It has been a harsh winter, and so we go to the mall more frequently than usual. After a while you notice many people doing what we are doing, which is walking around for the exercise, which leads to window shopping and sometimes to buying things which, as often as not, end up being returned. Such was the case with an ill-considered purchase at the Guerlain counter in The Bay over Christmas, although it did involve pleasant exchanges with the charming Snejana. A pleasurable encounter too at the Volūm studio, where I got my hair cut by the equally charming Maria. An observation frequently reinforced is that on the whole the sales staff at the mall are better quality people than the customers, the flâneurs—a social inversion of historical dimensions and worth thinking about. But even this rule has its exceptions.

More evil weather found us back at the mall the other day. In front of the Apple Store—or was it Bikini Village?—a young black man sitting on a bench, dressed from head to toe in the mode, big and baggy with metal bits here and there, all breathing effortlessly a heavily coded defiance, the most striking feature of the whole getup an enormous pair of trainers, silver and black with bright yellow laces worn loose. Two old ladies, both slight, white hair, identical cardigans, taking their routine mall constitutional with measured steps, passed between us. They were arrested by the shoes, as I had been. They stopped. Leaning close, with a concerned air, pointing to the laces, one of them said, “You will trip over those if you are not careful.” With a beautiful smile, the young man reached down and fiddled with his yellow laces. The ladies were satisfied and moved off. He bent down and put the laces back the way they had been.