An Afternoon in White Plains

I’ve had the chance to do a fair bit of traveling recently, and this week, circumstance has brought me to White Plains, which is only about an hour’s drive from where I live. I came for a work conference, but that formally starts tomorrow, so I had a free evening in which to get settled into my hotel and check out the environs of what was billed as the “downtown” of the city.

My only previous experience of White Plains is from over a decade ago, when I interviewed for a job at a debt collection company, a job that I blessedly wasn’t offered at the time. I remember thinking the city was very suburban and, frankly, boring-looking.

In the first ninety minutes after arriving for this conference, I had reason to question all of my preconceived beliefs about the character of White Plains, and to have them all resoundingly confirmed.

I don’t often drive when I travel, so I like to explore the area around my hotel, especially if it is in the middle of an urban area. I scouted ahead on a maps app and knew that there was a mall on the next block, but that everything else was pretty far on foot. I figured a walk through a mall is a nice way to people watch and at least be entertained for a late afternoon; I was also getting kinda hungry.

The mall was indeed on the next block, but it presented as an impenetrable fortress; I walked three-and-a-half sides of it before realizing that the only way in is through the parking garage, a fact made rather irritating by the absence of pedestrian walkways. These were not small blocks, mind you, but a single block, with no streets interrupting it, stretching about two or three avenues worth of distance. I had made my steps for the day before I even breached to the interior of this mall-fortress.

I wondered if it was even there anymore, or if Covid had killed it.

I finally walked into the parking garage, and used their elevator to reach one of three “Retail” floors, denoted with that word and nothing more in the elevator. A single sign on one wall said “Want to Explore?” and had a QR code.

Before that even loaded, I disembarked into a retro mall wonderland. It was all the modern stores one would expect in a mediocre mall: Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, Michael Kors, and several jewelry stores, but it was in this completely enclosed space, vast but buried deep in a concrete exostructure of parking lot.

Also, there weren’t more then perhaps a dozen customers in the entire mall- the ENTIRE mall- on a late Thursday afternoon. Every one of the thirty-odd stores was open, evidently staffed, and completely devoid of custom.

I decided to slake my hunger first, and headed for the food court. Multiple signs pointed its direction and hyped it up in a weirdly non-specific way- and listing none of the food offerings. At the end of the arrows was an elevator, and instructions to take it to the fourth floor, where the generically titled food court (Crave, I think?) was located.

On the way, I looked up finer dining options, and saw that there were two in the area: PF Chang’s or the Cheesecake Factory. I felt like I was back at the Arden Mall in Sacramento, minus the good stores and nearby fairgrounds.

The elevator deposited me at Crave and I saw its offerings: three “coming soon” installations that had evidently been there for a long time, and three types of burger joints. They were all open, and I decided to go with Shake Shack- I don’t buy the hype about their food, but this was a devil-you-know situation. Plus, they had dreamsicle custard shakes.

The food court seating area was massive, plainly designed to host six restaurants’ worth of diners during a holiday rush. But today there were so few people shopping that I got an entire eating section to myself. I liked the food- a white truffle burger that was quite tasty, and fries that were hot and salted just right.

I was bound and determined to stop into some store, for some reason, since I had gone to so much damn trouble to get into this mall, but none of the stores appealed to me in the least. I tried to brainstorm things I could use that these stores even carried, but was uninspired. I briefly looked for talcum powder at L’Occitane, for when I inevitably cut myself shaving. L’Occitane does not carry talcum powder.

I decided to leave and come back to my hotel, if just to vent the profound, suburban misery that is an afternoon in White Plains. Even that proved a challenge- following the exit signs, I found myself in a concrete labyrinth, plainly designed for workers at the stores as a back way in, but it was open and there were exit signs pointing at it. It led down multiple twists and turns, only to end at an alarmed emergency exit. I backtracked.

After finally making my way out of the labyrinth the same way I had entered- through the underground parking garage, walking in a driving lane- I returned to the hotel, saw myself in, and sat down to write about it.

I had low expectations for an afternoon in White Plains, and it still managed to trip over the bar.


Published in: on April 12, 2023 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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