Mall Shopping on a Saturday before Christmas

“You’re not going shopping tomorrow, are you?” My hairdresser swung the scissors away from my head and gave an open-mouthed look of incomprehension to our reflections in the mirror.

“Not the best plan,” I admitted.

Sure enough, when I left home the following morning, nothing seemed to be going my way. It was raining, the freeway was crowded, and the first two floors of my favorite parking garage were full.

There was still a third floor, a.k.a., the roof. So that’s where I parked. Leaving my coat in the car, I dashed through the cold rain, down the stairs, across the sky bridge, and into the mall. Time to begin.

Lately, mall shopping seems to have lost its glow. People tell me they never go to the mall anymore or they hate shopping or they always shop on line. It’s just so much easier, they say.

I, however, still like mall shopping. I do a fair amount of shopping on line, but I also like a bit of the real thing. It’s a tactile experience; it’s friendly; and it even involves a measure of exercise.

My first stop on that Saturday before Christmas was REI where I bought socks for a gift. I also found a wonderful, warm hat for myself. With all the part-time employees REI hired for the holidays, the clerk had plenty of time to tell me a little history about my hat. A Seattle family, he said, sponsored a visit here for a Sherpa. So when the Sherpa returned to Nepal, he set up a business for hand-knitted warm hats. I thought that was a fun fact for me to know about my new hat.

As I continued my shopping, I ran into other friendly, informative people. There was the young man who helped me choose the grassiest green tea at DAVID’s TEA, and the woman at Macy’s who showed me perfume and then sent me off with five sample spray bottles of Chloe to keep in my purse.

The main “boulevards” of the mall were thick with shoppers walking alone and in groups of all sizes, many of them moving more slowly than my preferred speed. Crowded sidewalks and malls always remind me of Hong Kong and how much fun I had there dodging and weaving, seeing how fast I could go without bumping anyone. That was a while ago, but I can still dodge pretty fast.

When my shopping was done, there was still more fun to be had. A cilantro lime shrimp salad at Nordstrom, and after that, a 30-minute massage by the Chinese guys who work in the mall hallway.

About Nicki Chen

About Nicki Chen Nicki Chen is a writer living in Edmonds, WA. Her first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is set in China during the Japanese invasion and occupation, 1937-1945. She's working on a second novel set in Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation where she and her late husband lived in the early '90s.
Christmas, Culture, holidays, winter , , ,


  1. Oh, slow shoppers! Why must they always make skirmish lines? Seriously, I’m a single-file shopper. No one walks as fast as I do, especially when I have an objective. And usually my objective is to complete the mission and escape ASAP.

    But I like that you learned the history of your purchases. That is cool.

    • I also learned some nice perfumes–if I want to spend that much.

      If I can tap into my mood the day I was shopping in a big crowd in Hong Kong, then it all becomes a game of dodging the slow shoppers … sort of like roller derby without the rough stuff.

  2. Glad you got a gift for yourself as you shopped for others.
    It’s crazy out there, isn’t it? I went to Target, which was packed with shoppers. But I was prepared. I knew the lines would be a bit long. I had time though.

    • Target would be a challenge. My neighbor and I shopped there on December 1 for your charity families, and it was already crowded. You’re right: It helps to have the right expectations. If you come expecting to roll on through, you’ll be disappointed.

  3. You know how to shop! I also like the one for them and one for me concept. Always a treat or lunch too. I buy on-line a lot but I still love the in mall experience (no not when it’s really crowded) and feeling the merchandise before you buy. The other things is that I find things I wouldn’t have thought of. Have a great holiday.

    • One of the advantages of in-person shopping is that if you don’t know what to buy for the people on your list, it’s easier to browse. Nordstrom has great lunches for shoppers. Another of my favorites is the salmon nicoise salad. At my mall they have a community table and a counter, both good spots when you’re shopping alone, especially if you like to chat with strangers.

  4. You’re a brave…brave woman, Nicki. My parents went last Saturday too. My father said they had to park on the 6th floor of the deck…and they went early!

  5. Oh I love your shopping mall adventure, Nicki. All these people you’ve met with their unique stories. So much more fun than online shopping. Like you I love doing my holiday shopping in person and as much as I used to enjoy the last minute rush until recently, now I favor picking a weekday and knowing I have all the time in the world to browse and pick the right gift. Then I have my wrapping tradition that I started when my kids were little and believed in Santa. I spend one evening in my room, with music and tea, and wrap every gift.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season to you and your family and friends and to everyone reading your blog and this post.

    • I really should have picked a weekday for shopping and leave the weekends for people who work.

