I am surrounded on all sides, with people jostling me and rushing to and fro. A uniform din fills my ears, punctuated by shrill outbursts. The faces I see range from crazed joy to fatigued horror. Am I in the middle of a riot, or a band of English soccer hooligans? No. I am in the Freehold Raceway Mall… on a Friday night.
Going to the mall on a Friday night is a bit like Halloween. The places and faces seem familiar, but everything is suddenly grotesque, absurd and often terrifying. The closer you go to this particular storm’s epicenter, the worse it is: I will only brave the food court under the most dire hunger or journalistic duty.
Fridays, like youth, are wasted on the young. The mall is inundated with teenagers. They seem only able to hear each other when shouting. The female of the species often dress in uniform: black leggings or skinny jeans, hoodies over white tees, perfectly straightened hair, and UGGs (of course). Like in the wild, they perform a sort of mating ritual wherein groups of boys and girls will shout toward one another, and if they like what they hear, a brave soul may approach the other gender.
Beyond this, teenagers never seem to DO anything. At least when I was their age, going to the mall would entail trying on ugly dresses in Deb or Rave (stores now gone, perhaps because of the skewed try-on-to-purchase ratio.) But these youngsters appear to only wander, seeing and being seen - and certainly being heard.
A few adults brave the crowd, though I’m never sure why. If not paid to work in the quietest end of the mall, I would not go within a hundred feet of it on a Friday night. These adults always look the same: disapproving, uncomfortable, and nursing a light headache. They likely wonder why security doesn’t wrangle in the unruly youth; I’ve wondered the same thing, but then, what exactly would they do?
These Friday nights will never stop. Though I’d like to believe otherwise, I’m sure they were exactly as bad when I was that age, and they’ll be just as bad when I’m 90. There will always be new teenagers making their inaugural trip to these adolescent stomping grounds. For those of us past puberty, I can only recommend avoidance. Or ear plugs.