Saturday, October 11, 2014

DC Days: Rockin' the Suburbs, Part Two (Subtitle: I didn't want to stab anyone*)

Yesterday I posted about my plan to take the magical Silver Line Metro from Clarendon to Tysons Corner. I wanted to experience the good times ahead and the life-changing nature of this new Metro line. That is, after all, what Metro promised. Metro's ad campaign for the new line has implied that the extension of public transportation into this area would somehow liberate people from their boring suburban lives and they would all have more fun, dance down a Metro platform, and meet the person of their dreams (for the single people). You can go to the city! You can live the life you've always wanted to when you opted to sell out for the 'burbs! Metro hates everyone.

It's an incredibly effective campaign (go marketing team!) and one that I'm sure that they'll continue to use as more stations are completed and open. I have been obsessing over this ad campaign since I saw it over the summer. My obsessions stems from this oddly implied idea that the only way we can be fulfilled is by urban living. I grew up in the suburbs and have spent most of my adult life in either urban areas or areas that I would describe as suburban/urban hybrids. I feel like I can live my life the way I want to in any of the areas and so the Metro campaign felt very personal. Like Metro was somehow judging me. I may take things too personally.

Anyway, I asked my friend Anita to join me on an adventure not to the city but to the very place that Metro told us to leave. We traveled to Tysons Corner and we had a blast. We didn't have to drive or find parking so we were relaxed and calm upon arriving at the mall. Later, Anita would observe that we could deal with the massive crowds because we didn't have to deal with the normally annoying commute and parking. I think she has a point.

The Metro ride from Clarendon took about 15 minutes (we had to wait 10 minutes for a train). The only thing that we knew about arriving at Tysons Corner was that we would have to walk through a skyway of sorts to the Plaza. The walk was relatively short (our only complaint is that it's not enclosed - bad on a rainy day like today) and the Plaza looks exactly like you imagine an outdoor plaza area at a high end shopping center would look like.

Except for the birds.

Not real birds but inexplicable metal birds. There were crows, a hawk, pigeons, and cardinals. A friend mentioned them on Facebook when I was discussing this trip but I wasn't really prepared for them. We don't understand the birds. One grouping of a crow and a cardinal and it looked like the crow was going to attack. Anita also thinks it looks like the hawk is looking for a mouse or something similar. They also seem to be staring off into the distance in a way that makes you sad that they're not real. I can't decide if the birds are there to deter other birds or to support the outdoor experience.

 We didn't stay long on the Plaza since it was raining. The rain also impacted our brunch plans; the place we wanted to go was actually across the street from Tysons but not worth the walk so we opted for Panera instead. We also plotted out our day, declaring that Tysons Corner Center would be our oyster. Highlight of the Panera experience: seeing my first ever person using Google Glass. He looked exactly as you imagine a guy a shopping mall would look like with Google Glass. I'm not sure I get that particular technology but to each his own.

The only actual scheduled activity we had today was free facials at Aveda. Since we had to skip brunch we had time to wander around the lower level of the mall. We did a pass through L.L. Bean where we tried on a variety of hats and discussed the pros and cons of buying a camouflage jacket. This confirmed for me that I'm still very conflicted about hats and whether or not I should wear them. 

Our trip through L.L. Bean didn't kill enough time before our facials so we ended up visiting the American Girl store. Neither of us had ever been to one before but we both read the original books when we were younger. This is not our American Girl. Most of what you can buy in the American Girl store are things you didn't know an American Girl doll needed - egg chairs, horses, pets (a corgi, a cat), and all of the clothes you can dream. There's even an option to buy glasses and orthodontia. I guess that's designed to help make the awkward phases of growing up a little easier. Samantha's ice cream parlor costs $300 and the dress so you can match your doll is $58 (the doll version is $36). Crazy. We saw lots of little girls and their parents with very large American Girl bags (and very awkward bell bottom, ruffled pants) all day long. There's even a cafe just in case you need a snack.

Facials were next on the schedule. This particular Aveda is a salon or spa (like I'm used to) so our facials were basically being done in public. The woman who took care of us was lovely (this is her weekend gig; she teaches in Fairfax County). She and I discussed germ-y children and how sick we both got our first year teaching. My face still feels nice and soft and Aveda-y. My goal of leaving smelling like calmness and balance was achieved.

What Anita and I came to realize as we continued to wander around the mall was that we didn't really feel the need to have a plan to enjoy our day. It was exactly like high school; we just went to the mall to hang out, gossip, and eat bad for us mall food. Instead of our parents dropping us off and agreeing on a designated pick up spot later in the evening, Metro brought us. No stressful parking, no crazy drive (we saw the traffic on 66 in both directions on a Saturday). It was the ease of those high school mall hang outs with the awesomeness of having a job and being able to buy things if we were so inclined. It didn't really matter. We also enjoyed free samples (thanks William Sonoma and Teavana). We got things we needed (a journal for NaNoWriMo for me; John Waters's book Carsick for Anita) and things we probably didn't need (maple pecan waffle mix and these boots that I've been stalking on Project Runway).

So what did we learn? Are good times really ahead? As we enjoyed dinner at Gordon Biersch (ending our day like my dad or brother would), Anita and I discussed John Waters, Divine, and our suburban upbringing. What we decided was that we miss the suburbs of our childhood and that the contrived nature of places like Tysons Corner and its Plaza with inexplicable birds is why Metro's ad campaign is successful. Everyone wants to be cool and feel like they belong somewhere. Sometimes you look up at the high rises and Metro stations of your urban existence and yearn for the quiet of your suburban childhood. And sometimes you don't want to see another shopping center or fast food restaurant. It's all about balance and realizing that sometimes you just need a girls' day at the mall.

*How Anita described our trip. She felt it was a success because this is how she felt at the end of the day.

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