The BuyTowne Mall officially opens at 9:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The stores, however, don’t open until 10:00. The time between taking the padlock off the main doors and rolling up the security screen on Abercrombie and Fitch is Ken Cole’s favorite hour – the Mall Walker’s hour. Friendly, track-suit clad seniors striding from JC Penney’s all the way to Sears and back. Nobody steals anything or throws up in the fountain. Ken can wander the carpeted halls waving to Walkers and the cleaning crew, breathing in the smells of glass cleaner mixed with the tempting aroma of frosting escaping beneath the locked door of Cinnabon.
Ken’s day began much earlier. Hugo, his boss, requires that Ken arrive at BuyTowne by 7:00 a.m. each morning. Ken lets himself in through the service entrance hidden at the end of a hall behind Kay Jewelers and punches the alarm code for the building. Each shop and kiosk has its own system, but those are the responsibilities of the individual owners. No, Ken’s domain – the area he has sworn to protect and serve – includes the public spaces connecting the two Huts - Sunglass and Pizza. From the Macy’s wing to the Orange Julius, Ken patrols, protecting business and patron alike.
Ken’s first order of business is a meeting with Hugo. He finds him in front of Calvin Klein.
“Morning, Ken. Let’s talk about the day. We’ve got a cookware exhibition in the hub nearest the Food Court. They’ll be hawking crock pots and dishing out beef stew starting at 11:00, so keep an eye on the line as people get hungrier. The new X-Cube game Glory Smash comes out today, so there’s going to be some competition with limited supply."
“We’ll also need to keep an eye out for potential shoplifters with that one. It’s a favorite with the baggy-clothes crew, plenty of room to stash a game.”
“Right, good thinking. There’s also a grand opening of McDonald’s newest health-food chain ‘McSprout’ but I don’t expect too much of a rush there. I tried a McWheatgrass shake, nothing special. They will have a clown, though, so be ready for lots of crying kids.”
“Got it. Thanks, Hugo.”
The second order of business for Ken is to sweep each wing of the mall, looking for anything amiss. He begins in the Dillard’s wing, planning to patrol east to west. Everything seems copasetic until he arrives at the mall central hub, the fountain. Normally, customers throw pennies, nickels and dimes into the fountain as they make a wish. About once a week, a customer falls into the fountain and needs to be fished out. It seems some clever pranksters added soap to the water last night, so today the floor is now bubbling knee-deep with suds.
Ken un-holsters his radio.
“This is Ken Cole. I’m going to need a cleaning crew ASAP at the main fountain for a bubble clean up. We need this done within 20 minutes or we’re going to have to rope off the area.”
Ken knows that closing off any section of the mall means bad news for those businesses, and the last thing he wants is to have Aveda and Foot Locker mad at him – that leads to a patchouli-scented butt kicking.
After his sweep, it is nearing 10:00 a.m. and the mall is coming alive with shops opening doors, employees setting out swag and customers filing in. For the rest of his shift, Ken will be patrolling from store to store, keeping an eye out for nefarious activities.
All goes smoothly until nearly the end of Ken’s day. At 3:37 p.m. an alarm sounds. It’s coming from the record shop (which doesn’t sell records, by the way). Someone hasn’t paid for their item!
Ken sprints to the scene of the crime and finds the manager in an argument with a young woman.
“I saw you slip the CD into your purse!” shouts the manager.
“It was an accident! I was only using my purse to carry the CD and meant to pay for it!”
Ken steps in. He calms both parties down and sees that the CD is returned to the manager. The young lady is escorted to the security office, where Ken puts on his sternest face.
“Ma’am, you realize that shoplifting is a crime and that we could choose to involve the police? What I don’t want to do is to call the police and your parents.”
“Please don’t. I promise this will never happen again.” Ken’s job often requires him to work with cases like this. The best plan of action is to give any would-be shoplifters a bit of a scare, and let them go with the fear of the Mall Cop in their hearts.
Ken does just that.