Mall Musings

“Banana (mumble-jumble)… banana…”, I heard a faint voice behind me. We were in a tiny meeting room, heads pivoted towards a shared screen.

“Umm, you’re leaning on my banana!”

I turned around, and lo and behold, my elbow had somehow wandered on top of my colleague’s banana. I was leaning on her snack!

After duly apologizing, I giggled my way through the meeting, at times erupting into tears of laughter and then managing to recover my serious “I’m at work” look again.

The week wasn’t going very strongly at that point. Apart from using fruit as a cushion, I’d overpaid for a doctor’s appointment, had bad lunch at a buffet, and forgotten my umbrella at home several rainy days in a row. It was dark as midnight outside, no matter what the hour, and looking like we were heading towards a black, black Christmas.

At work, I stalked my co-workers’ ugly Christmas sweater photos on the office’s Microsoft Teams app and had a good chuckle, idly planning what my own ideal ugly Christmas sweater would look like. Rudolph, for sure, and blinking lights. Maybe a hat.

After work, the new Muji was calling me. I think I heard somewhere that it was the Nordic countries’ flagship store – no, wait: the biggest Muji in Europe, oh my – and I still had one more smoothie flavor to try out of all four. The rustling little packages of bead-like hairbands, the aromatic room scents which I loved but wouldn’t know what to do with, the horseradish mustard and pumpkin chips, the childrens’ books (oh! a book about Greta!), and the endless rows of Japanese organizing boxes, organized in boxes. Ah, what a way to de-stress. I ended up buying salted chocolate and Christmas socks.

Ultimately, I arrived at the realization that I’d turned into a mall rat. During this dark period of the year, my go-to place whenever I had a few minutes, had become a mall. Any mall. Just as long as it was a mall with a roof on top of it and no rain splashing in my face. Gosh, it didn’t stop there. Apart from having half of my daily meals at a mall, I even took my kids there to play in its kiddie area on the weekends. What was happening to me?

At one of the malls I now hopelessly frequented, I always saw the same homeless man. He wore wellies and a weathered winter coat day in, day out, from winter to summer. Always carried plastic bags and looked sober and almost cheerful. He looked like he was doing alright, though obviously something was wrong. Now, let me add that I’d spotted him regularly for years, at least once a week, not always at the same spot or even in the same part of town. Our paths just seemed to cross, over and over again. He recognized me for sure, and I’d often get the urge to go say hi, to ask him his story. But as a woman and a mother of toddlers, my self-preservation instincts would then kick in, and I’d decide it was better to not get too friendly with him.

But in a parallel world, I would have loved to have taken on an Amélie Poulain mode, and befriended him, and made his life better, and solved all the world’s problems.

Now, don’t think I’m heartless. I’ve given beggars money and even fetched them lunch from a nearby cafe. The last time I tried to hand a beggar food, he flatly refused! Now that was fishy, if you ask me.

If you’re wondering how I just happened to have food in my hands when I passed the beggar who only wanted money (with a sign that his kids were hungry), well, I had just been handed a free meal from the stall right next to him. Yes, there was a marketing stall there, where factory-made meals were handed to passers-by nonchalantly. I had taken the offered meal, then realized it had nuts in it, and was just wondering what to do with it when I passed the aforementioned beggar who didn’t want my charity. Maybe he didn’t like Finnish factory-made food? (I wouldn’t blame him).

I couldn’t decide which was more ironic: that the beggar with hungry kids didn’t want food, or that a large food manufacturer’s promotion team was handing out free meals to well-clad commuters right next to a beggar – giving free food to people who didn’t really need it and ignoring those who did. Why give free food to people who were well off?? Well, as a marketer, I knew why, obviously (that was more of a rhetorical question), but as a human being, I felt put off and confused. People always have an agenda. Remember that! Always.

It reminded me of the time a politician was awaited at an Independence Day gathering for the financially challenged, and while they stood outdoors in the cold, waiting eagerly for him to come, he made a last minute cancellation, saying he was sick. Later that night, he was seen on TV, dancing away at the President’s ball.

Ah yes, the President’s ball. Have you heard how Finns celebrate independence each year? They stay at home, get comfy on the couch, and watch the President shake hands with the rich and famous. The elite, the crème de la crème. The country’s politicians, diplomats, and celebrities – all of them, Big Brother contestants and the likes – are invited to the ball and the line is long. They queue up, in true Finnish fashion, sans queueing festivities, sans musique, and wait for their turn to shake hands with the host. They wait and wait. And then they shake hands. And then they wait for everyone else to shake hands.

The President has to take a break at some point to give his hand-shaking hand a bit of a rest from all the shaking. (Really.) And all the while, it’s live on air, being televised for the viewing pleasure of the taxpayers who paid for all this luxury they are never going to be invited to. After all the hand-shaking is done with, the elite is treated to food, drinks, and dancing. It’s the most watched TV show of the year.

