I’d like to think of the M & M World store in New York City as a metaphor for the universe. Store really isn’t the right word. More like hedonism.
I remember the first time we entered the emporium. We were on vacation with another couple and had landed in Times Square. You know the Naked Cowboy, people dressed up like Dora the Explorer imploring you to have your picture taken with them (for a price), commercials being shot, traffic, confusion, lights! Now imagine something more distracting than all this: yes, M & M World.
A store dedicated to chocolate candy. How crazy can this be?
You enter and are overwhelmed by the cathedral ceilings, church for the chocoholic. Two-stories connected by frenetic escalators. Everyone there seems to be jacked up on sugar. You are greeted by an energetic young M & M retailer and given a sack. Hopefully to fill up with M & M merchandise. It’s not just about the zot-size candies, but about purchasing cute canisters, mugs, M & M character plush toys. Not exactly action figures, more like oversized couch potatoes that subsist on M & Ms.
I think the centerpiece of this extravaganza was the wall of colors. Clear cylinders that went from counter to ceiling filled with every color of M & Ms imaginable. It was like spilled paint. Seventy-two continuous candy-filled tubes. You turn the handle and out cascades candy pellets.
Or should I say gush.
They come so quick you haven’t time to bag them all. Scattered all over the counter are M & Ms and people greedily scooping and shoveling them into their mouth. And there’s nothing the perky retail assistants can do about it. It is an M & M free-for-all.
I could tell, the couple we were with were appalled. This wasn’t America, this did not represent a civilized democracy, but a contagion, end-time anarchy, unfettered chaos. All around us people were stealing and no one cared. There was no moral conscience.
At first I tried to focus on the unusual colors, the pastels, the neons, but soon I was picking up one, then two, then a handful. My friend, a pastor and his wife, showed their discomfort. Soon, though, I was beyond their recriminations. I was gone, turning the handle this time with no bag, just my open hand. Hey! I shouted with a full mouth, they don’t melt in your hand! I held up my palm, unstained and empty.
By the time we made for the exits we felt like we were escaping with our integrity, but barely. Once outside in the relative quiet of Times Square, I noticed my pastor-friend stealthily nibbling at M & Ms—hidden in pockets.
Lately I’ve been thinking about M & M World and the breakdown of society, how suddenly any of us can descend to our baser selves. It was a glimpse into a world on the brink of collapse.