(Yes, I'm late. I was out.)
I was at the mall, coincidentally pretty near the comic book shop mentioned last week. And there was an alarm. At least, there was a loud warning sound going on; no actual people were alarmed. This is because everybody knew just what was going on. This particular mall is nearly twenty years old, and so is due to be refitted with new warp nacelles and be taken over by Captain Decker. It's also having a wide swath of its face replaced with a Vaguely Model Railroadish Main Street, as part of that phase of capitalism where every economic innovation turns nostalgically to resemble what it replaced. And there'll be some new anchor stores.
Anyway, by this comic book shop is one of the main exits, and it's pretty much the center of the renovations. The parking lots outside it are all roped off, many of them dug up, and covered with construction equipment. Through the glass doors you can see the chain-link fences and horizontal pieces of rope blocking off paths. Each of the doors contains a warning sign ``EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY' and ``ALARM WILL SOUND''. And the doors are rigged in that Emergency Exit fashion of ``in an emergency, hang around here for a while until the doors open.'' So it's not hard to figure what set off the alarm. And based on the responses of the employees in the stores near the area, this happens a lot.
Eventually, and treating this about as urgently as you or I would after this has happened a dozen times, a pair of mall cops came up and looked the door over, and determined that it was indeed closed and there was no further emergency. Walking alongside them was a guy who looked kind of like a smaller version of George Carlin, although he didn't talk to any of the mall cops and they didn't speak to him. He hung around a minute or so after the alarm was turned off, then walked off towards the Sears.
Trivia: During the 1929 stock market crash AT&T fell from 310 to 193. Source: Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1941, Michael E Parrish.
Currently Reading: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, Stephen Ambrose. When I bought my copy the bookstore owner mentioned that somebody else had bought a copy just a few hours ago, a surprisingly high temporary sales volume for a book that's been out a dozen years. Attempting to actually wield small talk I speculated that maybe it was something like the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark's return (which I knew full well it wasn't), or maybe some special had recently aired (if it had I didn't know about it), and we finally chalked it up to coincidence, which it had to be.