But just as I thought this week was going down in history as my banana-squashing week, something exciting happened. It turned out, the week had planned for something else entirely. Out of the blue, Finland proudly introduced the world’s youngest PM: female and raised by a mother in a same-sex marriage. She had worked ordinary jobs, didn’t have a wealthy background, and wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Refreshing! My outlook on things instantly improved.

…Look at the time, it actually is midnight! Better go to bed. In the morning, it’s back to my jar of vitamin D and five daily espressos; winter is going to outlast the sparkly Christmas lights that are currently our sole sources of light, apart from headlights. Blink, blink. Let’s keep shining.

40 responses to “Mall Musings

  1. Your homeless person story reminded me of my own.
    I had half a sandwich in a takeout box, and as I walked back to my hotel, passed a homeless man with a dish or cup or box for donations.
    “Here,” I said, “would you like some dinner?”
    Although not the strangest response, I was a bit lost when he asked “What is it?”

    Keep shining!

    Paz

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahah, hell on earth indeed! No, I would not like to be there. But I wouldn’t also want to pay for it, like I’m doing. If this was a true democracy, every taxpayer could vote for what their money is spent on. They didn’t have money for a new children’s hospital, for example, so it was funded with donations. At the same time, they renovated the President’s building and the Parliament building 😟 The whole idea of a televised ball for the elite is so outdated!!! I’d like them to bring some joy into Independence celebrations, fireworks and parties open for all. Bring it into the 2020’s! Also, they say this is one of the least corrupted countries, but what is this ball an example of, if not corruption? Invitations are treasured and coveted, dresses planned a whole year in advance.

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  2. Well done Finland for electing the new PM. I am a bit disgusted with ours atm, even though it want my vote that elected him.
    When I read about the homeless, I was sad and thought of my story that I posted a few months back of a girl befriending a homeless youth in the city. Fancy him refusing the meal. Maybe he had stuffed himself on the free giveaways? Or was allergic? Or preferred something stronger?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Share your link, Amanda? I would love to read that post to see what your thoughts were. I have a feeling some of the beggars here are part of some larger scam. Well, I’m not the only one thinking that. They appeared here one year, out of the blue, gangs of them.
      What about your bushfires – 2 months already!!!! Scary. Are they affecting the mood, agitating people even outside the affected zones?

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      • Oh thanks for asking about the link. I wrote and re-wrote this story over and over. Here it is: https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/home-ship-home/
        As for the fires, they have declared a national emergency and the heat and storms continue to spark new fires. As well as intentionally lit fires that get out of control, the ground is so dry now that the rain that does come with a storm doesn’t prevent any future fires. Australia is drying up and burning. And while Australia burns, our Prime Minister is out of contact, silent and on holidays with his family in Hawaii! Disgusting. Everyone deserves a holiday but the head of a country disappearing in a national emergency! – shocking. I think he should be nicknamed Nero. Trending is #wherethebloodyhellareyou, Prime Minister.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is really disgusting, your PM needs to be fired. How could he even hold his tenure after this, you must have some kind of system for the government to vote him out? Or are they all hiding and unavailable?
          I know you’ve always had bushfires but this one is truly apocalypic. How can they even contain it at this point? What if they can’t contain it? Will the entire continent burn? 😱 Maybe everyone will evacuate into the outback where there’s not much to burn?

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          • Unfortunately the next election is 2 years away and they enjoy free rein in the media. Now you can probably understand why there is no much support here for climate change – except in the younger generation where both sides of politics support climate change initiatives. Coal fired power has always been a huge part of the Aussie economy. We are basically dependent on mining and houses for our economic resilience. The loss of animal habitat and threatened species in the fires is irretrievable I would say….. it is a quite depressing outlook overall.

            Liked by 1 person

            • But can’t he be impeached? Or something similar, since he’s lost political confidence? As for power, we have been dependent on coal, too, but have to give it up now for climate reasons. Energy companies are exploring options, like building local solar power plants, though they produce close to nil in the winter. You guys could do that so easily with the amount of sunshine you have!!! Maybe even exploit the sun’s heat too. Anyway, I know these things happen slowly, that’s life…

