This is the tenth installment of the Summer 2010 road trip travelogue starring Artificially Sweetened (AS), her daughter, Cupcake, and me, the Nittany Turkey.
Day Nine was a Sunday, our last full day in New Philly. We hadn’t developed a plan for the day, which enabled another sleep-in for the girls. Just how, then, did Day Nine evolve into a shopping day?
Well, before the ladies came downstairs, I was talking with Toejam about my thoughts on lunch. I knew that AS liked hot dogs, and in Pottsville there is a hot dog joint called Coney Island that serves memorable wieners. Toejam told me that they weren’t open on Sundays, so I better go to the mall, where there is a small branch of the downtown store. Therein lay the essence of a plan.
As AS approached cognitive functionality (i.e., after some coffee), I told her that the plan was to take her and Cupcake to the mall to get some hot dogs for lunch.
Sproingo! Say da secret woid and da duck comes down and gives you $100…
Yes, I said the magic word, and it wasn’t abracadabra—it was mall.
“As long as we’re going to the mall, I wanted to buy Cupcake some jeans for school,” said AS, her eyes focusing. I could feel her shopping gears spinning up to operational speed, lubricated by SAE 90 coffee and fueled by a breakfast bar.
Back in my day, we weren’t allowed to wear jeans to school, but that’s beside the point. My desire to feed the girls a couple of hot dogs had just been transmogrified into a full-scale babe clothing shopping mission. Ooooh boy!
We three piled into the Sienna for a voyage into the wonderful world of babeshopping. But first, I had an item on my list of things to do before leaving Schuylkill County. In nearby St. Clair, there was a house with a bomb casing on its front porch’s roof. The word “NUCLEAR” was stenciled on the bomb. I needed to get a picture of it before I left in order to capture the flair of the local gentry.
After the brief photo shoot, I remembered where the mall was, much to the delight of AS and to the quasi-constructive apathy of Cupcake. When we arrived in the mall parking lot, I said I would park at the end by Boscov’s, the one and only anchor department store there. We passed a huge tent. I mentioned that it was too early to be selling Christmas trees and too late for Fourth of July fireworks, so what could it be? We soon found out when we saw the sign that said “Boscov’s Tent Sale — up to 70% off.” What flashed in my brain was “OMG OMG”.
“We have to go in there,” declared AS. I would not have a choice in the matter.
“OK,” I agreed limply. It was going to be a long afternoon.
I guess we looked at everything in the tent at least once. Thinking that I might be able to cut to the chase, I pointed AS to a rack with girls’ jeans selling for $3. In return, I received a word or two of heady shopping advice.
“I never buy pants that I can’t try on, even if they’re only $3,” said AS. I never thought of that. I mean, for $3, I’d take a chance, and if they didn’t fit, I’d sell them on eBay for $5. But I’m just a man. Who cares what I think? Now, it was clear that we would definitely have to go inside after spending the “necessary” time in the tent.
AS and Cupcake split up. I could walk from one to the other and back, feigning interest in what they were doing, to avert the boredom of looking at lots of stuff no one intended to buy. After all, the stuff in the tent was there because it had been languishing too long in the store. Finally, the Cupcake got bored, too. But AS was in full shop-mode, so there was no telling when we would exit the tent. I think the only thing that eventually saved us was that the tent wasn’t air conditioned. It wasn’t extremely hot, but after walking around for 20 minutes or so, it was getting a wee bit uncomfortable.
I’m not sure what it was that AS bought, but I was pleased when she said that she was ready to go to the register to check out. Cool! Now we could get out of here and, um, shop.
Inside the main store, there was air conditioning, so my tolerance level increased. At this point, the jeans assault team began its search and seizure mission. I gestured to the Levis display, thinking that I might be able to channel their efforts, but I received a swift rebuke.
“Why not get the ones that started it all? Good old original Levis,” I suggested.
“Because they’re not cool,” said AS.
We looked at a lot of racks. How many exactly, I forget. It’s all a blur. Finally, Cupcake was ready to try on some jeans. I pointed out the sign that said they could take no more than three garments into the fitting room and they had to tell a clerk before they went in. They ignored the second part. I’m not sure whether they ignored the first part as well, as there several ingresses and egresses.
