closed in,” Carl said. “By the way, if you’ve never been out of the city, what are you doing in the terminal? Where are you headed today?”
“Oh, I’m not going anywhere. Just waiting for a friend who’s coming in from Chicago. To me, that’s like a little city. Sort of like a suburb but I don’t know if they have malls there.”
Excerpts from Leroy Cooper's memoir as told to me during conversations that took place during the 2 years we knew each other. I also write humor, flash fiction, celebrity interviews, real and made up stories--see if you can guess which are which.