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              • He can’t be impeached as he hasn’t done anything legally wrong. And he enjoys the support of his cabinet ministers.
                Solar systems for residential homes were incentivized for quite a few years. We had a big system on our former house. Now the government rebates and the credit for pumping solar power back into the power grid, have been reduced to almost nothing, as there was such a large uptake by the public. Unfortunately the country areas can’t get it as easily – and they are the ones who would benefit so much from it. This government actually killed the solar industry to a large extent, because the coal mining companies were losing profits! Or current prime minister even brought a lump of coal into parliament! https://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2017/feb/09/scott-morrison-brings-a-chunk-of-coal-into-parliament-video
                They say coalfired power is our future because it is so very cheap to produce here and supports lots of jobs. But the shift in public opinion is building.
                We could be the solar powerhouse of the world. India and China are moving away from buying our coal and going solar. That will spell the end of the coal industry.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Oh my! Over here coal is a big no-no. An embarrasment to the companies involved, and they are quick to build solar power plants and develop hydro ja wind power so they can offer other solutions. Environmental energy is even more sought after by the public in Sweden, apparently. There are ways to store the energy even if you are far away from the grid. As for your PM, over here you can get pressured to resign if they do something silly because they have lost credibility. What your PM is doing would definitely qualify!

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                  • Good to hear there are countries where the media and mining companies do not have control over they media! (and therefore public opinion). I hear lots of criticism of Greta in the hair salons and in the cafes. Australians disgust me sometimes but then I think they don’t really know any better and don’t have the foresight to listen to information sources that are not mainstream. The ageing population here is quite hard line conservative and disappointingly, there seems to be a swing away from the green movement.
                    I am unsure why. I think it is the job situation. Corporate companies have it harder out here due to the tyranny of distance and to stay competitive they have to make gains through the workers and productivity. They move operations off shore to a cheaper labour market like Asis and so jobs here are lost. This is not the solar energy industry or the green movements fault but that is what the conservative politicians and powerful mining companies spout, as the country has became so dependant on them, economically. That is due to the declining agriculture and animal farming industries. Australia grew up on the “sheep’s back” – now there is nothing else to replace that except mining. We have non existent manufacturing – all gone overseas, research and tech industry has been destroyed by government cutbacks. The banks and mines are the only thing keeping our economy going and also, our current standard of living.
                    Education in the form of Asian fee paying students is the only other growth area and that may decline too.
                    The outlook is bleak and even more bleak as the majority of people do not see this and are easily swayed by sweet talking politicians. Smart politicians with a complex and well thought through economic plan did not find favour in the electorate at the last election
                    What can you do, when idiots vote in idiots, because they read and listen to tabloid tripe? It is a little depressing.
                    Aren’t you feeling better about living through the dark days of wintry Finland now because at least the country your sons will grow up in, is making positive progress and especially so, in terms of the environment?

                    Liked by 1 person

      • Furthermore, to answer your question, people are getting agitated. Officials from all quarters are starting to organize some emergency meetings as the government continues to do absolutely nothing. The far religious right have infiltrated this government and are certain faith God will intervene…….

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A very enjoyable read with much food for thought. Today we passed a very pitiful-looking person sitting hunched over, almost in the gutter. He had no shoes and was almost entirely covered by his dirty hoodie. I actually said to hubby, “Oh that poor man. I wonder what his story is. He was once someone’s child, brother or maybe even father. I wonder how people manage to get to such a state that they have no hope?” Like you, I also didn’t want to become involved. His image has however remained in my mind for the whole day.
    Well done to your new PM. I hope she will be very successful in her role and be able to help those who are less fortunate.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It would make my day if someone said to me, “You’re leaning on my banana.” I would apologize profusely while making sure to grind the banana into the table as I adjusted my position.
    I was happy to hear about your new PM and I hope she is wildly successful. As someone born in Great Britain who now lives in the U.S.A. I can boast an embarrassment of embarrassment when it comes to leaders. It’s truly depressing to see how low the bar has fallen in both places.
    BTW, I like all the photos accompanying your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmm. My comment was far from finished when I somehow managed to click Post comment. Let me round it up.

      Oh yes, we have all seen and admired your newly elected Prime Minister, especially when she is in the company of three other young female ministers. As I’ve said, Finland is ahead. The other countries will follow sooner or later, because apparently the other demographics have failed to provide any sort of the leadership that humanity deserves.

      And yet, as you say: there is always an agenda.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So happy about Finland’s new government. I hope they will do well with their work and policies! 🙂
    Omg I remember reading about the independence ball somewhere, maybe on Facebook, but I didn’t know it was the most watched show in Finnish TV! It sounds so, so boring to me. Why would anyone watch it?!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Each year, I wonder if people watch it at all, but then I hear co-workers discussing it in the office kitchen. Oh yes, they’ve watched it every year and will watch it this year too. They judge the dresses of the guests. The tv presenter names all the guests in turn, as they shake hands, and then comments on their clothes. That serves as a conversation opener for the people at home… (Writing this, I feel like I’m describing The Hunger Games!) I’m surprised you managed to miss this, Pooja! Lucky you? 😋

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hand shaking Independence Day? Hmmm. I’m reading a history of Western philosophy and I think the next subject of the new Philosophy will have to deal with 21st century politicians… 😦
    (Banana in winter?) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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