It's a bad time to be a mallrat!
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.
Although I was occasionally threatened by a mall guard, I generally felt at home in my little realm. After all, I was a hard worker, made a fair bit of cash, and spent it somewhat freely. In the eyes of Fair Oaks' merchants, I wasn't a kid; I was a consumer. Given reasonable treatment and a bit of freedom, it was likely that I'd dump a chunk of change.
Recently, though, things have started to change. Some retailers have started to perceive teenagers as less of a market and more of a nuisance. In England, thousands have begun using the so-called "mosquito," a device that repels people between the ages of 13 and 25. The brainchild of inventor Howard Stapleton, the mosquito emits a high-pitched frequency. While adults can't hear it, the sound is excruciating to children and teenagers.
It's now arriving on this side of the Atlantic. A Queens, New York apartment building installed one last week, hoping to disperse teenagers who like to loiter in the lobby. I wonder how long it will be before Mosquitoes are clearing out teenagers in a variety of stores. While I can't see Spencer's gifts installing them, it isn't hard to imagine them showing up in jewelry stores, restaurants, and at high-end retailers. Long before that, though, I see them getting installed wherever children hang out.
It's a brave new world.
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He spends far too much time loitering in public places.