Mall in a Day’s Work

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As you are no doubt aware, a new mall has just opened in the East Bay part of Provo. This is being heralded as the greatest thing to happen to Provo business since Hogi Yogi built its first 12 stores here.

Of course, we already had the University Mall, and even though it’s technically in Orem, it more or less met our mall needs. So why did we need another mall? Is University Mall really that pitiful? The answer is yes, but that’s beside the point. The new mall is more “with-it.” For example, instead of calling it the Provo Town Center, the mall people named it the Provo Towne Centre. Someone decided a while back that spelling words in a “quaint” (that is, “incorrect”) manner adds a certain charm. I whole-heartedly agree. You think University Mall is good? Well, Provo Towne Centre is bettre! Just look how they spell their wordse! What more proofe do you neede?!

Naturally, the folks at University Mall are a little concerned that this new mall will take away their customers. It’s already taking away their businesses: JC Penney has defected and set up shop at the Towne Centre. The back-stabbres! The city of Orem — this is true, and not one of the lies I make up to support my beliefs — the city of Orem paid ZCMI $2 million just so they’d stay at the University Mall. Two million dollars! To give you a perspective of how much money that is, think of it this way: If you had $2 million, you could buy three pairs of pants at ZCMI (possibly four, if one was on clearance).

Once the dust had settled and everyone was where they wanted to be, I decided I should mosey down to the Towne Centre and checke things oute. I enlisted the aid of fellow NewsNet reporter Phil Stahle, who has an investigative mind and a keen eye for news, which I was able to overlook and allow him to associate with me anyway.

We found the mall to be quite aesthetically pleasing. Just outside the main entrance is a fountain in which two girls made of metal appear to be frolicking in the rain. Since it was raining in real life when we saw this, we were not as charmed as we might have been otherwise. This fountain doubles as a wishing well, apparently, as there was quite a collection of change in it. Phil told me the money probably goes to charity, but he also confided, on the condition that I not tell anyone, that he once had to make a very important phone call and had to steal a quarter from a similar fountain in order to do so. It must have been quite an important phone call, I remarked, in order to justify some kid not getting his new liver, or whatever. Phil said it was.

Anyway, the inside of the mall looks nice too. There are 80 stores, each specializing in such diverse things as clothing, fashion, and apparel. There’s also a place called Bath and Body Works. This store contains nothing but soaps, shampoos and other chemicals designed to mask odors. Phil and I figure that if you were running really late one morning and didn’t have time to shower, you could just walk briskly through Bath and Body Works and come out smelling sweet as a rose.

The mall is fairly large, containing two levels and all, and we’re both very lazy, so it wasn’t long before we were tired of walking. Fortunately, there is a bed store in the mall. It’s called Select Comfort, whatever THAT means, and the store’s entire inventory consists of the following: two beds. If anyone ever buys the beds, the store will have to close. (Judging by the prices of the beds, however, we don’t foresee this as being a problem.)

Phil and I were standing near the entrance of the store, wishing we could rest on the beds for a moment, when a salesman strode up and said, “Would you like to lie down?” Here is a man whose entire job consists of trying to get people into bed. He showed us their top item (as opposed to their No. 2 item, which was the only other thing in the store). This is truly a state-of-the-art bed. When the Vikings were first experimenting with using inflated elephant bladders as beds, they could have had no idea that they (the beds) would one day be so high-tech. The salesman had me and Phil lie down on the bed in a very platonic way, the way you would normally expect two professional journalists to lie down on a bed, and then he started pushing buttons that made the bed adjust to fit the contours of our bodies. It was quite relaxing, although it felt a bit like the bed was assimilating us.

Phil asked, “How many megs of ram does this thing have?” I thought that was pretty funny, and it was a nice tension-breaker, considering we were lying on a bed together.

There is one thing, we discovered, that the Provo Towne Centre lacks: a bookstore. Doesn’t every mall have a bookstore? Have they finally realized that the people who go to malls are teen-agers, and that teen-agers don’t read? At any rate, they do have a music store, which is where you would normally spend a lot of money, provided you had the consumer savvy of an eggplant. CDs and videotapes cost way more in mall stores than they do anywhere else, particularly in this day and age of joining BMG, getting 11 CDs for the price of one, canceling, then rejoining again and again.

Anyway, the main video this store was pushing was the new remastered version of “Gone with the Wind.” Phil pointed out that while they will always claim otherwise, no woman has ever actually sat through this whole movie. I agreed with him, and we felt secure in our blanket generalizations.

And speaking of electronics, we also visited an electronics store, where Phil was at first delighted to find a set of speakers that he could theoretically buy for his computer, which he claims to have built himself. (Yeah, right, Phil. And I built my car, too.) His delight quickly turned to rage, however, when he learned that the “sound card,” whatever THAT is, was not included. I’m serious about this: Phil was VERY upset. He had to go lie down on the magic bed again just to settle his nerves.

So what did we learn from our day (well, hour) in the new mall? That it’s a mall, pretty much. They’re all approximately the same; either you like ’em or you don’t. We’re just trying to figure out what kind of store we could open that Provo would pay us $2 million to keep here. Maybe the city could use a 13th Hogi Yogi….

For the first time ever (and only time, so far), this column appeared with a double byline -- my name and Phil Stahle's name. And for this week only, the column was called "Snide & Stale Remarks," with a photo of both of us, instead of just me. He didn't do much of the actual writing, but he was integral to the column's creation. I asked him to go with me to the mall because 1) I knew he was funny and might say something good, and 2) I needed someone there with me to bounce MY jokes off of. The whole thing turned out pretty well, I think, although he still owes me lunch.

This also marks the first time, I think, that I did any actual RESEARCH for a column: I went to the mall specifically so I could write this. I never would have gone otherwise, because I hate malls and I saw no reason why I would hate this one any less. Calling it "Provo Towne Centre" didn't do much to decrease my pre-hatred.

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