When Cupcake came out the first time, I asked AS why the jeans’ rear pockets were not properly situated high on Cupcake’s butt cheeks. She admonished me that I didn’t know how it was supposed to work. These were low riders or some such thing. Yeah, but does that mean that the bottom half of the patch pockets should be down her thighs? Furthermore, is it really necessary to show butt crack? I mean without a thong in there and a tramp stamp above to decorate it? But surely, AS wouldn’t approve of something like that. I guess I know nothing about girls’ fashions. Silly me.
I was called upon to be a human clothing rack while the two of them went into the changing room. I got to hold the stuff that they had either already decided upon buying or were saving for subsequent try-on sessions. I whiled away the time by taking pictures of unsuspecting customers and employees.
A few more ins and outs of the fitting rooms and they were finally ready. We found the bored, teenage sales clerk on the phone with her girlfriend talking about a forthcoming trip to Orlando. We could have offered her a ride so Cupcake would have had someone along who spoke the same language, but we didn’t. AS paid her and we were finally cleared for take-off into hot dog land.
AS said she needed a spatula, but she was being very deferential, thinking that maybe we should cut the shopping short and eat. Now, that got me thinking. Buying a spatula while on vacation is weird, but AS never seems to have time when at home for doing a little pointless mall moseying. So, why shouldn’t she be able to get what she needed while we were there in a mall with no time constraints other than the distant closing hour?
“You might as well get it while you’re here,” I offered graciously. “The kitchen stuff is right over there on the way to the door to the mall.”
So, we went spatula shopping. Or was it turner shopping? Cupcake seemed to want to debate the differences between the two, but no one cared to take her on for more than a brief instant. While AS was looking at every spatula/turner in the display, Cupcake was telling me that the only thing that would keep AS from food was shopping. Finally, a spatula meeting the proper specifications was ready to make its way to its new home. We found a “senior sales associate” and paid.
Great! Now, some hot dogs.
Well, not quite yet…
AS had to go use the mall facilities, the rest room, the defecation station, the crapper—whichever euphemism you prefer to use. My Canadian friends seem to prefer “washroom” but I think that means a place to do your laundry. Why am I dwelling on this? Because I’m taking a mental break from writing actual meaningful prose, but my fingers are responding to mindless brain commands.
Cupcake and I chatted while awaiting AS’s egress from the loo. When she emerged, I was thinking, “hottttt dogggggg…”
We started walking toward the center of the mall, where the requisite “food court” was located, but we didn’t see the hot dog joint there. Just then, AS spotted a CVS drug store, and said she wanted to pick up some stuff in there.
“A drug store in a mall,” said Cupcake. “That’s so stupid. I’ve never like seen that before.”
“They had an Eckerd’s at Altamonte Mall for a long time,” I said. “I don’t know if it is still there since CVS bought Eckerd’s, but I don’t think it is at all unusual to find a drug store in a shopping mall.”
“It’s pretty dumb,” corrected Cupcake.
That exchange amused me through what could have been another boring shopping moment. CVS could have—indeed, should have—consulted Cupcake before leasing the space in the mall. She would have told them that it was a dumbass place to put their store, which would have saved them the cost of the feasibility study and the scorn of countless cynical teenagers.
Now, we were back on the hot dog hunt. A convenient mall directory revealed the location of Coney Express, which was close to one of the doors to the outside. (A benefit! We could get out of there after eating.)
AS looked at the wall mounted menu and perked up yet again. They had pierogies. AS, you see, is not a Chicago Polack, but she’s the closest you can get without actually crossing the border: a Chicago Yukie. (Polack is to Poland as Yukie is to the Ukraine.) Well, she’s second-generation American, but who’s counting? We’re all what our individual backgrounds make us, so we can make fun of each other just like in the old country. The more homogenized we get, the more of that individual character we lose. But I digress.
Hot dogs and pierogies having been ordered and received, we ate. Well, sorta. Cupcake ate until she was full, and then she started playing with a pierogie, making a smiley face out of it and posing for a picture with it in place.
So, I paid. I thought we could head out the door to the car but, hark! What’s that I hear? The shopping horn is blowing again, and its unmuted tones are blaring at me from AS’s pie hole.
