A Mall of America trip filled with sun, fun and horrible driversBRIAN MATUSZAK: We had a rare open Saturday at the Matuszak household, and we were in a celebratory mood.
By: Brian Matuszak, for the Budgeteer
So we had a reminder last week of how something unpredictable and out of our control can still be kind of cool. Sort of like when the Vikings beat the Packers, although that’s not so much “cool” as it is a “miracle.” No, I’m talking about the recent weather phenomenon known as the Hinckley Split: horribly windy and gross north of Tobies Town, but tropical and delightful due south of it.
We had a rare open Saturday at the Matuszak household, and we were in a celebratory mood. Kaylee’s swim season had come to an end after three straight meets where she lopped off huge chunks of time in her events, plus she had just earned her first high school honor roll distinction. (Smart and athletic. Just like her dad pretends to be.) We decided to spend our free day on a fun, family jaunt down to the Mall of America. We figured we were OK; it was still a good two weeks until the holiday apocalypse, when the stores get overrun by shuffling masses of the Shopping Dead. And while traveling in November is always dicey, our iPhone weather app showed just a slight a chance of rain with a temperature of 63 down in Minneapolis, so all signs were go. We headed south for a day filled with two things you can’t yet get in Duluth: lunch at Chipotle and a mall with variety.
Turns out, we were half right in our weekend assumption. The weather was beautiful! When was the last time you spent a Minnesota November in your T-shirt, carrying your coat around because you were too sweaty? (Deer Shack Calisthenics don’t count.) Of course, walking around MOA, I had to do the Dad Thing and carry everyone’s load of coats while Sue and Kaylee carried everyone’s load of shopping bags, but that’s cool. I like that arrangement. However, the second half of our assumption — the one where we thought no one would be out at the malls in the middle of November — couldn’t have been more wrong, unless we had also assumed these same shoppers knew how to operate a motor vehicle. We saw one crazy pickup driver gun his engine to try and beat a traffic light, only to swerve out of control into oncoming traffic and end up facing two lanes of Minneapolis drivers headed directly towards him. We quickly left that area, only to get mired in the mall parking lot, furtively hunting and pecking our way along, trying to find a spot. About an hour in, we saw a quick flash of tail lights, jammed on the brakes and squealed with delight at our good fortune. However, the squeals turned to other vocalizations after we realized the driver was just maneuvering into a better position within her yellow lines. She pulled forward and parked. We pulled forward and sweared.
As I said, however, the weather, unlike the dangerous Minneapolis shoppers we encountered, exceeded expectations. It was absolutely gorgeous! The temperature exploded up to 70 degrees as the sun cascaded down on us like a long, lost friend. “Why are you still down here wasting precious rays on these folks?” I inquired of that golden orb, hanging way up high in a Twin Cities sky. “Look around! They don’t even appreciate it! They could be out finishing up yard work or power washing the deck or walking along Lake Calhoun.
Instead, they’re all smooshed into this shopping complex as if the weather is horrendous and the calendar is declaring it December 23.”
Sol chuckled and answered my question in that familiar warm tone that melts hearts. And snowmen.
“I’m treating these folks to one last blast of summer. Let them have it.” But I wasn’t about to let them have anything, except for my money.
“But what about all of us up in Duluth? Sue, Kaylee, and I escaped today, but what about the others? They’re getting pelted up there with a soggy rain/snow mix, bitten in places where the wind shouldn’t be able to reach, and the fog is so dense, you could carve out a chunk and plop it on your pumpkin pie! The Hinckley Split is not fair, I tell you! NOT FAIR!!”
But Sol ignored me and kept on beaming. Eventually, my complaints sputtered out and I realized what that huge star already knew. Twin Citians put up with a lot of frustrations during the year: smog, traffic snarls, hipster doofuses. But in Duluth, we really have only the doofuses, and that’s only downtown. I’ll trade that for one last beautiful summer day with my family every time.
And a Chipotle wouldn’t be bad either.
Brian Matuszak is the co-founder of Renegade Comedy Theatre, founder of Rubber Chicken Theater, and doesn’t get as many weird stares as you would think for someone who shouts obscenities towards the sky in the MOA parking lot. Must be normal there.