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There's Nothing We Can Do: The Tragedy of Going to the Mall on Black Friday

What if you need to go to the mall to get your cell phone screen fixed, but it's on the biggest shopping day of the year? It might drive you to tears too.

Photos by Megan Koester

​Panting, my toned calves on fire, I storm through the outdoor mall on my way to the phone store. I'm late. Actually, I wish I were late, because that would mean I would have somewhere to be. In fact I have nowhere to be, which is why I'm at the mall.

My two-day-old phone's screen cracked today. It's very subtle damage and I felt fine when it happened, despite the coincidental, and in no way related, simultaneous sharp stabbing and dull pounding in my gut. I can get it fixed for free. It's obviously still under warranty since it's only two days old.​


I'm not controlled by the fear of an afflicted and now cursed phone. I handle it like the adult that I am. I simply deserve a pristine phone. I certainly don't think the phone is me, and I absolutely don't sweat to fix its unhealthy exterior in a futile and sublimated effort to heal my own flaws.

Of course I realize the phone's imperfections don't represent my mortality. I don't ignore the fraud that is the economy—planned obsolescence, breakaway craftsmanship, applied tech. I simply accept this situation as a challenge of my ability to love no matter what. How full of love can I remain in the face of the "void and purchase" cycle that life seems to have as its only offering?

I shouldn't expect offerings; I should expect to offer (Trademarking that!). I breathe in love and exhale anger to prepare my mind and bod for entering this retail space. God, grant me the serenity, the courage, and the wisdom to have a loving and successful visit to the phone store.

I dodge and weave through the Ugg traffic, the squirts of errant fruity spray, and the completely uncalled for offers to touch up my makeup. They're all heathens who believe that money is the greatest healer. I have sympathy for the heretic. How can you ever truly believe in something if you've never doubted it?

A young employee and I lock eyes. She's wearing the colors and logo of the corporation we love, we need—the corporation by which we are governed and protected. Watch now as humanity wins the war against things.


"Hi, how are you?" I say.

"Great! Welcome!"

"Thank you so much."

"How can I help you today?"

"I bought this phone two days ago and the screen is already broken. Can you guys replace it?"

"Absolutely. You can make an appointment with me and drop it off upstairs and come back and pick it up in about an hour."

"Great. And it's under warranty, obviously, so it'll be free?"

"No, screens aren't covered."

"But I bought it two days ago."



"Yeah, screens aren't covered."

"I just bought it and now it's ruined."

"The screens are made of glass."

"This is fraudulent."

"There's nothing we can do."

A tear spits down my cheek. She sees it. Embarrassed, I wait for her reaction. Will it be pity? Shock? Disgust?

Nothing. She gives me nothing. More tears spill. The security camera pans.

Buy or leave. I'm taking up space without paying rent. There's nothing here for me, and she has work to do. I take this time to stroll the promenade, ponder my surroundings, and cry for all of humanity. I weep, publicly.

Why is the youngest employee in the store always the most fervent in repeating the scripted dialogue like a lightning-fast protocol analyzer, translating code into human-readable format for the empty shell—I mean customer—I mean me? They spout that sexless jargon more excitedly than the older ones. The young ones act like they have no recollection of their own humanity or even the concept of it. Perhaps it's because they've grown up in an age where it doesn't exist. It's so easy for them to turn off their brain and conscience to allow that faceless beast to speak through them.


I see a little girl paw at a storefront and I whimper more for the end of times.

I never worked in customer service for a corporation. I'm indie. I'm freelance. I look down on the employee because she is a disciple of evil systems. She loves being installed in a system that uses her. I definitely make less than that bot. My suffering is realer than hers. My lack of empathy is more profound than her lack of empathy.

I catch the eye of a spikey haired, male label whore and I know we'll both die before either of us ever sees peace on earth.

We're all so feverishly broke and uncomfortable. We rely on false idols to make us believe we have purpose and that freedom is still possible. Isn't it the very hope that freedom is possible that makes us feel enslaved in the first place? If I didn't know freedom existed, I'd be chill as fuck in my cage.

This expectation to remain balanced and full of love is part of the problem, too. More marketing I can't live up to. How am I supposed to love when I'm actually just a cavewoman? How? How could the world and the mall be this cruel?

​We're the same. She's not the trapped one. We're all the trapped ones. I don't know how people get installed in systems because I, myself, am installed. Each of us—the indie crybaby and the sexless employee—are locked in a symbiosis of reactionary energy. Capitalism is invisible, but I can see now that I am controlled the same way she is in this system. I'm a bot, too. Our store and personal policy is to dehumanize.


I should have spiked the phone onto the floor in front of her and the whole store and moved to the woods. Maybe we could have at least shared a laugh about that—a symbolic cleansing invoking the tradition of violent revolution and slapstick.

I can't connect!

I look down at my insignificant device with its wispy fissures. I am completely alone, reinforced by the fact that I don't have any notifications! I wail some more, lamenting my built-in desire to want for something, my powerlessness as a globalized citizen, and the fact that no one's RTing.

The sun is almost set. I've done all I can for these infidels and it's time to go.

"Hi, do you validate?"

"No, we can't validate you here," says the young man spookily. He's wearing a draconian bellboy uniform meant to seem quaint.

Trapped again.

The mall is a microcosm of the police state we live in. Money is survival. Poverty is violent and cruel death.

I might fucking boycott though. Like fucking seriously though!

 Follow Casey Jane Ellison on ​Twitter.