On average Hilo gets 126.72 inches of rain annually. It’s not all hard rain, but I’m a ‘fair-weather’ walker. I don’t even like drizzles.
So for me when it rains, Liliuokalani Park isn’t an attractive place to walk. Unless of course, I’m already there when the skies open up. Once I’m wet, I’m wet. But, if it’s damp and drizzly when I leave the house, I head for Prince Kuhio Mall and accept what has become a national identification. That’s right. I become a Mall Walker.
When it looks like this outside the mall, the view inside is dry and climate controlled.
Oddly enough, though it wasn’t called mall walking at the time, perambulatory activity is very much in keeping with the original vision of the shopping mall. Victor Gruen, an architect credited with starting the shopping mall experience, saw more than stores. He envisioned opportunities for social life and recreation within a protected pedestrian environment.
The first shopping mall opened in 1956 as a secure shopping environment for suburban women. But when the Stockade mall opened in Minnesota that year, local doctors advised their cardiac patients to exercise at the mall during bad weather. Of which I’ve heard there’s a lot in Minnesota.
Malls do have a lot to offer an observant walker, like these children’s rides. And sometimes there’s even a train. Though usually the train is under wraps before the shops open due to a lack of riders. I’ve seen stroller moms and grandparents feeding coins for a ride so their toddler can recreate while they take a break.
There are “rides” for adult walkers also. Toyota displays cars at Prince Kuhio Mall. Perhaps the walkers notice them, or maybe they’re just a mile marker.
And then there’s window shopping. For a few steps I really need a new set of rattan outdoor furniture perfectly accompanied by new place settings. It would go along with my perfect garden. Good thing the store’s not open yet.
This week I overheard an older couple peering into a clothing store window.
She gesturing towards a mannequin: What d’you think of that?
She: Well, I mean with an overblouse which is how I would wear it.
All in all, Mall Walking is a great boon for people who can’t easily exercise outside and removes all perceived obstacles to fitness. Malls have:
• Climate control.
• Amenities – Clean rest rooms, benches, water fountains.
• Level surfaces.
• Good lighting.
• Social interaction.
And Mall Walking, so far, is free, though some malls offer special programs for people who pay an optional annual fee.
Malls don’t provide the same experience as an outdoor walk. But that’s the point, And, if the real plants look a bit sad, the artificial ones are perfect.
Featured Photo: Liliuokalani Park, Hilo HI.
Photos by Author.
Belza B, Allen P, Brown DR, Farren L, Janicek S, Jones DL, King DK, Marquez DX, Miyawaki CE, Rosenberg D. Mall walking: A program resource guide. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center; 2015
Jessica Firger.” Could Walking Programs Save America’s Malls?” Newsweek. June 7, 2015.
Dorene Internicola.” These Malls are Made for Walking.” Reuters. Jan. 25, 2010.
Georgia Perry. “Mall Walkers: The Suburban Exercises Keeping America Wholesome.” The Atlantic. Sept. 21, 2015.
Sandra Wagner-Wright is the author of Two Coins: A Biographical Novel and Rama's Labyrinth. Both books are available in digital and print editions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. Rama’s Labyrinth and Two Coins are available as audiobooks.
Sandra blogs weekly about topics related to her travels, writing life, and the incongruities of life in general.