i’m not a mall person. oh, i’ve spent my fair share of time in malls, mind you, but now i just prefer galleries and arts and craft fairs and etsy. there was a time when malls stimulated me, now they just overwhelm me.

but today we were in the car all day, so we check into the hotel, drop our bags, then stretch our legs by walking straight over to the mall to grab a bite of supper.

i’d forgotten how much i enjoy watching people and looking at the store windows. every shopper represents a bundle of stories. every worker bee: stories. every mannequin: stories. stories, stories, stories. everywhere i look: stories . . .

i look at the girl in the carrot-colored high-heeled boots and the teensy, little ole’ bitty tighty-tight-tight shorts and say, “sugar, tell me you didn’t dress yourself. ahem, i mean, tell me about your outfit.”

to the perky young blonde woman sitting at the table next to me i say, “honey bunny, i just love your pocketbook. do you carry it every day or just for special occasions? was it a gift you bought for yourself?” and i close with “where’d you get it and does it come in blue?”

to the young man with the baggy sweatshirt and the crayola hair and matching crocs while restaging the window display, i watch a while then beg him (because i don’t have all night) “what’s the story you’re telling here? what path led you to this as a career?”

to the woman sweeping the floor and wiping down tables, the woman whose face is a story in and of itself, i pat the chair beside me. “come, sit,” i beckon. “tell me your story. tell me three if you can spare them.”

i find a few perfect gifts for special people, and as i pay and chat with the delightful young woman who works there, a man comes in and barely comes to a stop before saying, “excuse me. can you show me where the roof leaked?” to him i said, “well, well, well. i see SOMEbody failed kindergarten. do you see me standing here?” and when he nods yes, i say, “well, in case you didn’t notice, i am a customer. a customer currently in the process of giving this young woman money to pay for my purchases. money that she will later use to pay her rent and from which you will pay the roofer. now you need to learn to wait your turn, but tell me: why are you in such a galdern hurry?”

okay, truthfully: i say these things . . . but only on the inside.

one day, though. one day i’m gonna’ do some mall walking with a side of mall talking. i’m gonna’ invite and encourage people to tell me their stories ’cause i know they’ve got ’em. and i know i want to hear them. i really, really do.

oh, except . . . remember the maintenance man? well, unless he’s learned a thing or four about manners by the next time we run into each other, i can pretty much guarantee you that in his case, i’m gonna’ talk more than i listen. his mother would want me to.