My Air Pods Pro were acting up, the right one anyway. So I jumped into an Apple support chat, and was walked through a few tests by a friendly human—at least I think it was a human—somewhere in the world. The problem was not fixed, and he—she? it?—suggested I make an appointment at my local Apple Store. Which I did, on the spot.
Ninety minutes later I was walking through Northbrook Court, or what's left of it. Formerly a lux shopping mall, now a ghost town. Empty storefronts displaying items from those few stores still in business, or crafts from charities. A few marginal businesses—custom t-shirt shops and such—that would have never made the cut in the mall before. The was some life: a few knots of teens wandered about, or sat in the massage chairs still set out. A quartet of old ladies playing cards. And a line of people outside the Apple Store. A helpful associate, Tom, took my Air Pods for further tests, and told me to come back in 20 minutes.
Wandering the place, we came upon the shell that once held Lord & Taylor. Never a department store that resonated with me, neither the Cleveland institutions of my youth, Higbee's, Halle's, The May Company, nor the apex of Chicago shopping, Marshall Field's, nor its competitor, though I thought of it more as a handmaiden, a subordinate, Carson, Pirie, Scott.
It was rather in the realm of stores from other cities—Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus—that had outposts here. There was something feminine about Lord & Taylor. A women's store that also sold men's clothing.
So it wasn't with grief that I stepped into the void where Lord & Taylor used to be. Rather ... a disassociation. Something less than shock, more than indifference. A quiet hmm, oh yes, all these big department stores are going away. A whiff of exploration, of stepping foot on another planet, of realization, discovery. This was happening while those boxes were piling up on the front porch. Those were the death of this, hastened by the COVID virus. I went shopping at exactly one clothing store over the past 18 months, just recently, a Father's Day visit to L.L. Bean in Old Orchard. Honestly, it's hard to imagine being in a situation where a plaid shirt won't do. I still have my tux, but if I had to put it on to appear at the fancy Neil Steinberg Tribute and Award Dinner at the Drake ballroom, I'd think twice about going to the fuss. Why bother? Who'd care anymore? Who could possibly care? All that seems so long ago.