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The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/This American Life Review: Scenes from a Mall

Ira hits us with some traditionally American hardcore action: Christmas time at the mall, specifically at a Nashville suburb’s Cool Springs Galleria. This week’s episode, Scenes from a Mall, is old news and perhaps definable as a classic.

Act 1: AT&T, the indignity.

TAL stationed at the Westfield-esque haven two years ago in this act brings Bambi back to a former life as mallslave (working among fruitless English PhDs at B&N and pandering nut butter elsewhere), the all-too-familiar imagery of tightly packed lots, eagerly manned cell phone kiosks, and generically-stocked foodcourts hits the nostalgia button like an arctic blast takes you back to Chicago. Ira continues his convos with the unnewsworthy by way of a hardcore T-mobile salesman, and his rollerskating burger waitress gf, both grossing the most in their respective biz, such good capitalists. When asked who’s the better salesman, diplomatic mobile boytoy responds, “She’s very persuasive,” a resigned acknowledgment that, says Ira, will make for a successful lifelong romance. Their equal passions for their employing corporations make for a happy harmony for the pair in the usual teenage wasteland of mall-life.

As an aside, cell phone guys always get the ladies–their access to hot technology paired with an assertive pitch rarely fails. As one mackin maccabee in the industry explained to me when asked how he got such an impressive collection of nudies on his SIM card, “All I say is ‘Yo, check out the camera on this model. Yo, take your shirt off.’ And they usually do.” How to resist?

Act 2: There’s nothing in this economy stopping you from eating a chicken sandwich.

“Has the recession affected you?” asks Ira of a group of tweens.“Recession?” they ask. Two years ago, mass oblivion among the demographic was to be expected, but is unlikely in twenty ten. Today’s listeners are not snowed in in the past as our guide chimes in with updates of the state of affairs at the Tennessee consumers’ Canaan these days, mostly consisting of more store closings and dropped numbers.

The self-proclaimed mayor of the mall, gregarious manager at Chick-fil-A, tries her hand at early social media by way of forcing poor employees into cow costumes to take pics in every store in the mall, a real Rahmbo move.

Meanwhile, a Precious Moments-type store’s closing is taken from a veteran employee’s point of view, talking job loss, Michigan steelworkers gone south, and disdainful yackety shmackety bargain shoppers.

Act 3: He bounced me off of the hallway wall: the shove heard around the world.

It’s a bitter battle of the Santas, an unlikely Christmas parable presented masterfully by LA’s Josh Bearman. Talking about AORBS, aka the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, the organization legitimized and boomed quickly, inviting power-mongering among the Nicks.

Can you imagine being mobbed by a group of bearded, domineering, thick men who play rough? It cues a blurb that got me hot in Paper Mag’s Art Issue on sexy bears. Bearman fittingly assesses the binary of the Santa factor: “The man in the suit has always represented both sides of the coin, naughty or nice.” At one point in the act, he remarked that one Santa used the generally uncolloquial term “rebuke” three times in one sitting, revealing the everpresent focus on punishment of the deserving. Oh la la.

Of the hotel security manning the Santa soiree, “It’s likely his training did not prepare him for a room full of angry Santas.” That totalitarian devolution of AORBS called forth some surprising imagery: Santa Stalin, 1984, the Night of the Long Knives, Robert Mugabe and even some Dude-rodomy: “this tyranny must end.

Act 4: That’s when the descriptions don’t match anything they say, they don’t know what their wives look like.

Mall security perspective of Christmas time when shoppers lose track of their wallets, cars, and spouses. The incentive behind their positions for the mall are prevention of lawsuit, as well as hospitality of course. It’s a grounding focus on intercontinental life during this time of year, that really gives you the fuzzies enough to wax poetic:

This American Mall

Holiday shopping, a pain in the ass,

Less reason for aneurysm when joined by Ira Glass.

food courts and ho ho hos in generic suburbia,

Where, when you need him, is Mr. Mike Birbiglia?

Glass at the mall, though is fitting as he spews,

Among Madoffs and Salingers, “we were money Jews.”

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