How I learned to stop worrying and walk the mall

When I was laid off last month, I decided I should try to get in shape. I felt like I was at my desk a lot while working at the Register, but looking back, I was going out on interviews regularly and walking around downtown quite a bit.

But then I got a real desk job, 40 hours a week of sitting. There was also free beer and soda in the fridge. Over six months I’d say I put on 20 pounds.

With my schedule cleared, I decided to start walking more. It would give me time outdoors, so I wouldn’t be spending my days on the couch in my underwear, watching YouTube listicles and shunning the outside world.

For my first few days off, I took my dog with me. Yeardley is a bichon-frise, tiny and kind of an asshole to anything on the other side of our fence. She’s also fond of being an indoor dog. After several days of her adamantly pulling on the leash to return home, I decided to leave her there.

There are great trails near my house, as well as near my kids’ daycare. But in my second week of unemployment, it rained. I didn’t want to slide into laziness, so I went to the mall closest to daycare: Valley West.

The shops at Des Moines’ three big malls don’t open until 10 a.m., but the malls open earlier for mall walkers. How early? I’m not entirely sure for each mall, but Mercy Hospital says Jordan Creek opens at 7 a.m. Monday-Saturday. The point is, the malls are open when I get there at 9ish.

I’m not going to lie, a big part of the appeal of walking in the mall is the fact that I’m a big Dawn of the Dead fan. Walking around a mostly empty mall, surrounded by shuffling not-quite-zombies lets me play out the post-apocalyptic fantasy I’ve had since I first saw DOTD as a teenager. If you check out the mural for the Jordan Creek Zombie Burger, you’ll find a zombie version of me in a Green Lantern shirt, illustrated by Ron Wagner. It’s one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me.

Maybe I should evaluate the malls to decide which would be the best to spend a zombie outbreak in. But that’s for another day.

In actuality, the older mall walkers are close to the fast zombies (or “zoombies”) of the Dawn of the Dead remake. Some of them book past me, and I’m sure they’ve been at it since the mall opened. Other than them, it’s mostly moms pushing strollers.

There aren’t a lot of 30-something men walking the malls at 9:30 on a Wednesday. So I’m the weirdo. But there are weirder people.

Like the guy I had to walk around taking pictures of the mannequins inside Victoria’s Secret. He was standing outside the closed shop, snapping photos of each scantily clad, headless woman-shaped assemblage of fiberglass.

I considered stopping and saying “You know that phone you’re using as a camera can also be used to show you pictures of actual women wearing those clothes, right? Or even mannequins wearing them.

Instead, I kept walking. I don’t want to talk to a weirdo with a mannequin fetish.

After walking in each mall, I started to get curious how much each was adding to my walking distance. I decided to keep track, doing my regular two laps of each mall.

My course for each mall is to walk as close to the shops as possible, to be more distance. If there are random hallways that are open to the public, I walk down them. The department stores aren’t open yet, so they’re not part of my course. I guess Target is at Merle Hay, but walking in Target seems like it could be its own thing.

For Valley West, two laps of both floors totaled 1.95 miles, according to the odometer on my phone.

At Jordan Creek, I hit 2.33 miles walking both levels twice.

Merle Hay is only one floor, so I was expecting it to be a shorter distance. But there’s a little marker at the northwest entrance saying once around the mall is a mile. But that’s not counting the extra distance I get from my random hallways detours.

Surprisingly, I ended up with 2.6 miles going around Merle Hay twice.

So what have I learned from this? Not much. Malls are good when I don’t want to walk in the rain, I guess? They could also have more garbage cans so I can more easily dispose of my orange peels.

Also, more zombies.

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