“We passed BCH’s favorite store. I want to go there and look for something for her,” she said. It wasn’t a question.
One more store. How bad could that be? I dunno, but it seemed like it took quite a while. Einstein might have forgotten about time deceleration while shopping with women when he developed his general theory of relativity. The Cupcake got into the act, looking at shirts and, eventually, selecting a couple of pairs of flip-flops for school. For school? Hell, when I was in school, we couldn’t even wear sneakers, let alone flip-flops. Yeah, I know. I’m drifting again. They paid and we were freeeeeeeee.
With multiple bags stashed in the van, we were indeed free to roam about. It was mid-afternoon and I knew where there was a Geocache on the mall property, so I took the ladies there for a little non-shopping activity. I had found the rather clever container before while caching there with Toejam, and I thought this would be a fun diversion. However, in reading the updated cache description on-line, it turned out that the original container had been replaced since I had found it, as bees had taken up residence in it. We never found the new one, declaring ISAG Rule #1 after 15 minutes, but we did discover the old one. There were no bees, though. Another unsuccessful GeoSearch.
Somewhat disappointed, we headed back toward New Philly. On the way, I had a thought. In the neighboring town of Cumbola, I had found another Geocache one time. It would at least give the ladies one successful search during this day. So, I turned off the highway onto one of the streets of Cumbola (I think it has four or five streets). Behind the fire house, there is a playground, and the Geocache is just outside the entrance to the playground.
I handed the BlackBerry to one of the girls and turned them loose. In a very short while, AS found the micro container, signed the log for both of them, and we were on our way. Or not!
The girls saw the playground and wanted to play. I guess in every big girl is the desire to be a little girl all over again. These two had a ball on the see-saws, even though their weight disparity conspired against them. Cupcake also found a large leaf that she felt would serve as an excellent rain collecting hat. It wasn’t raining. I think they were both delirious from shopping all afternoon. Either that or the pierogies were seasoned with cannabis.
It was great fun photographing the frivolity, though, and I wondered what the townsfolk would think if they spotted three strange strangers frolicking in their deserted kiddie park on this Sunday afternoon. But all was quiet and not even the ghost of the guy with the memorial gazebo complained.
When AS and Cupcake had had enough merrymaking, we left, driving past Robert Shewokis’ fuel tanks, then over the hill to Tam Manor. As we entered the house, Toejam spoke.
“That was an awful long hot dog run,” he chided.
“Uh, yeah. We had to do a little shopping,” I said. “There was this tent, you see—”
“Did yiz go inside?” interrupted Judy. Apparently, that tent held some attraction for her, too.
We discussed the day’s events and reviewed the food at Coney Express. The subject of food having been broached, we rapidly segued into what we were having for dinner. Toejam suggested a stromboli take-out from a local establishment. All were in agreement, but there was some discussion of the differences between a calzone and a stromboli. I’ve never actually figured that out, myself.
As it had to be a single stromboli for five adults, the chef decided to make it in a shape that would fit into a pizza box. Normally, it would be a linear thing, but this one was formed into a horseshoe shape that I said reminded me of a hemorrhoid cushion. But it was very good and we all stuffed ourselves for the second time.
After a cool-out digestion period, I decided on a departure time for the morning and briefed the Cupcake and AS. Then, we retired for the evening.
AS and I talked for a while about options for the next day’s drive. I wanted to show the Cupcake our nation’s capital, but we needed to adhere to a schedule that would get us back to Orlando by Tuesday before 5 PM. Thus, we couldn’t stay overnight in DC, because it was too long a drive from there to Orlando for one day. Besides, I’m too cheap to pay for a hotel in the area and I didn’t want to bother my friends in Reston for a short-notice overnight stay. My original travel plan, which we had to stick with, involved overnighting in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and starting from there to Orlando on Tuesday morning. Accordingly, I made a slight modification, which would involve stopping in DC for a just few hours on the way from New Philly to Rocky Mount. AS readily agreed to the plan, so that was that.
With early morning ahead of us, it was lights out on Day Nine.
Read about our exploits in Washington, D.C., and on the road in our next installment.