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For real adventure, try the mall in holiday season

By Staff
Dec. 24, 2000
Finally calling a break in something of a busy news week, I decided Friday afternoon about 2 o'clock to seek real adventure.
I drove to the mall.
And, just like vacations, getting there was half the fun.
Traffic, traffic, traffic. Lined up at every entrance and most exits at Bonita Lakes. Most drivers accommodating, some not.
Packed house
Wal-Mart was packed. A woman named Donna in line behind me was buying one of those in-line scooters  the one with the little wheels for her 10-year-old son. They come in a box smaller than I expected, so some assembly must be required. The woman in front of me and her husband were buying a helmet for their young daughter, who is just learning how to ride a bicycle.
My suggestions that maybe they could ride the scooter and the bike themselves were not well taken. Too dangerous for adults.
Did you ever notice how quiet the checkout line gets when there's nothing else to say?
Made a small purchase, my annual shopping experience ended. Back into traffic. Did I mention that getting back is half the fun?
The traffic wound around the road between Taco Bell and the Comfort Inn. Intersections jammed. Pier One was in sight, but getting there against a constant stream of traffic going the other way seemed to require too much energy.
McRae's and Dillard's beckoned. All those other wonderful spending opportunities.
Tempting fate
A woman driving alone in a red Ford F-150 pick-up truck with big, raised white letter tires that blasted "Cooper Cobra" radials and a Clarke County license plate beginning with "TV8" decided to edge on out into traffic, evidently just for the pleasure of sitting in the middle of the intersection while other drivers tried to maneuver around her.
Spotted the parking lot at Old Navy and Office Max and embarked on a very unscientific survey to see where all these shoppers were coming from. Decided to write down the county registration for the first 100 cars I came across. Actually marked down 126 tags, which broke down this way:
Lauderdale County, 57; Alabama, 16; Winston County, 11; Newton County, 9. These others made a showing: Kemper, Noxubee, Scott, Clarke, Neshoba, DeSoto, Jones, Jasper, Smith and one lonely MUW tag.
Cars were also from Illinois, North Carolina, Louisiana and Texas.
Recounts not available.
Noted that more than half the cars were from somewhere other than Lauderdale County.
As I wandered through the parking lot, notebook in hand, scribbling as I walked, two shoppers stopped to ask what I was doing. The explanation must have satisfied them.
Hot cappuccino
Finally, seeking respite from the cold, I settled down for a few minutes at a table at Joe Muggs in Books-A-Million, hot cup of cappuccino in hand. And just watched other people.
Twin brothers came to the coffee counter. Twins in facial appearance, except one got the height, the other got the weight.
At the next table, a father and son talked about what to give the wife and mother, presumably the same woman. The father was dressed in a very festive sweater, geometric design, black and red on a white background. Looked like snowflakes. In a few minutes, as they rose to leave, he donned a roadster cap, black and dark green, Scottish weave.
Off to the right, a young couple dressed in jeans and sweatshirts sipped cappuccino and talked quietly. She kept patting his knee, as if to say it's okay that all the PlayStations were gone. We'll get one next millennium.
To the left, a couple of students laughed and thumbed through the latest Patricia Cornwell book on the table. Not much to laugh about in that one, so maybe I missed what they were talking about.
Nothing wrong with the cappuccino  it was actually very good but started me thinking about how Meridian could really use a really good coffee house. With a pastry bakery, maybe a few deli sandwiches, Internet connections, a warm place for the literary crowd to hang out.
Some things are just better when experienced personally and the mall as Christmastime is one of them. Restored my faith in Meridian as a regional retail center, no matter what the next set of sales tax indicators may suggest. Where else within a 50-mile radius are shoppers going?
Nanih Waiya is wonderful, a great place to visit … but it doesn't have an O'Charley's, where kids eat free all day every day.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at bbynum@themeridianstar.com.

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