The reassuring din of Los Cantones envelops and calms me. I am in A Coruña’s shopping mall, sitting on a bench and listening. Wherever I go in the world, shopping malls always sound the same. Far from home, I sit and listen. I feel calm.
Squint a little and I could be anywhere. I could be, and have been, and now may be, in Jakarta, London, Tel Aviv, Tallinn, Houston, or wherever. It doesn’t matter. The shopping mall becomes a transporter, a weird nexus for the generic. I step in and am everywhere and nowhere.
Contrast and compare with McDonalds. Though the golden arches are as precisely curved and exactly yellow at each franchise location, stroll through the door and it is a different experience depending on where you are in the world. In Rome, for example, there are free breadsticks next to the straw dispensers. In Paris you can get a beer with your Big Mac. In Mumbai you might order a Chicken Maharaja-Mac™. At some branches in Manchester you may receive a complimentary stabbing. The point is, each McDonalds brings a little local flair to their offering.
Shopping malls have a range of ingredients that blend together into one specific sonic din: babelic bustling of shoppers browsing, nattering and buying, punctuated by the shrieks and yelps of toddlers, and underscored with a blurred soundtrack of inoffensive pop hits (or swap pop for some accessible classical – such as Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ or Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker Suite’ – if you happen to be perusing the posh part).
Visiting shopping malls when I am missing home is like riding a bike which I know I will fall off. It is ultimately quite unpleasant but nevertheless familiar, easy, and available to do almost everywhere in the world. Do not misunderstand me this is not a rant about the homogenisation of our retail shopping spaces. Today, I feel at home and am content in this messy, reassuring din.