Most of the time I don't feel my age. I keep up with current trends and news, I am in to most newer technology and most days I don't "think" old. Physically is another story, but that's the result of arthritis that I've had issues with my whole life, so I don't count that. The past week though, I had an experience that made me feel old. But not in a bad way.
Last week I went shopping with my sister-in-law, we went to my favorite thrift store in Pittsburgh and then to IKEA. We had a good time, had a great lunch and found some good bargains. I count it as a good shopping day, even though I didn't buy all that much. It was nice to get out (this winter has really killed my desire to go much of anywhere, I can't wait for spring!) and get a change of scenery if nothing else. IKEA is always fun to check out, although I have to resist the urge to throw out all of my furniture and go there to replace it all. (I include this info to show you that I'm not against shopping or going out or any of that. I promise, it will all make sense later on.)
Saturday night we went out to dinner with friends. We had a good time with them, but the rest of the experience was just...bizarre. I think because the evening was such a contrast to my shopping trip earlier in the week. First off, we went to The Cheesecake Factory, we had never been to this location and it had been years since we had been there at all. Sounded like a good choice and it was somewhat centrally located for all of us. My husband and I went there early, assuming that it would be a good idea to get our names on the waiting list since it was a Saturday night. That's the understatement of the year. We arrived just a little after 5PM, and we were told there would be a 2 hour wait. Yeah, you read that right-2 hours. Okay, I guess we can deal with this since the restaurant is attached to a large shopping mall.
This particular mall was built in the 1980's and over the years I have visited it many times. I used to go there a lot, but over time, I found myself going there less and less. In fact, it had been close to a year since my last visit there (when my friend Heather and I went shopping.) My shopping habits had changed, the stores there had changed, and we've had a lot of development closer to home that eliminated the need to drive that far for certain things. Since we had two hours to kill, we decided to go walk around. The four of us didn't walk that far when I suggested we find a seat. We all agreed that there was absolutely nothing in that mall that interested us. NOTHING. I bought one thing that cost $4. Wow. I hope they aren't relying on folks like us to support them.
While we sat, I people watched. It was interesting to see what people were wearing and what they were buying. For the younger set, it seemed like there was almost a uniform to wear while shopping. I saw a lot of people with no bags and the ones that did have any, didn't have very many. I couldn't help but wonder, how does a mall this size survive if that's all people are buying. I've heard that the shopping mall is a dinosaur and that many of them around the country are being torn down or converted in to other things. After seeing this, I can see why. And it wasn't like the mall was empty, it was packed with people. But not many buying. Which is weird considering it's the end of February when clearance sales are at their best prices. Odd.
Finally the time passed and our table was ready. Dinner was okay, mine was good, my husband's was just "okay" as he put it. Our friends were also a mixed bag, his was good, but hers was burnt so badly that it had to be sent back. And then our bill came. $48 for my dinner and my husband's and he had dessert, but I didn't. No alcoholic drinks either, just Pepsi. Wow. If it had been an amazing meal, I probably wouldn't have thought much about it, but it wasn't. I'll be honest, I felt completely ripped off. I doubt I will ever go back to the Cheesecake Factory again. Not when I can eat, closer to home, no 2 hour wait, and be thoroughly stuffed for under $30 for the 2 of us, AND support a local entity.
Apparently I'm alone in this thinking though. When we left it was around 8:30 PM, and there were still a large number of people waiting to get seated. I just kind of shook my head. Really?? Am I missing something?? Then it dawned on me--it's all about the hype. "Look at me, look at me, I'm waiting to go to the Cheesecake Factory." Or, "hey, I shop at this really high end mall, so I must be somebody." No thanks. It's one of the few times in my life where I'm happy to be an old fart, satisfied with who I am and what I have, and not needing the approval of others to make me feel good.
So pardon me while I continue to shop at thrift stores and online, eat at fun, privately owned restaurants with great atmosphere, good food and better prices. I don't aspire to be a trend setter or even follow them. My time, my money and my mental state are worth more than any shopping mall or chain restaurant can provide me with. Getting old is good.