Exploring two malls that I have known my whole life and have learnt to enjoy and pass time in for this project really challenged me. The first thing I noticed was how quickly the perceptions of those in the mall changed when I was alone versus when I was with my group. When I was alone, I was treated as a potential customer, rather than a student ( I did not bring a backpack). Smiles all around. The second I joined my group mates (two males), I felt as if we were being watched. Suddenly, we were a "mob" to watch out for, sketchy students slowly walking around, writing notes and taking pictures. I even went back to Bayshore with a group of females who were shopping (I joined as a personal experiment). I made it a point to be "well dressed", while I knew my companions would be casually dressed. Every store we entered, we received looks and stares, and overall, were not treated too nicely. How quick someone could be "othered" is outstanding - what really opened my eyes, however, is if I were in the position of those store associates or customers, I also would carefully watch a group of young girl. I still do in my job and I take it personally if there is a theft. The way I am reflecting my store's values is in all honesty, separate from my own beliefs, yet I act on them when I am in work.

Secondly, I have worked in malls where security would escort solicitors out. What I have come to realize is how the mall is a place to spend time, to watch others, and a place to be. Sometimes, there genuinely is no where else to go or to do. My father really brought this into perspective for my when he discussed passing the time in the Rideau Centre food court during 1988-89 when he first came to Canada. Without much money or knowledge of what to do, he and those he bonded with would spend their hours inside the mall people watching and learning. Life was changing and it was frightening, yet, the mall was a sense of comfort because it was familiar. The mall was so depended upon that when my father was eventually placed in an apartment with a roommate in front of West Gate shopping centre, he took the only bus route he knew to Rideau to get groceries from the Metro (previously IGA) because he was too unsure to explore and realize there was one just by his new home. To think of those like my father, who depend and need the mall as security be looked down on, talked about or kicked out is sickening to me now. Particularly with Bayshore, new immigrants tend to have young children that they pass the time with in the shopping centres. Many, including myself, have been irritated by the large amount of children running around and screaming. Why does it bother me, or you? What threat do they pose?  It's our privilege and way of life that allows us to judge and assume, but after this project, I can confidently say I have an understanding of the necessity of the mall for such families. 

Third, I never realized how "branded" I am until I finished this work. I am in one way, ashamed for what I own, but in another context, I am happy I understand the meaning of it all. The notion of purchasing to keep the high and happiness that counters ontological insecurity really resonated with me. I recall boxing day every year where I torture myself by waking up at 6AM, bussing to Rideau and waiting at each hour interval for stores to open. The excitement of it all is beyond belief! I get all these "deals" and brands I'd never pay full price for and I sit laughing, thinking I did something good for myself. A $200 purse later, I sit frowning and staring at it as it hangs near my closet. Could not have used it more than 5 times (I believe a few weeks later, I got a "better" one for my birthday).

Finally, I came to understand how similar Rideau Centre and Bayshore Mall are. Our intention was to note differences, but what did we expect to find when the malls are competing against one another? Of course they'd be similar! From the same stores, to the amount of security guards, to their services, there really is nothing more than a couple store difference to note. Overall, our trip to these malls has really shaken up what our previous understandings were - I see how we can fall for advertisements, and I see how we succumb to various identities. I also see how we watch others and ourselves, trying to n
 


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    Authors

    Yadgar Karim, Scott Wood and Hymers Wilson

    We are each third year students in the University of Ottawa's Criminology program. 

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