Friday, November 23, 2007

Midnight Mall Mob Madness!

It's 2:30 AM and I'm lucky to be alive!

OK, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but there really was a period of time between midnight and now when I wondered if I'd come out of this alive.

Out of what, you ask? Out of the MALL!

The day after Thanksgiving is called "black Friday" in the retail world because austensibly that's when most stores go from being in the red (in debt) to in the black (making a profit). In what's become more and more ludicrous over the past few years, stores have started to open their doors in the wee hours of the morning -- like 4 or 5 AM. As if those hours aren't crazy enough, our local mall decided to bring "wee" to the extreme, opening at 12:01 AM.

I repeat: 12:01. AM.

Tom had wanted to get his mom a specific Christmas gift that was advertised at one of the stores in the mall -- which also happens to have a store in our town, but that store wouldn't be opening until the oh-so-late hour or 5 or 6 AM. So we thought it would be an entertaining adventure to drive to the mall and quickly pick up the gift for his mother, expecting to see maybe a few other crazy late-night like-minded shoppers.

As we approached the long line of cars turning into the mall and saw giddy teenagers flocking toward the entrance from off-site overflow parking lots, we knew we had misjudged the situation. We laughed about crazy, materialistic Americans, realizing full well that we were among them! Did the crowds prompt us to turn around and go home?


Tom dropped Elisabeth and I off with the intention of parking and then meeting us at the store. We joined the crowd flocking to one of the few open mall entrances. That was the first mistake -- ours, as well as the mall officials who allowed only a few mall entrances to be open. As we zig-zagged toward the center of the mall, we again laughed at the density of the crowd.

At that point it was still funny.

We pushed our way through the crowd, intending to meet Tom, who had dropped Elisabeth and I off earlier, at the store that sold the gift for Nana. We suddenly found ourselves in a mass of unmoving bodies. The crowd had very suddenly gotten too dense in too small a space for anyone within it to move. In an attempt to escape the crowd (because, to be honest, I was beginning to panic; I've always had a problem with claustrophobia), we pushed our way into a small alcove where we had some room to breathe.

At this point, my imagination began to go wild and I imagined a variety of possible scenarios: a fire, a fight, a weapon, a riot... any of a number of situations that incur a mass mentality could have tipped the delicate balance from people laughing at the ridiculousness of the crowd (as most were then) to a sudden realization of the true helplessness of their situation, i.e., total mob mentality.

Elisabeth saw in my eyes that I was becoming terrified and she instantly became the mom, bless her heart! "Mom, this will balance out and people will leave," she assured me. But I didn't believe her and told her (calmly, I thought, but apparently not...) that I really just need to get out. At this point the crowd was becoming both stronger and more densely packed and we were being pushed further and further into the corner of the alcove, with nowhere to go. I was sure that within seconds we were going to be pinned to the wall with no possibility of getting out. Just then a woman appeared and told us to follow her because she was following "that big man who's pushing his way through." It seemed to be our only option -- and poor Elisabeth! At that point I think she was really worrying that I was gonna flip out!

I held Elisabeth's hand and we moved back into the crowd, staying close the "big man," whoever he was. After what seemed like forever, we found ourselves with room to breathe and to walk. We had called and texted Tom not to come into the mall, but he hadn't replied at all and we didn't know where he was. When we emerged from the mob and were finally able to call him to see where he was, we realized that he was right in front of us. He, too, had been gobbled by the throngs of people, but had fortunately found his way out too.

We fully expect to see a story on the morning news -- and we fully expect that there will be some corporate review of what happened tonight. I'm sure things could have easily gotten catastrophic!

Tom was still determined to get Nana's gift, so we walked around the outside of the mall until we noticed a few people exiting through an unmarked door. Turns out it was the emergency exit! We asked if the crowds were bad at that part of the mall and we were told that they had thinned considerably, so we let ourselves back in -- luckily right near the store we needed to go to.

We found our way to the store through (comparatively) reasonable crowds, made our purchase, exited through the same emergency exit and headed HOME. And now, I really should go to bed because you know, the stores will open in just a few hours and I intend to be there!

JUST KIDDING!!! (What? You think I'm that crazy?!)

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Goofball said...

Gosh that sounds terribly scary!

jennifer said...

Oh Carol- this was one of those American things that I just couldn't explain to my family... Very very scary. I'm glad you made it out alive!

Rositta said...

I don't understand this fixation with Black Friday, truly. When I was in L.A. two years ago it was the same thing. I hate malls at the best of times and I too am claustrophobic so you'd never catch me there. I'm so glad you didn't get hurt...ciao

Jen said...

Wow, Carol, that sounds horrific. We're staying firmly at home today.

Anonymous said...

OMG! That is INSANE!

This really makes me know that I made the right decision to skip all that madness... Now I need to go see if it made the news!

vailian said...

I intend to do all my shopping online this year, after reading your blogentry.
My Thanksgiving Day consisted of rehearsal inthe morning, teaching in the afternoon, performance in the evening.
Went to the Ossie's apartment about 11:30pm and I had a nice bath and she made me a half a fried Camembert cheese.
Happy Thanksgiving!

anno said...

Carol, this sounds so scary -- reading your post, I could hardly breathe myself. I'm glad you made it out, and I hope you get to spend the day at home. Recovering. In peace and quiet.

Blog Antagonist said...

OMG..there is not enough money in the world to get me to go out on black Friday around here. My sister in law was up and out by 4 am. No thanks!

You are brave, brave people!

Anonymous said...

I would probably PAY money not to have to shop with those lunatics on Black Friday. No thanks.

mks said...

Holy crap that crowd makes me panic in photos! Was the gift you were after really that on sale or potentially going to sell out? Yikers! I am glad you are home safe and warm again! May I suggest shopping online? LOL

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

oh, you're crazy! I saw some of that on the news feeds...insane!

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