It's a bad time to be a mallrat!

Bruce Watson

I don't like to brag about past achievements, but sometimes I just have to flash my cultural credentials. You see, I'm a pioneer.

Growing up in Northern Virginia in the late 1970's and early 1980's, I witnessed the creation of one of Fairfax county's greatest malls: Fair Oaks. Located on the grounds of a former dairy farm, Fair Oaks was a regional shopping Mecca and a prime example of the early "commercial palace" type of mall. It featured glass elevators, stone floors and dozens of other features that made shoppers feel sophisticated, as if they'd just stepped off the set of Dynasty. Best of all, it was my kingdom.

You see, I was part of Fair Oaks' first generation of mallrats. My official turf was Hoffritz Cutlery, the knife store where I worked for much of my high school career, but I roamed far and wide through the mall. I had friends in dozens of stores and was always aware of the latest sales, store closings, and mall events. I did my homework in the seating courts, ate many of my meals in the chain restaurants, and did most of my socializing while walking from store to store. On some rare occasions, I even deigned to spend my money within Fair Oaks' hallowed walls.