Maj at the Mall

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Maj Jong at the Mall

Every week five friends play maj jong at the mall. The first question from those who hear of our location is, “Where at the mall?”

I answer, “In the food court of course,” and they shake their head nodding it makes sense.

And it does. Aside from the fact it takes Karen ten minutes to find a table that doesn’t wobble, or text us to, then disinfect it we have found the perfect location.

Maj is a total snacks game. There are usually nuts of some kind, m and ms, chocolate gummy bears, (we should never have discovered those), chips, cut up veggies for the diet conscious, drinks, coffee and for the more adventurous even lunch.

So it always falls to the hostess to plan the eats and it can be tedious and a great deal of work.

Problem solved at the mall.

Everyone can eat what they want, drink the best coffees and of course we still sneak in chocolates for those of us with absolutely no self-control.

(I’m raising my hand here but you can’t see it of course.)

Even if I begin the day with a healthy mindset vowing not to eat junk food, a lot can happen to change my resolve before I sit down in front of those tiles. Perhaps the son of a bitch who cut me off in traffic created the need for a handful of m and ms to calm me down. Yes, I’m a chocoholic and I admit it freely.

Yes, it’s well known that will power is not an absolute. One’s need for chocolate can change in a millisecond depending on circumstances. Is this a good hair day or are my locks determined to have a mind of their own? Why does my make up look like I just turned into a raccoon? I know these damn jeans fit yesterday what’s going on here with this muffin top situation?

Get me the damn Sees Candy! Where once Shakespeare advised Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery,” I say get thee to Godiva.

The real fun about the mall is the little community that assembles there, and they are quite a cast of characters.

There are always other tables of maj players as well. Now there is even a table of rummicubers.

Next to our usual table is a group of older men from Israel. There are probably ten of them and they eat, talk, tell stories and love to flirt with us. Sometimes they bring baked goods and offer them up to us.

The security guard always stops by to say hello and ask who’s winning then stays to chat.

Of course there is also the assortment of customers that come and go with their various dishes and sometimes screaming children.

Another group comes in after five to have dinner. Among the five o’clockers are Virginia, now 99 and Francis, now 92 along with their male friends that make sure they have what they need. Virginia’s boyfriend bought her a gorgeous watch for Christmas.

The same people show up every week and if someone isn’t there everyone else notices.

After the maj game is over Randi, Deb and I shop for a while and Janet buys dinner to take home. Karen meets her husband Mark for dinner and after shopping we stop by to chat with Virginia and her friends to show off our new purchases before we leave.

It’s rare that we go through a day without a friend of one of ours walking up to the table to say hello. Or people stopping by to ask, what is that game you’re playing.

Obviously we don’t play as many games as we would were we at someone’s home. Nor is it as quiet.

So you ask, if you’re serious maj players why do you play at the mall with all the distractions?

That’s the point. We love the distractions. Okay occasionally it can get a bit raucous at the retired men’s table and yes the screaming kids bother some more than others.

Our maj game has become a highlight of our week. We have not only all become great friends, but we have added so many interesting people to our lives.

We all can’t wait to get there on Fridays to see everyone and hear about one another’s week. What’s the latest news or just saying hello and meeting and greeting everyone?

So thank you for bearing with me because I do have a point here. Malls are dying and that is terribly sad.

In a world where people are watching a techie toy more than each other, the mall is one of the last bastions of community left.

It’s not just that we all enjoy ourselves it’s also about the kids. You see them hanging out, having lunch, talking laughing and interacting with one another. If the mall goes away will kids ever look at anything ever again besides Instagram or have any sense of what if feels like to be part of a community?

Man was not created to be alone. Just like wolves we travel in packs and are happier to do so. Even the Romans gathered together in the coliseum to feed the lions.

The mall offers a place that is completely inter generational and a safe place to gather and share happy moments.

The sad part of what’s occurring is that malls are closing because the stores can’t compete with online business. Yet a mall is so much more and the loss would be incredibly damaging to social interaction.

The day Amazon can provide me with interesting people to meet, greet and play maj with will be a cold day in California. I have to believe that for now maj at the mall will be a safe haven for everyone, for a long time to come.

 

 

 

 

Riding the Guilt Train at a Senior Discount

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Riding the Guilt Train at a Senior Discount

Why do I feel guilty for doing nothing? By doing nothing I don’t mean doing nothing to feel guilty about, I mean nothing in the purest sense of the world.

Like sitting like a couch potato staring at the television and eating a nacho kind of nothing.

I can’t seem to reconcile getting through a day without accomplishing something. I’m not quite certain if it’s my type A personality or just the DNA in my bloodstream from years of Jewish guilt.

Whatever the case I can’t go to bed at night feeling good without knowing what tasks I undertook and succeeded at that day.

So I imagine the question would be: what is an accomplishment?

Aha. There’s the rub, for at various stages of our lives the word task morphs into far different meanings.

When young a task might be doing homework, making your bed or taking out the garbage. We never considered reading a book, playing outside until the streetlights came on or buying a new comic book part of the task category. Those things were the fun things we did, the parts of our lives we felt total control over.

