Shopping for an Exit – When You’re Trapped in a Shopping Complex

Prison changes a man. They say, the stuff that goes on inside alters your personality. Even when people are trapped in mine-shafts are caved-in tunnels suffer post-traumatic stress. Well, what happens when you it’s a shopping centre you’re trapped in?

It was Easter Saturday, a pretty nice holiday in a set of four. Usually families would chose to spend it watching TV, eating chocolate, or going shopping. My family decided to do the latter. Now, it wasn’t anything special, just a bit of groceries. But we decided to venture into one of Brisbane’s few attractions, Queen Street Mall.

(A view of Queen Street Mall. Note the people.)

For those who don’t know, Queen Street Mall is a huge street lined with shops, booths, departmental stores, and so on. Street buskers roam wild throughout. Roadside stalls are scattered, hawking their wares (all legal, of course) to unwary tourists. And a Krispy Kreme shop, there to redeem the whole mess.

So, when we arrived, we split up to shop and see the sights (a street busker had MY attention). My dad and brother finally emerged from a far-away music shop lugging a keyboard, and decided to head back to the car to secure their booty. By this time, it was about 5 (closing time); thus I was tasked with locating my mum at a COLES supermarket after being told by my dad that “She’s in the COLES in that shopping complex, mate.” And trustingly, I entered.

The first thing that struck me was that there was no COLES on the ground and upper floors. Alright, I said. It must be in the basement. Looking over the railing to the basement, I could make out a section that was hidden from view. It must be in there, I decided.

The second thing was that the escalators all went UP from the basement to the ground floor, none from the ground floor down to the basement. This I confirmed after walking around the ground floor twice. I was surprised. Really? One-Way escalators? A real-life game Snakes and Ladders, I presume.

So, like any good, sane, person, I strode over to the nearby lifts and hit the down button. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Now, I was floored. What kind of shopping complex had an inaccessible basement? What was in there that we couldn’t see? A illegal gambling place? Animal fights? The COLES must have some really, REALLY good “groceries”.

Walking back, I encountered a few people huddled around a security guard, and overheard that the centre shut down the lifts because they were closing for the day. I assumed the one-way escalators were a by-product of the closing as well. That made sense. If thieves wanted to to rob the place, they could get everything else, but not the basement! Heh heh.

But, I still had my mum to find, and like Mel Gibson in We Were Soldiers, I couldn’t leave until every last member of my family was home. She didn’t pick up any of my calls, and neither did my dad. So, I snuck into a “Employees Only” service elevator (Hey, don’t look at me like that! Other people were doing it too!) and went downstairs. Apparently, they used the same elevator to take down their rubbish, so, you can imagine how much it stank. Almost as much as my cooking.

However, I finally made it downstairs……..only to find that there was NO COLES supermarket. Nothing. Only plenty of closed shops and stacked chairs. The fact that my parents didn’t pick up the phone took on a different interpretation – It’s a trap! They sent me here to be imprisoned within a shopping complex forever!

(Yes, just like SAW. It was an insidious, cruel trap from which there was no escape.)

Before I could start rushing around like a crazy lunatic or a rugby player, my dad finally called and said that my mum was waiting outside the music shop. Oh alright. Must have been a mistake. Even the fact that the shop was about a kilometre away mustn’t have been a factor.

So, I turned towards the escalators and was about to use them when, without warning, it stopped. Just like that. But, I gamely clambered up to the top, only to find that there was a huge plastic door thing over the exit. NOW, I was trapped. It wasn’t my parents who trapped me, it was the shopping complex who had me imprisoned! They wouldn’t let me go! Or maybe, it was a conspiracy with BOTH my parents and the shopping centre employees involved.

Happily, though, a security guard came along and kindly showed the kid that was freaking out (me) a small door, which I could enter the free world. I was relieved. I wanted to hug him to show my gratitude, but I noticed he had a Taser.

Was I free as a bird? Indeed. Though birds wouldn’t have been stumped by the one-way escalators. I skipped home merrily, secure in the knowledge that I escaped the jaws of death.

So kids, what have we learnt?

  1. Always, ALWAYS make sure that what you’re trying to find is in the unknown location first. Acting on bad intel (thanks, Dad), I went into hostile territory and barely escaped with my life. You might not be so lucky. So, always be certain before you enter. Look before you leap. Or you’ll be trapped in a shopping centre.
  2. If you can’t get into a place, it’s probably better you don’t. An inaccessible basement made me try all manners of entryways to get there. Unfortunately, my grappling hook was at home, forcing me to take the service elevators. And when I got there, there was a huge load of nothing. Kinda like when I watched the pilot of HEROES. What a waste.
  3. Shopping Centres will do anything to keep you there. Stopped escalators? Inoperable lifts? Locked barriers to the exits? I mean, usually they use free samples and pushy salespeople to get you to stay, but they really pulled out all the stops on this one.
  4. And finally: Service Elevators stink. Literally. I mean, James Bond never gets the one with the stench of rubbish. Neither did all the other action heroes – they even had the time to get changed and armed inside. Why did I have to get the short straw – or rather, the smelly elevator? Could be worse, though – I could have had to climb through the sewer pipes, like Johnny English.

And after all of that, I still didn’t get to have a Krispy Kreme donut. It wasn’t worth breaking out of the shopping complex for, anyway.

Do YOU have a bad shopping experience? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

    • suprised reader
    • January 14th, 2011

    You watched saw?

    • No, I did not. It was just used as a reference to make a point.

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