There were, however, a few challenges. On our way into San Antonio Saturday, I noticed that the Muley van was pulling to the right a good bit. When we arrived at our lunch destination, I confirmed what I feared -- the tire was flat.
I believe that our van somehow has it in for us -- like Herbie the Love Bug gone big and bad. You see, on a trip to San Antonio about a year ago, this same van developed some sort of mysterious "solenoid" problem that caused us to have to drop it off at a dealer, rent an expensive car for a day, and eventually pay through the nose to get the problem fixed. Then, about a month ago, Mrs. Muley and I took a rare weekend "alone" trip alone to Dallas, and one of the tires (a different one) went flat on the Interstate before we even got to the hotel.
There are three theories floating around in my mind about why our van is doing this to us:
a) it doesn't like long trips
b) it's okay with long trips, but is tired of urban area destinations
c) it's possessed by an evil spirit
But the flat tire couldn't dampen our spirits. A large part of our trip on Saaturday was spent contentedly shopping and browsing in one of those huge, fancy upscale malls. As I wandered about and tried to occupy my time while the four women I was with went clothes and accessory shopping, I came up with a few questions and observations.
1) FOUNTAIN COUNTIN' Those fountains in malls, the ones where you give your kid some spare change to throw in -- where does that money end up? I always assume it goes to charity, but does it? I mean, there's no signs anywhere saying how it's used. My hunch is the cleaning crew sucks it up every Friday night after closing time and heads over to happy hour somewhere.
2) BEAR$ We visited the DANGEROUS DANGEROUS DANGEROUS Build-A-Bear Workshop -- dangerous, because no one of whatever age who enters leaves with their wallet as full as when they came in. My 9-year-old daughter spent $29 for a stuffed dog and a doggie T-shirt; my daughter's 75-year-old grandmother spent the same amount on a stuffed animal and outfit of her own. But the things are so doggone cute, and people have so much fun "building" them, you just can't resist. These guys have what Krispy Kreme had until the Atkins Diet hit -- a license to print money.
3) LESS IS MORE EXPENSIVE In every high-class mall, there's at least one store like the following. It's very small and narrow, and filled with only one type of item -- usually shoes, or purses, or dresses. There are literally only about two dozen items in the entire store -- each strategically placed and dramatically lit -- and these museum-like treasures are watched over by a woman expensively dressed and impeccably groomed who looks as though she would fetch the Doberman if you even tried to enter without a Platinum credit card. As a result, there are never any customers visible inside. Never. What is the deal with these stores? How do they stay in business? If someone buys one of the two dozen purses that make up their entire inventory, will they make enough profit to pay the expenses for a month?
4)THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE CALLER Why are there so many people who seem to spend their weekends doing nothing but walking up and down malls talking on their cell phones to absent friends, who are probably themselves at that very moment in other malls across town walking around? And what in the world do they talk about all those hours? I have never understood the need to be linked up 24/7.
5)THAT POOR GUY In every mall I've ever been in, I see him. He's a little, unassuming man, many times an elderly gent, who you can tell has been dragged there by a spouse against his will. He looks totally forlorn, frazzled, even panicked, and constantly looks around wide-eyed as if he'd been beamed over from a general store in 1897. You can imagine him screaming silently for someone to take him somewhere else, anywhere, but help never arrives.
6) TAKE A SEAT -- JUST KIDDING Is it a crime to have more than four benches in a mall the size of Yankee Stadium? And why are benches never placed where you need them, like outside pre-teen clothing stores where I wait for a half hour while my girls paw through sparkly T-shirts and ponchos?
7) WILL THE INK EVER RUN DRY? Everywhere I look, it's tattoos, tattoos, and more tattoos. I know I'm spitting in the wind, but can I offer some modest suggestions? Ladies, if you insist on wearing midriff-baring outfits that let your poochy potbellies hang over the precipice, must you place a tattoo of a unicorn on them so that we make sure and notice your girth? And if you insist on having a multicolored butterfly tattooed on your backside just above your...ahem...dividing line, must you also wear pants with the waist so low that a trained doctor could do a visual pelvic exam without your even bending over? And heavily tattooed and pierced gentlemen -- is there a Maori warrior convention in town?
8) WALKING BILLBOARDS Finally, I enjoy looking at people's T-shirt slogans and trying to see if the sentiments match the look of the person wearing them. I saw an interesting pair of shirts coming into view within five minutes of each other. The first was a light blue T-shirt worn by an attractive, perky young woman in her early 20s. It said:
BLUE-EYED BOMBSHELLBy contrast, I then saw another woman, 20 years older and slowly schlumping along, wearing a sentiment close to my heart:
I'M OUT OF BED AND DRESSED.
WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?