The future is here and it’s roaming the halls of the Mall of America. White, shiny robots have spread themselves out across all 13,000 floors, all 30 million square feet, all 50 bajillion stores that make up this retail country. Oh, did you not know that? That the Mall of America is actually just America? Its real name is The All of America. This is less a place to shop and more our actual nation, condensed in all its commercial, fluorescent glory. It might be zero degrees outside, but inside the Mall of America, it’s always the body temperature the Star Spangled Banner would be if a national anthem had a pulse.
But back to the robots. Apparently, they’ve been at the Mall of America for all of Super Bowl week, because Radio Row is here and where all media availabilities take place. I have also been at the Mall of America all week, because I live at the Mall of America now, and I eat footballs for breakfast. But somehow it’s Thursday afternoon, and an hour ago was the first time I encountered a robot.
It happened when I walked by one stationed outside Moose Mountain. Moose Mountain is a mini golf course where SB Nation’s video team has set up our staging area. As I type this, I’m currently sitting inside a plastic mountain that is the color of a moose. Tourists are mini golfing around us. Twangy country music is blasting from the tiny speakers. The walls inside Moose Mountain are hung with pulleys and old timey-looking tools, which I’m pretty sure are supposed to give off a “mining” vibe. I can hear screams from people riding the roller coasters on the other side of Moose Mountain.
So anyway, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this robot. In fact, I believe I said, “Holy shit, that’s a robot.” There was a little boy waving his hands in front of the robot’s soulless, black hole-like eyes, and he looked up at me when I swore. I apologized to him and his mother for my language.
The boy’s name was Aaron Sawyer, and he told me he likes the robots, but not for “sports reasons.”
“I like it because it has the capability to learn like a real human,” he told me, continuing to try to get the robot to react to him. “But it won’t listen to me. It’s kind of cool but kind of creepy.”
“Yeah,” I said, as the robot sprang to life and started making movements that could best be described as a mom half-heartedly dancing at her son’s wedding after a few glasses of chardonnay because she’s not crazy about the bride, but what are you gonna do?
“It’s super creepy,” I said. “Oh, god, she’s looking at me.”
“It’s got lasers in its eyes to detect faces,” Aaron said, as the robot spun its head in his direction. “It can see that my face is lined up with the lasers. It’s trying to see something.”
He stopped to press the iPad or whatever brand of tablet these robots have strapped around their robot necks. She started dancing more frantically, in a very receptive pattern. These things cost $15,000, according to Aaron’s mom. They look like a toothbrush that grew arms and morphed with a Tamagotchi. I’m pretty sure this one was sizing me up, figuring out my mental weaknesses simply by looking at my face with her lasers.
This, folks, is how we die. This is the end of the world as we know it. Thanks to this big old football party, the robots have had a chance to infiltrate the United States of America, which, as we already established, is contained entirely inside the Mall of America. After this week, these 3-foot-tall robots who are currently scouting out our nation are going to go back to their lair inside Moose Mountain. They will corral the rest of the 50,000 robots currently lurking in the walls around me, and they are going to take us all out at the knees and then trample over us. They will run the world and we will all be pawns in their robot universe, destined to ride roller coasters at the Mall of America forever, as they point at us and laugh.
In other news, I’m doing fine, and Minneapolis is beautiful. The Mall of America is lovely this time of year.