Instead of full of life, in malls we fear for our lives

I read a great piece about the nostalgia many hold for their favorite old suburban shopping malls — especially around the holidays. Malls around the country are in trouble these days. Experts say their Golden Age ended years ago.

Disruption is said to be a healthy thing for a vibrant economy — though the decline of malls proves it is not often pleasant.

Just as the migration from city neighborhoods to the suburbs disrupted and ultimately killed most big department stores in downtown centers, online shopping has disrupted and, in some cases, has killed suburban malls.

Regrettably, there is another reason fewer people are frequenting malls: fear of violence.

According to the American Psychological Association, more than a third of Americans fear going to crowded public places, such as malls, because they fear mass shootings.

Social media sensationalizes relatively rare acts of violence and makes us more fearful in our daily lives than we should be.

But Psychology Today reports that “active shooter” incidents in public spaces have increased considerably since 2017.

Google “mall and shooting” and several stories will pop up.

Most are not mass shootings, but the ugly truth is that in the back of many people’s minds when they head to the mall they are worried about someone planning violence.

The Tribune-Review article shares examples of the tremendous nostalgia people have for the malls where they spent their formative years — a nostalgia that I share.

I’ve never been a big shopper, but the mall was always a cheerful and eventful place to visit, especially during the holidays.

I remember one year in the 9th grade when I saved enough money to buy my mom and dad a lava lamp at Spencer Gifts, the store specializing in nutty and funny items.

My dad did his best to thank me when he opened that gift on Christmas morning, but it was clear he was thinking, “What the hell am I going to do with a lava lamp.”

The truth is, though today I live only five miles away from South Hills Village, I don’t often visit it. The last time was to buy a new black suit for my dad’s funeral.

I have no plans to visit the Village during the Christmas season, either, and I have no idea how busy the place is now.

But I do fondly remember the energy and excitement of visiting it in my “mall-rat” years.

The hustle and bustle of Christmas was always alive there. We never knew what to expect — or what friend we might bump into along the crowded walkways.

Those fun, carefree days of shopping at the mall are a thing of the past now — for me and many others.

But if someone were to visit Spencer Gifts to buy me a lava lamp for Christmas, I’d be forever in that person’s debt.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at