[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context…]
Day 6: Thursday, July 27th
By the third day of our stay at the same Bloomington hotel, we were finding it difficult to make the same breakfast buffet seem novel and appetizing. We ate much less than usual, contenting ourselves with watching in amusement as a whole new line of hotel guests each found their own way to screw up the waffle-making process. The instructions were right there on the wall, but we were amazed at the damage to be done by forgetting to use cooking spray, by pouring in the wrong amounts of batter, by pouring the batter unevenly on one side, by neglecting to turn the waffle-maker to the ON position and thereby negating the timer, and so on. As former longtime restaurant employees, Anne and I are elitist like that.
Our objective was the one and only Mall of America. Our family and friends back home were more excited about this stop than we were. When Anne and I first traveled together in 1999, one of the first and unhappiest lessons we learned was that chain retail stores, with extremely few exceptions, carry the exact same merchandise from state to state. Walmarts in Kentucky have the same Star Wars figures as those in Indiana. Toys-R-Us-es in Missouri line their shelves with the same clearance worst-sellers as those back home. By logical extension, we assumed even the Mall of America would be subject to this guideline. We figured we had to try it anyway, on behalf of our friends and family demanding their vicarious thrills after the fact. Besides, when in Rome, and all that.