Last week we had a Girl Scout cookie booth at a local mall. I hate the mall, any mall. There was a time I loved malls, and recreational shopping. No more, no more. But, cookies must be sold and if we have to go to the mall to do it, we'll go.
The mall on Saturday at 5 pm is quiet. As time goes on it gets busier, but not so much with shoppers. Teens, kids, traveling in packs, walking up and down the mall. Oh, we did have adults come by and some even bought cookies, but mostly we watched kids going by.
The highlight (for lack of a better term) came when a couple of girls ran up to our booth, asking for a wet washcloth or paper towel. Why they thought we'd have one is beyond me. Maybe they knew Girl Scouts are supposed to be prepared. I saw red on one girl's sleeve. I thought it was a stain from the lipstick she was holding open. But no, it was blood, coming from her companion's hand.
The girls rushed off to the bathroom. A few minutes later a maintenance man (why is he working at 8 pm?) came up and asked if I knew how the girl got hurt. Why are you people coming up and asking me these questions? Just buy some cookies, will you? I admitted that I didn't know. He sighed deeply, then said "it's bad when the girls come to fight." What? Girls come here to fight? I had to ask him if I'd heard right. He gave me that look that says "what planet do you live on?" and said that yes, there are lots of fights between girls. They go to the mall to fight. You heard that right! Girls. Fighting at the mall.
On the way home we had to talk about all this. My kids have no understanding of people who hang out at the mall. The boy despises the place. The girl likes clothing, so she knows sometimes we have to go to the mall. It's like a tool: useful, sometimes necessary. (Though actually we go very rarely, and usually only to one one of the big stores we can access directly from the outside.) It's not a place to go for fun.
We talked about the sad fact that some kids' homes are not comfortable places to hang out. There might not be any parents around so they'd rather be out of the house. Or their parents might not allow friends. They go to the mall so they're not bored at home.
"Why don't they read a book?" my innocent one asked. But she knows the answer. She's seen enough glimpses of other lives to know that for some, getting bloodied at the mall is a far better way to pass a Saturday night than staying home reading a book.