I’m Gonna Break My Rusty Cage…

…and run! (Shout-out to the Soundgarden lovers. I’m old, y’all.)

Caution: Massive grumpage ahead.

So I had to take the car into the dealership today for some routine stuff, and it usually takes them a few hours. Said dealership is across the street from the mall, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because sometimes you just have to go get underwear on sale at Macy’s, and a curse because it’s the mall.

I also had the fortune of getting to take our other car, the tumbly truck, to the dealership last week, and—I kid you not—a woman asked the shuttle driver to take her to the mall. The older, overweight shuttle driver asked, “Oh, to the other side, to Kohl’s?” And she said, “No, just to Penney’s.” Which is literally. Across. The street. Like, I can see the JCPenney sign through the windows of the waiting area.

But you know, I get it. This is not an area built for pedestrians. Car lots are clearly for cars, with no logical places to walk at all. So you get through the maze of cars to the end of the parking lot, you jump a low chain fence to get to the sidewalk, and then you have to backtrack to get to the one place they let you cross the busy street. Then you wait. You get to listen to the soundtrack blaring out of the speakers posted around the car lot, because—thank goodness!—the dealership thought about those of us who couldn’t bear to part with Nickelback even when outdoors. And you wait some more. Forever. Because, in case you haven’t gotten the memo yet, this is car territory, not for people who dare to use their feet. Pedestrians are such endangered species in these parts, that I was almost run over in this very crosswalk when I was 7 months pregnant. Drivers literally have no idea what to do with you, even if you’re in their way.

The green man flashes, you finally get to move, you get to the other side, and then you’re perplexed. The sidewalk wants you to go back across the way you already backtracked (clearly a straight line was too much to handle). You decide, “Fuck it,” and head out on your own, charting your own path like the maverick you are, right through the expanse of asphalt. You hike through a few token medians with trees and shrubbery, afraid some grounds maintenance worker is going to yell at you for daring to touch the few square feet of actual nature within sight.

Then you’re in the mall—congratulations! Your reward for such bravery is the smorgasboard of human wreckage that prowls these hallowed halls. There is not a single healthy individual anywhere to be seen. Literally. I’m not being a total bitch about this. The elderly (who aren’t actually “elderly,” they’re more like 66 but look 86) have given up and are sitting in those chairs where you can put some quarters in it and…what?…it shakes or something? Nothing makes you feel alive like a coin-operated numb butt! The people who work there, when they’re not attached to their 32 ounce sodas, are outside on their smoking break and texting about it. Everyone has a spare tire, a motorized wheelchair, and/or an oxygen tank on wheels. Even the young women all have muffin tops, the most appropriate description of a human body part ever. The one somewhat not-overweight guy in the entire mall cat-calls you. Your hope for humanity is really high at this point.

And all around are holiday decorations and music. Isn’t this jolly?!

Then you spy an appliance called a “Cake Pop and Donut Hole Maker.” It looks just like a waffle iron, or a George Foreman grill, but apparently, this device’s sole purpose is to churn out sugary bite-sized balls of dough. It was probably made in Asia somewhere by a 10-year old in a factory with deplorable working conditions who works to help feed his six younger siblings because their dad died in the sulfur mines.

You finally get your underwear and try to get the hell outta Dodge. You literally get trapped in the aforementioned JCPenney because they’ve designed the store so that you have to see all their displays. There are only two entry/exit points to the whole place, and you start to feel like a rat in a maze on crack when you can’t get out. Oh…what’s that? A sliver of blue sky and some natural light that doesn’t buzz with the infernal racket of hundreds of locusts? You’re FREE!!!!!!!

Ahh…fresh air.

Sort of. If the air hovering above asphalt tinged with the exhaust of fossil fuels can be called “fresh.” But you’ll take it.

After you pass another smoking mall employee, you notice there are some really fun walls with more unoffensive shrubbery that would be a blast to Parkour all over, but you restrain yourself. And then. The sidewalk takes another ridiculous jog to the left when your path needs to go right, so you invoke the “Fuck It” corollary and head off into a gloriously dissonant patch of earth, grass, and pine trees. The ground is soft, your boots sinking in, and suddenly you wish you were barefoot. The acrid smell of the parking lot melts away to the familiar dankness that is November in Oregon. There is almost something real here. You slow your pace, breathe a little deeper. You make sure no one’s looking, then crack a smile.

And it’s over before it really began, because now you still have to make your way to the inane pedestrian crossing that takes you to the car lot that takes you to the lobby. You pay for the repairs, looking into the face of an overweight, unhappy guy with no defined neck. Where his chin ends, there is just a fleshy roundness that continues down until it’s tucked into the top of his button-up shirt. And then you realize that you might be the same age. You could have gone to high school with him.


Yeah, I’m an arrogant shit. I know. But I’m not sure how much more I can pretend that I’m a part of the world as we know it. It hurts. Really. It makes me angry and my heart breaks for every one of those people whose paths I crossed today. Their human birthright has been stolen from them and they don’t know how to defend themselves. Even if they wanted to, they wouldn’t know where to aim their weapons. And they get cancer, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and all sorts of various dignity-robbing illnesses. They get pills to manage it all and then those pills cause problems, so they get more pills and procedures. They’re deeply, deeply tired. Newspaper and cable news headlines reinforce all of it and convince everyone of the rightness of it, even though it hurts. Our economy, our political system, our food system—they all feed into it.

There is no doubt MovNat’s Human Zoo is now. The victims are our family members, our friends, our co-workers, fellow townspeople. But one thing I’m sure as hell hoping is that it stops here. Let. Me. Out.



2 Responses to “I’m Gonna Break My Rusty Cage…”

  1. This is a sad picture but unfortunately, it is true. It makes me happy that I don’t live in the big city.

    I think the worst thing is that the poor physical state of our society is only a reflection of the poor state of our attitudes. We want everything to be easy, convenient, and packaged to look pretty. Many people don’t seem to care what long term consequences are at stake.

  2. Great post. Sometimes, I think I’m the only one in the world who has these same observations. My job is such that I see hundreds of people in a day. Masses of really sick people that don’t even know it. Its truly pathetic in a sad way, because I feel they (we) are being manipulated. I weep for America right now and not because of a bad economy. Please expand on your thoughts on this matter in the future.

    Sincerely, RN

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