There is a pretty huge mall located right next to my apartment, and I went there to explore recently. I was almost immediately confused because 1) I’m not the best at navigating malls anyway and 2) it wasn’t laid out in an easy-to-understand way; it had multiple floors above ground and a couple of basements and even a sudden subway station and there was also a giant central plaza. It resembled some sort of underground catacomb or cave network where you never really know where you are, almost like Carlsbad Caverns, but without nice easy paths to guide you. I wandered around feeling obligated to “explore” but in all reality just felt awkward and ended up buying a donut, which made things a bit better. In that sense, I guess it was exactly like malls back home. It’s the classic buy-yourself-a-pastry defense mechanism. They are handy things, those mechanisms. Besides the donut dependence, I also rely on the nod-emphatically-and-look-interested while in business meetings, or during conversations in which I am trying to remember exactly who the person is that I’m talking to. These aren’t too bad in the scheme of things; much better (and considerably less awkward) than, say, a horned lizard’s unfortunate tendency to squirt blood out of its eyes when approached by a female.
I spent a good half hour browsing the food court before settling on a place to eat, and it was actually really good food. I remembered that I needed shampoo and soap and set out to find some, and after more wandering I finally stumbled upon a store with hygiene stuff. I picked up a cheap bottle of shampoo, and then started looking for soap. I found a half-dozen shelves full of soap-box sized pink and purple items and began investigating prices, unsuccessfully scouring each brand to see if I could find anything with English on it. What I unfortunately did not realize was that the products I was so intently examining for approximately four and a half minutes were part of an unnecessarily large selection of tampons. I found that out when I squeezed one of the packages and realized that it was absolutely not soap and hmm-Alex-maybe-that-is-why-there-are-so-many-smiling-cartoon-Chinese-women-on-the-packages. As best I could, I tried to retreat with dignity and asked an employee in mangled Chinese where the soap was. She set off with a sense of impressive urgency, most likely because she was disturbed that the strange young man who had just spent a half hour looking at tampons was talking to her. A fellow employee led us to a ground shelf and pointed out a row of boxed soap. I picked one up, checked out, and made a hasty exit from the store.