      I took a little longer than you to wrap my gifts. I had everything laid out on the dining room table and just wrapped them at my leisure. like you, I played music (mostly Christmas music) and drank tea while I wrapped.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family and friends.

  6. For our business we need to be at our local mall few times a week (just opened last year) and now during Christmas time it is a real nightmare to be there. It is so crowded and hard to find a parking space.
    The only nice thing is that on Saturdays they have some Christmas parades and similar which is really great when having children 🙂

    • Living in a small town outside of Seattle, I’m used to easily finding a parking place. I guess I’ve grown intolerant of having to hunt for a place to park. There’s a lovely upscale mall not far from here, but because the parking is so difficult, I seldom go there.

      • This town here is small as well and usually there is more than enough parking space for the mall (extra a parking house exisiting with over 1000 spots which is never more than 1/5 filled) but now during Christmas it is just insane.
        Also the security now due to the Terrorist Attack in Berlin are slowing down traffic even more in the cities as the Christmas Markets are heavily guarded

  7. Your mall visit sounds splendid, Nicki.

    Obviously SOME people still like to shop at malls or they wouldn’t be so crowded in the weeks leading up to Christmas!

    • Yes, I guess people do still like to shop at the malls. There was an article in the Seattle Sunday Times this week. The author said the malls that are doing well have been adding fun extras: upscale restaurants, luxury theaters, smaller new concept stores, and sometimes hotels, luxury apartments, and office towers only a skybridge away.

  8. Like you, I’m not a fan of crowded malls. Never have, never will be. Online shopping doesn’t entice me idea. Actually the whole idea of shopping doesn’t appeal to me at all and it annoys me both when I have to get something because I need it and because I want it. Then again, when it comes to buying a gift for someone, I like to take my time because I really want to get a thoughtful gift – and in this sense I hate rushing my shopping. No last minute shopping for me.

    But when it comes to grocery shopping, like Autumn I am a single-file, single-line shopper. In and out with a list in hand.

    I hope you enjoy your hat, Nicki. It sounds like you and it are best friends already 🙂 Hope the rain didn’t make you cold either.

    • The thing I like about shopping, Mabel, is the challenge of hunting for something and the pleasure of finding it. I agree with you that it’s nice to take time to choose a thoughtful gift. Still, I have a hard time choosing gifts. You never know for sure whether the recipient will like the gift or not.

      Yes, I have been enjoying my new hat. I wore it today on a walk with my daughter. When the wind kicked up, thanks to my hat, my ears stayed warm.

  9. So many presents, hehe!

    I also like going to the mall, even if I don’t have to buy anything. I like looking around!

    • It occurs to me that a trip to the mall serves several purposes: buying things, amusement, and keeping up on what’s happening in the world of commerce. And for people who work at home, it’s a way to get out of the house.

  10. Happy New Year, Nicki. I have been out of the blogging mode for a few months now and have just checked in to see what you are up to. I hope your Christmas was fabulous. Wanted to let you know I got your book Tiger Tail Soup and I’m anxious to get reading it. I’ll let you know how it goes. May 2017 offer you all the good things of life.

    • I did have a very nice Christmas. My children and grandchildren were all here, in fact, some will still be here until New Year’s Day. I hope you, too, had a fabulous Christmas. And thank you for your interest in my novel. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

  11. Sounds like great preparation, Nicki. I like the atmosphere, in very small doses. 🙂 Hope you had a joyful Christmas and wishing you health and happiness in 2017.

    • There’s an old saying: Shop ’til you drop. I shop until I accomplish my goals or … until I droop, which happens ever sooner as the years go by. Best wishes to you, Jo, for happiness in 2017.

  12. Oh, Nicki – I must admit I miss reading your blog regularly as you do have a way to make the words come alive.

    I hope you had a great holiday season and I am wishing you best in 2017! And I know what you mean about slow shoppers, but it is a lot harder to dodge them at the night markets in Taiwan. 😉

    • I did have a great holiday season, Constance–although I’m a little tired after having all my kids and grandkids here. Today I’m putting the house back together. May 2017 be a year of happiness and growth for you and your family.

  13. Wow, I still avoid the malls during the holidays. All those people and so little parking! I did a lot of online purchases over Christmas–the only thing that I like to do in person is find clothing, but maybe I’ll try online soon for that, too.

    • I heard today that Macy’s laid off 10,000 employees and The Limited is closing all its stores. I guess we’re all doing more shopping online these days. I just ordered a humidifier online. It’s so much easier to read all the specs and the customer comments. Besides, it’s cold outside.

      I do have pleasant memories of shopping with my mom and sister, though. And when I’m looking for ideas, I enjoy walking around and looking and touching. I spend too much time hunched over my computer as it is. (Reminder to self: Sit up straight.)

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