Sunday, March 20, 2005

Peace On Earth With Speed Walking Mall Lanes

Being able to have peace on earth sure sounds like a promising idea, but I should be honest, my innovative idea for mall walking probably won't have the impact this post's title suggests, but it got you to read this rather logical post so let's keep the momentum going while I have your attention.

While I enjoy malls like everyone else, I'm a fast shopper who knows whether or not I'm going to buy something at a store within a minute or two. Maybe it's a form of adult ADD, maybe it's because I grew up with 5 malls within a 20 minute drive. Whatever the reason, I don't enjoy a leisurely stroll through the mall and haven't really enjoyed looking at every piece of clothing on every rack. This really is because my sister takes her time when she shops by looking at everything on every rack.

I still have nightmares when I enter the mall thanks to the time my mom and I were at the GAP about 12 years ago when she not only got the salesperson to measure my waist with the tape measure, but yelled across the store asking if I found some jeans in my size. I guess this is like people who have a bad experience at a circus with clowns and are scared of them the rest of their lives.

No matter how long I'm in a mall, I inevitably (and literally) run into the same problem - Window Shopping Slow Walkers (WSSWs). I consider myself a walker closer to the fast side of the spectrum. While I'm no speedwalking champion, I tend to move faster than most pedestrian travelers. Of course, at a mall most people are taking their time with a leisurely stroll while they look at every store or just enjoy some AC and restrooms every 100 yards. The typical WSSW does not discriminate - they're men, women, children (the most dangerous), all ages, races, heights, and weights.

WSSWs are equal opportunity annoyances.

So if I'm in the Paramus Park Mall and have to make my way to Nordstrom's, I recognize my route will take me past some major stores like A&F, the GAP and even Banana. Major stores mean major WSSW clusters that increase the collision incident rate for someone like myself.

Paramus Park isn't the worst WSSW mall that I've visited - that dubious award goes to the Arundel Mills Mall that you can see below. It would seem that its circular layout and one-level construction would decrease the number of accidents because people would naturally move faster as they're on a continuous loop, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

As I begin my walk in this mall, I'm optimistic that things will go well with its wide open space for walking, even with the occasional vendor in the middle. But like so many things in life, you can do all the design and planning you want, but if you have the wrong people to execute, things won't go as planned. With many stores there are many WSSWs and the more WSSWs there are, the more children there are to create the greatest walking obstacle course possible.

Walking quickly in the mall means I have to swerve, say "excuse me", and kick, punch, and hurt j/k) my way through WSSWs. This works for most WSSWs since they recognize their slow walkingness (I can create words whenever I want!), but at the Arundel Mills Mall, the WSSWs tend to wander and not walk in a straight line, which means when I make my move to pass them, the open space that was once ahead of the WSSW, that I would essentially walk into upon passing, disappears because I did not and cannot account for their change of direction. Their direction change stems from their need to window shop and see every item in every window. They must think items for sale in a retailer's window is required for life, and to think all this time I thought it was oxygen - so much for that Biology 101 class.

Of course, when they've got children in tow, it's even tougher b/c children naturally can't stay straight, will run at odd moments, all the while stopping on a dime to stare at some bright lights coming from the latest cartoon character from Nickelodeon, Disney, PBS, etc. This is when I experience the greatest tripping incidence because my not to short 6'2" body has a high center of gravity and isn't the easiest to stop on a dime. Yet another reason I'm not the starting PG for the Knicks.

Since there is a dangerous concoction of WSSWs, their children, and faster walkers, I propose the following:

Mall corridors shall be divided into three walking lanes that exist in front of each store and travel (if you're facing the store) from the right to the left. The first lane and the closest one to the storefront is for WSSWs that want to window shop and take their time passing by, as well as those entering and exiting the store. This would act as the mall's continuous on/off ramp from a store, letting WSSWs rubberneck as they please.

The second lane is for anyone other than WSSWs such as myself who do not want to window shop and require an express lane of sorts to get to their store further down the mall. People traveling in this lane must maintain a minimum speed or else change lanes to the WSSW lane until they can get their speed back up to what it needs to be.

The third lane is reserved for the vendors that fill the middle of the corridor and give people a place to rest, etc. Due to modern mall design, a WSSW wanting to rest in the far left lane must find a quick opening to cross the express lane and rest, but it's no different than slow drivers in the right lane getting over to a left exit.

While enforcement isn't too difficult for these lanes thanks to undercover speed walking officers, most malls won't pay for such a service so users would just police themselves, including the right for fast walkers to do the aforementioned punch, kick, and hurt method of martial law enforcement. Things like the actual lane spacing vary for each mall, but I don't mind acting as a consultant for any mall ownership groups out there that want to increase revenue, keep shoppers happy, and improve traffic flow.

Did I overanalyze a problem few people recognize exists? Sure, so maybe you should just realize that when you're walking slow in the mall, try to do it closer to the store so when you abruptly stop, a faster walker isn't running you over because we're cool like that and have places to go, people to see, and things to do.

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