Sunday, October 27, 2013

An avoidable series of unfortunate events

Maggie's favorite outing is a trip to the Mall. And by the Mall, Maggie means Stonestown Galleria. Not target, not Union Square, not even Westfield Mall. She loves the familiarity of Stonestown. We basically walk the length of the mall upstairs and down and then come home. Maggie looks forward to this, in fact she starts telling me Friday afternoon and doesn't let up until we actually go sometime over the weekend. If we aren't going I let her know right away to avoid a meltdown but I promise her we will go the next week  We were so busy last weekend we never got to go, so the expectations for this weekend's trip were high.

Parking is always an adventure with Maggie, but we have pretty good luck in the underground parking lot at Stonestown. This time I actually checked around outside first. I was hoping to go to Trader Joe's and wanted to avoid carrying groceries and pushing the wheelchair back through the mall. There was nothing accessible outside, so we headed down to "our spot." The wheelchair spaces are in the back row behind the entrance to the elevator. Maggie and I always seem to get the same spot and yesterday was no exception. This mall trip was looking good.

I unloaded her from the car and put the ramp back. We walked around the elevators with a nice family with three little girls in soccer uniforms. They were shyly waving at Maggie and running ahead to get the door. That's when we saw this.

 The elevator was out of service. The mom of the little girls pointed to the other entrance, but I said "you guys go, but that's an escalator and it won't work for us." The mom looked stricken, the dad was aghast. The little girls were confused. Maggie was impatient. I was angry.

The dad said, "This is terrible. What are you going to do." I appreciated that he got how screwed up the situation was and said, "if it were up to me I would just go home, but I promised her, so I guess I'm walking up the auto ramp."

This happened to us once before and I did just turn around and leave. But I couldn't do that to Maggie. I looked around for any other elevator, but found nothing. I went into the gym that opens into the garage, but they did not have an elevator. Having no choice, I started pushing Maggie up the steep auto ramp. That loaded chair is well over 200 lbs and uphill is no small feat. The car behind me must have been irritated, though not nearly as much as I was, but to his credit,  he did not honk the horn or peal around us.

Once up the ramp, we are on the far side of the parking lot away from the entrance to the mall. I pushed her back across the parking lot and had to go way past the entrance to find a curb cut. We backtracked to the entrance where I found the security guard (Paul Blart, Mall Cop). I told him our predicament and for some reason he found it amusing. I did not share his viewpoint. He laughed when I told him I came up the auto ramp saying "Ohhh you were waaaay off." REALLY, Dude? Really? He directed me to another elevator near the mall offices. I figured maybe it was time to visit the mall offices. I did suggest to him that a sign downstairs would be very helpful to others in this situation.

We went into Macy's, took their elevator upstairs and started to head to the mall offices. Oops, can't go that way, there are stairs. I went around to the ramp on the other side and doubled back. Of course, it is Saturday and the offices were closed. Again, REALLY? There are probably 5000 people in that mall and the offices are closed. The sign said we could get 24 hour security help, but I had already dealt with security. In fact he was part of the reason I was there. At least I found the freight elevator the guy told me about.

We did our thing and made our way back to that elevator. When it opened on "B" I was trying to figure out where we were. I stepped out of the elevator and the doors closed behind us. Of course we were not in the garage at all, but behind the mall in another outside parking lot/freight area. I was further from my goal than ever. We waited at least 5 minutes for the elevator to return, went back to the main area of the mall to find Paul Blart, but he was nowhere to be found. I called the number for security and a woman started to direct me to those same elevators. I told her that would not work.

At this point I am getting more than impatient. I knew I could walk back down the auto ramp, but it is just too steep and I really really did not want to do that. I became (shall we say) insistent with her. She finally realized what I was saying and said, "Oh you need Freight elevator #5." Really? There are FIVE of them?

At her direction I went into the deepest bowels of the mall and eventually found Freight elevator # 5 and proceeded downstairs to the car. To my surprise, I was only about 20 yards from the broken elevator. How could I have missed it? Maybe it was the giant sign on the door that says DO NOT ENTER. AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY. How silly of me. Why wouldn't I assume that was the way we were supposed to go.  E X H A L E.

When I got home I went on the Mall's website to give them "feedback". I wrote an impassioned letter noting how often we visit Stonestown and if we didn't know our way around who would? I mentioned that a single sign directing people could have prevented the entire series of unfortunate events. I also suggested a little sensitivity training and perhaps some mall orientation for the laughing security guard who gave us incorrect information.

The feedback did not go through because their website was not working.  REALLY? Undeterred, i googled the name of the general manager of the mall and his email popped up. I sent my letter directly to him. That email came back undeliverable.  I'm starting to understand why things are so screwed up there. I gave up and wrote this.

 I cannot wait for Maggie to ask to go back to the Mall. After a lifetime of hanging out at that Mall, I think it might be time for a change. I'm just not sure how I will convince Maggie of this.


  1. You could NOT make this stuff up if you tried.
    And the laughing when basic rights are violated - when we get that, it is all I can do to remain even remotely polite. It bothers me more than blatant discrimination, I think because it is such a dismissal of our lives as having any value at all, as though we are nothing but the butt of a sick joke.
    It makes me so weary.......

  2. I admire your determination and resourcefulness first in getting Maggie into the mall and then in trying to get the mall management to change. I'm sending you a virtual fist bump and a "you go girl"! Even if you don't get satisfaction from Stonestown Galleria, your blog post serves to educate us all (and to motivate us to make change when we see the need for it).

    It makes me, random stranger on the intranet, want to go give Paul Blart a piece of my own mind, after I write my own angry letter to the mall management...

  3. This might be a nice piece for "7 on Your Side."


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