Just another January Thursday morning at the local Shrine to Avarice.

I spent part of the morning at the mall. I went to pick up a new phone to replace my glitchy old one, and now Siri and I are on speaking terms again. I figured it was a good opportunity to get some walking in, partly to make the trip worth the drive –there was nothing else I needed from the mall.

The mall on a January weekday morning is a strange place –quiet, almost, except for the music, which I could probably use as a running soundtrack. Gone are the days of instrumental easy-listening Muzak. It’s all contemporary EDM and pop; I suppose to heighten your sense of urgency and make it a higher-class atmosphere, as though being good enough to enter their store is something you should aspire to. Something you don’t quite deserve, but you could, if you had better clothes.

It’s kind of a “Mean Girls” flashback for me, being at the mall, wandering around in an old college sweatshirt, jeans, and my running shoes. I saw through the ruse of “You Need This Thing to Be Your Best Self” at an early age, not because I was mature for my age, but because our family didn’t have that kind of money. If you can’t join ’em, judge ’em. But if I’d have had a couple hundred to drop at the mall on any given Saturday, maybe I’d see things differently. Maybe.

When I was writing a book review this summer, I read a passage comparing a mall to a place of worship –and that couldn’t be more accurate, as I see it. Even I, of the relatively thin pocketbook and commitment to simple living was tempted a couple times by displays of new clothes, shelves stocked with new running shoes, the aroma wafting out of Bath and Body Works (probably mostly nostalgia). I dropped into Hallmark to see if they still carried the same line of journals I used in high school –the ones with the combination lock. Unfortunately, no, just a couple key-lock models that would set you back $17.95 for less than a page a day for a year’s worth of extremely low-security writing space. I walked out, feeling a little sad for the women standing at the counter. Greeting cards are kind of anachronistic, after all, in the age of email and texts with colorful emojis. Our family hasn’t sent out Christmas cards for years. But, still, I had felt compelled to go in, see what was new, see if I’d forgotten anything I needed. And I questioned why I felt a little twinge of guilt leaving the store empty-handed, as though buying a valentine a month early for my husband would somehow preserve letter-writing and the handwritten word single-handedly. So many subtle emotional interactions in one visit to the mall. Attraction, compulsion, guilt, enticement…

A call to worship.

But I ignored it this morning, wandering around the halls more for exercise and people-watching than to obtain stuff. I figured out, as I sat in the food court (what a ridiculous name… but that’s another blog post…), that what I usually am shopping for is something to make me happy. I have enough of what I need already, but I still have this haunting sense that I’m just one thing away from fulfillment.

The phone I went to the mall for in the first place is the closest thing to my old phone I could find, and I was elated to find that someone at Apple decided, as I did, three repairs ago, that the iPhone 5 was a pretty great design, and worth keeping. I’d have slogged along with the old phone, except that Siri had become completely hard of hearing, and for the last week or two, on every third call, either I couldn’t hear who had called me, or they couldn’t hear me. Everything else works on it, it just has issues with the phone part. But since this little lighted box that functions as a portable container for my social life is really, primarily a phone, I figured it was time to give up. I’d have just as well fixed it, but I question now whether my DIY attempts at a new battery and a new screen may have caused my present problem, I figured I may as well throw out the white flag.

I guess that makes me kind of weird, feeling I need to justify replacing something that’s broken. It’s an old habit, and not one I’m going to break any time soon. It’s bad enough I have a computer, after all, seeing as better writers than me get along just fine without.