I love the mall.
Does that surprise you?
Well it shouldn’t.
I mean seriously boils and ghouls do the math. The epicenter of Mall Culture occurred when I was a teenager. I spent more evenings and weekends within the confines of one South Eastern Michigan mall between the ages of 14 and 18 than I feel comfortable admitting. My favorite destination, or as I called it my home mall, was the sprawling complex in Westland Michigan. It wasn’t the biggest, it wasn’t the fanciest, it wasn’t the cleanest, and it wasn’t the safest but by Tesla it was mine and I loved it.
When I was driven from Michigan I missed the Westland mall almost as much as I missed my friends… and more than most of my family.
When I left the Dayton Daily News I didn’t have another job lined up, this was the last time I found myself in that position, but unlike when I ran from Meijer I’d been actively hunting for a few weeks before the end of that nightmare. It was less than a full week, I believe four days, before I had an interview and was immediately offered a full time job with full benefits. Before cashing my last check from the Dayton Daily News, for they didn’t even do direct deposit for part time employees, I was a maintence man at the Dayton Mall.
Ah yes, the Dayton Mall. When I live in Dayton as a kid, between the ages of 11 and 13, The Dayton Mall was my mall. I had my first date there. I went to see Beatle Juice with Jenny Thornton. The Dayton Mall was the first place I was allowed to be for hours outside of the neighborhood without adult supervision, maybe in retrospect not the smartest decision on the part of my family. And the Dayton Mall was the first place a hormonally charged Josh got to second base with a girl.
Oh the memories…
I was hired into the maintence department technically as a beginner maintence tech but in reality my main job was to drive the Lot Sweeper. Allow me to tell you about the machine I named Greta. Greta was a one ton GMC pickup chassis with a blower/sweeper hopper mounted on the back end. I would arrive at the mall at five in the morning and sweep every inch on the parking lot until it opened at nine.
After that I’d follow the other maintence men around and learn how to do the myriad of jobs to been done in that shrine to consumerism. I was paid to learn to do things, skills I still employ to this day. We were a real team, everyone got along and we even hung out after hours as a group. On Saturdays and Sundays I was the only Maintence man on the premises and that was a revelation. I was given a tremendous amount of trust, I had keys to everything on the property except the stores, and that trust made me want to work harder.
I loved that job.
Don’t get me wrong, the pay sucked and the benefits were mediocre but it was without a doubt the most fun I ever had at job. That was until the outsourcing began. That was when the perfect job went sour.
The first things were small. The light bulb replacement inside the mall was outsourced to the people who did the parking lot lights (we didn’t have the equipment for that). Next came the plumbing, even I started getting worried about our job security when we weren’t allowed to replace a broken toilet. I mean seriously I could have done that before I started working at the mall and now we were call professional plumbers to do it.
The layoffs and Greta being sold were the final straws.
One day I was told the lot sweeping was being contracted out in two weeks and I needed to get Greta as clean as possible. I did clean her but somehow in the time between being told she was going and those bastards came to get her one of the sweeper engine cylinders cracked.
Am I saying I had something to do with that?
Of course not, what would give you that idea? Am I saying I might have seen the signs that the engine was in a bit of distress and I ignored it to the point of playing dumb when I was confronted by management?
You’ll just have to decide the answer to that on your own.
After that two positions were eliminated, one full time and one part time, and another person was transferred to an associated mall. The atmosphere went from one of camaraderie and brotherhood to one of suspicion and resentment. It got so bad that for the first time in my life I yelled at one of my bosses.
He thought he’d told me to come in early on New Year’s Day, he never did, and when he arrived and learned I hadn’t he lost his shit. He started screaming and throwing things, not at me just around, and I popped. He was one of those guys who reacted roughly to everything and the changes being made had him on edge. Still I’d had enough of bullying bosses and I told him in less than friendly terms that boss or not he’d better never talk to me like that again. Inside I was ready to drop to my knees and beg for forgiveness if he yelled back but outside I like to think I kept my composure.
He stopped in shock and left. Two days later… well he didn’t apologize but he indicated he’d fucked up and things were okay with us for the rest if tenure. We were never really friends but we could work together.
I, and everyone else in the department, was waiting for the word that our department was now outsourced (they did it to the security department before Easter) and we were all being laid off when a new opportunity presented itself. Fun fact before I continue, the department was eliminated a year later.
My wife was offered a management position at Meijer.
So in the end I left the mall job. Karen’s promotion actually left us with more than enough money to live on and the removed burden of childcare and transportation for two was a major stress reliever. For sixteen months I enjoyed the hell out of my life. I took care of my kids, I took care of my home, and I loved my life. That all changed when it was decided we had to join the throngs of other lemmings and buy a house.