This past weekend I did something that I haven't done in more than 9 months.

I went to a mall. And it was weird.

The quick backstory is that my mother and I were both eligible for phone upgrades and the new iPhone 12 felt like the first one in a few years that would be worth using an upgrade on.

I started the process online to avoid the in-person shopping experience altogether, but there are some oddities and idiosyncrasies on the account that we share to warrant an in-person visit with AT&T specialists.

Now, before you think that I'm a snowflake who's afraid to leave the house, my concern is more for the health of my parents who fall into higher risk categories due to their age. I don't love the thought of them out and shopping during COVID, especially as we're seeing cases spiking again in New Jersey.

The first stop was my mother's local AT&T store, which wasn't crowded at all. Unfortunately, the representative that we spoke to told us that they only had the models with the biggest storage (and by extension, the biggest price tag) in stock. He suggested that we go to the Menlo Park Mall's Apple Store.

The very thought of going to one of the state's biggest malls in one of the state's busiest geographic areas already makes me cringe when the holiday season rolls around.

Doing it during a pandemic and the holiday season really made me feel anxious.

But we did, and it was weird.

On one hand, I'm really glad to see businesses open and people spending money. After the crippling early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, it almost seemed like those things would never happen again, and I'm glad that businesses are starting to recover.

On the other hand, it felt weird to see a crowded mall that featured everything that we've come to expect from malls; families shopping, teenagers hanging out, and seniors "mall walking".

All with masks, of course (well, most at least).

My goal was to get our business taken care of and get out of there as quickly as possible, but the thing that stuck with me the most is the fact that we still have a long way to go before we can call anything "back to normal" just yet.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of 92.7 WOBM, Townsquare Media, its employees, or advertisers.

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