Then we became older and a task was far more defined. In college we did our homework, studied for exams, did philanthropic activities with our sororities and left ourselves time for the fun stuff like catching up with our favorite soap opera, partying, watching Charlie Brown specials and listening to music while we danced around the dorm. There was a definite disconnection between fun and work and we felt the difference as we accomplished both.

Marriage and children brought even more awareness of the lines between pleasure and production although our underlying motivations were slightly blurred.

Changing our baby’s diaper was work yet it was done with love. So there was that, a whole love work conundrum.

Of course housework, carpooling, shopping or cooking were all things a Mom undertook with love and tolerance because our choices to raise our family had been conscious and resolute.

Some of us worked outside the house as well and at times the work felt less like work and more like fun. At least it did for me when I was doing stand-up comedy.

The point to all this is the fact that we were all productive. Our days were filled with responsibilities that needed to be met and loved ones to care for as the days passed quickly by.

At night we didn’t ever wonder, “what did I accomplish today?”

We were too damn tired and our heads were usually swimming with thoughts of what we had to do the next day.

It was a far different time.

And now here we are at a very different point in our lives.

Most of us, and I can’t speak for all of course, but many have chosen to slow life down a bit. Like a horse that used to run races and now sort of wanders about the fields sniffing the clover and munching on hay, and if he’s lucky gets put out to stud occasionally.

Some still have significant others and husbands (I am in no way implying that a husband is not significant here) so we do have another person in our lives to answer to.

However, there are those who do not.

I no longer have to worry about meals. I can eat what I want, when I want.

I work part time at my own pace so I needn’t be so strict about that any longer.

Hmm. So what is there that I absolutely need to do now?

And I am not certain if playing maj jong is considered a task or fun as at times the lines have now completely blurred from simply okay-so-I’m-getting-out-of-bed this morning, to healing the oceans.

I’m brutally honest with myself, I can’t retire as I’d be bored out of my skull with nothing to do. I envy those who can retire, but are they really?

What is retirement?

Does that mean sitting idol all day or perhaps running from doctor appointment to appointment as part of the weekly routine. No, I’m not sure if those visits to the doctor count as work or pleasure. I guess we should invent a new category for that one. Perhaps pain in the butt would be applicable.

Some golf, the healthy ones tennis, swim, play canasta, hang with friends, maj jong, go to the gym, meet friends for lunch, write that screenplay or novel, volunteer for charities, see the grandchildren and all of the many things one can do to fill time.

Although we take on tasks each day, for me it has changed a bit. Where once I could get up in the morning and clean all day, now, I merely take on a chore at a time with even a respite in between.

However, I need to do something, anything to make me feel as if I’ve accomplished something.

For me it is a necessity and I feel incredible guilty if I have ended a day without being productive.

So let’s examine what is considered productive.

Could one consider binge watching the entire season of Mrs. Maisel or Grace and Frankie productive?

Is cleaning a drawer or your closet?

How about writing a blog?

Can I sneak in maj jong under than heading?

Is it perfectly okay to count going to the gym as a positive day?

Case in point: Would you consider sitting in front of the television all day binge watching NCIS productive? I’m not going to argue the benefits of looking at Mark Harmon for eight hours although I can see no downside there. I merely wonder if I should feel guilty because I didn’t invent the cure for cancer instead? Is having a non-productive day and merely enjoying oneself a bad thing? What is truly beneficial as an activity?

As we age shouldn’t we be grateful we are able to function, walk, talk, enjoy our children and grandchildren? Isn’t contentment and gratitude a goal; a benefit of being alive?

Where once we sought more days to spend on pleasurable uses of our time, now we are blessed with scads of it. Is taking advantage of those hours not okay?

Should one feel guilty about simply enjoying doing nothing in particular?

I still have problems justifying 24 hours without producing something, whether it be a blog, a cleaner house, a charitable endeavor or even a new recipe.

So I have found a way around this conundrum.

Each day I find one thing to do that I can feel is going to result in something positive.

So I blog, fix something, work on a project or charity, call a friend, or even just catch up on housework. Then after that I can feel good about my time with Harmon or binge watching Mad Men, which a friend has been urging me to do. So in a way this is very productive because I’m making my friend happy by simply watching the show. Two birds huh?

I once saw Joan Rivers open her date book and point to empty pages and tell the interviewer, “This is what terrifies me.”

Right on Joan, Having nothing to do terrifies me, also.

Yet, there are still those lazy days, but what the heck? I intend to live them guilt free and with no remorse.

At the end of our lives when we are faced with that flashback of our existence on earth will it be the individual moments we see or the totality of our achievements? Our children, grandchildren, the love we gave and received and the loved ones standing beside us to guide us into the next great adventure?

I imagine I won’t care at that moment how many days I just binge watched Netflix or chatted on the phone with a friend in lieu of saving the world. Hopefully I’ll just be grateful for all the moments I spent on this crazy ball spinning in space and sorry to have to leave.