All right, now I don't hate malls. I occasionally dislike the fact that I can drive four hours away, be in another city, and walk into a store whose floor plan is identical to the store of the same name in the mall which is next to my house. But that's a totally different node.

What bothers me is when I'm in one of these stores with no windows and no city-identity and no way to identify where I am in relation to the millions of other people out there, and I realize that they're marketing a pure lie at me (not to me--right at me) and I can't do a thing about it.

No, it's not even marketing that bugs me, because MTV has cauterized and numbed the chunk of my brain that can be appalled at marketing and snap-flash advertising. It's... well, I can't figure out what it is that bugs me about it. It's kind of ineffable--but eff it!--here's what it is that pissed me off so much:

I was in NY&CO, carrying my girlfriend's bags of Victoria's Secret stuff (no comment), and I notice that the radio station hasn't played any commercials yet. Now, it was playing shite. I mean utter crap. Let me try, just once more, to express my total lack of musical respect for any of the mass-produced, putrid noise that was dripping like diarrhea from the speakers. But--no commercials! This intrigued me, so I actually started paying attention to the patter between songs, the little fluffy bits that you otherwise ignore. And that, my friends, was my big mistake.

The first thing I noticed was this: it was a Saturday, at noon-ish, and there was a traffic report on. It wasn't from Baltimore, the city I was currently in. It could have been Washington D.C., because they mentioned a "rush hour" jam on the George Washington Bridge. But neither Baltimore nor D.C. has a Lincoln Tunnel. New York? My interest was piqued--could they be pumping a New York radio station to this store, pseudo-live? What station--in New York City, the juiciest, drippingest-with-people-to-advertise-at market in the East--could be playing for more than a half hour with no commercials? I listened further, and the call letters came on, announced by a perky-sounding female DJ, who traded giggles with a hunky-sounding male:

W N Y C ... O

Five. Letters.

Not four. For those of you not familiar with American radio stations, three notes:
  1. They suck, except the NPR stations.
  2. They can only have four call letters.
  3. WNYC is the name of one of the best NPR stations in New York City that was taken off the air temporarily when its transmitter on the World Trade Center was destroyed on September 11, 2001. It has never, and will never, play bad pseudo dance-pop.
This mall propaganda was totally out of fucking compliance with FCC regulations. Which was when I realized I'd been marketed at, and I'd bought it hook, line, and sinker.

This radio station, between big, raw, meaty chunks of elephant dung trying to pass for music, was pouring into my brain "the real sound of New York City! WNYCO!" But they had realistic-sounding traffic reports! They had... DJs? Maybe not. The more I thought about it, the more of a sham the whole thing appeared to be. I pictured a studio in Los Angeles with a bubbly starlet wannabe and a washed-up soap commercial guy recording these little snippets of pseudo-genuine banter... it's like those bits of flair in Office Space, or the way every Wendy's hamburger is shaped the same, but looks vaguely unique because of its erratically shaped edges!

I don't know why, but it really pissed me off that this store was trying to mentally relocate me, my ego, and my wallet (not to mention my girlfriend) to New York, to make me believe that I was in New York, shopping for the clothes "they" (or "you", if you're from there) shop for, that I was listening to "their" (or "your") music (or "shite"). To increase my girlfriend's desire to purchase a trampy piece of rayon made half a world away from New York, they were beaming the idea into her brain that she was in New York City, and was therefore sexy/rich/sophisticated/gullible enough to deserve wearing this clothing. This fantasy disturbs me, because I happen to think my girlfriend is quite all-of-the-above-except-gullible enough. She can wear whatever she wants (or nothing at all) without having some fake radio station in a mall artificially inflating her self-worth. I'd like to think we all have that right.

An artificial traffic report could be loosely defined as any traffic report that makes references to an unnumbered highway,interstate, or refers to old names of locations (i.e. in Providence, Rhode Island; calling the Henderson Bridge the New Red Bridge.) A common humorous artificial traffic report is beamed through the Boston airwaves by WFNX which states that "Traffic on the Lenny Zakim is halted due to construction" or "There's no traffic on the Lenny Zakim bridge". For those not familiar with Boston's Big Dig, the Zakim Memorial bridge is not yet complete, and will not be open for another year and a half.

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