|Sage Grass & Cedars|
|Shopping Mall Geography|
by Darrell Thompson
A co-worker recently told the story of a school field trip that was almost canceled. The trip was to Nashville to visit some sites of educational interest. However, something went wrong and the students were not able to go to the sites that they were supposed to visit.
A decision was made not to cancel the trip but to have a change of venue; the destination was now Opry Mills shopping mall. At first I wondered what kind of educational value could Opry Mills have for a bunch of fourth grade students? How would the parents react when they found that they children had not learned anything about Andrew Jackson but had spent the day shopping and roaming the mall
Many things seem like a waste until they are put in perspective. A shopping mall could be the best place to take an educational field trip if it were done correctly. I remember a recent trip to the mall with my wife. We were in a well-known department store named for what you would call a citizen of a well-known French city.
While she looked at things she was interested in, I browsed through the men’s stuff. I found a shirt that was appealing and looked at the price only to be shocked that even on a twenty percent off sale it would cost me about sixty bucks. I eased it back into the rack but then became curious about where it was made. Surely a shirt that expensive would be made in the USA! I was wrong again. I had heard of a country called Bangladesh but I would be hard pressed to even tell you what continent that it was on.
I have been with my wife on several shopping excursions since then and often amuse myself by looking at the labels in clothing to see where they came from. I am familiar with many of the countries, like China and Mexico. Other countries I am only familiar with because of wars that were fought there, Vietnam and Korea for example. Other countries, I have no idea where to find them. They have names that sound like an island that would be in some tropical paradise or some "third world" country that would just now be beginning to industrialize.
I have actually looked at the labels of a dozen or more garments before I can find even one that is made in the USA. It almost gives me the feeling that Americans should not begrudge the billions given to these countries in foreign aid; because if not for them, we would all be naked, and not by choice. The reality and sad truth is that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of buildings across America that used to be sewing factories that are now empty and have padlocks rusting on their doors.
The department stores could enhance the "shopping mall field trip experience" in a number of ways by making a game of it. They could steal a page from the Easter Bunny by offering prizes to the student who was first to find something made in America. They could also take out just one of the racks of import clothing and insert in its place a huge, detailed world globe. It should be worth some extra classroom credit for a student who could locate five to ten of the countries from the clothing labels. Of course, you would have to exclude some of the obvious ones that even I know like China and Mexico. Canada you probably wouldn’t have to worry about. It’s funny that the countries with the colder climates are not huge exporters of clothing. Maybe they need to keep all that they can make just to keep themselves warm.
Looking at clothing labels in the mall might be an interesting thing to do. I’m willing to bet that it never catches on like some of the popular game shows on TV, with Vanna White walking across the stage and flipping letters over and selling you vowels. But, like the popular shows that have a home version that you can play at home, the clothing label game has a home version as well. All you have to do is go to your closet and go through your clothes rack. You may be shocked at what you find.
Darrell Thompson is the manager of Lawrence County Exchange in Moulton.