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:: Sunday, February 24, 2008 ::

The mall horror show

Over a short discussion on a Sunday afternoon, we decided to go for a movie in the evening. The movie we were looking for was playing in Fun Cinemas at Sigma Mall. We called up and booked tickets over phone. The show was to start at 9.30pm.

I drove to Cunningham road and reached there around 8.45pm. I wasn't too keen to take the car but it was late hours and car was a better option. Having heard of likely parking problems at the mall, I parked outside on the road where I found the first parking space. It was a half kilometer walk to the mall and I made it there at nine. We still had 30 minutes, but I had to pickup the tickets.

I was surprised to see the mall unusually crowded at this hour. There were people all over and hardly any space to walk around freely. The cinema hall was in the fourth floor. I planned to take the escalator but it was narrow and crowded. Besides, I figured there wasn't really any space in the lobby to comfortably go up and down the escalator(oops! no escalators for coming down at all), instead it was fixed besides a wall. And if you want to go all the way in escalator it was many complicated steps.

1. Beat the crowd, fight it out if you have to and find a place in the escalator and get to first floor.
2. Search around for the escalator to continue to second floor. It won't be visible anywhere. Realization comes - you need to get into some shop and emerge from the other side of the shop to find the escalator! This is the time most people abandon the escalator.
3. If you feel strong enough to take the pains to continue repeat steps one and two at each floor to get to the top.

I abandoned the escalator at the ground floor itself and searched for the stairs. Lift was a total no no. Stairs were hidden somewhere at the backside, but fortunately wide enough and spacious. But the crowd was big enough even there, that I had to search for some space for walking up. I slowly walked up to the fourth floor and hoped to find the entrance to the cinema. There isn't one! The only way through the fourth floor was into food court. Searching, I had no choice but to walk into the food court. The food court, not surprisingly is full with people. The chairs are so densely packed and there are so many people that it is a hard job walking through without tripping into a chair or bumping into someone. If you are claustrophobic, this is where you would meet your end.

The worst is yet to come. A narrow passage on the other side of the food court finally leads to the movie hall. I am relived, almost. Someone is checking the tickets at the entry. I walk into her and ask her where should I collect phone booking tickets. She looks at me as though I am a peasant and tells me -

"The ticket counter is at the basement sir".

And that sounds like a bombshell to me. I need to make another adventure to go back to the basement and come back all over again! I am amused at the sheer brilliance of the architects of the mall and the cinema for having the hall at the top floor and ticket counter at the basement. Surely there is some sadism involved. If Howard Roark were to come here, he would have died of shame.

I have no choice. I make my way, again via the claustrophobic food court and the stair case. To my horror, stairs stop at the ground floor and don't continue down to basement! That means you either have to take the lift or cut across using the ramp. Later is the worst of the two devils, so I choose the former. But why should I be worried about the lift? There are reasons for that.

1. There is a long queue of people already waiting for the lift for a long time.
2. I did see a mad rush in and out of the doors when the lift arrives; I feel creepy to be in that rush.
3. Later when I finally make my way into it, I see the sign on the lift reads that it can hold 20 people. But there is floor space for hardly ten; and the actual count of people inside is not a comforting number.

I waited for a good long time to finally manage it into the lift and get to the basement. Then, I had to endure another queue to get my tickets printed. On the way back, the lift scene occurs again, and I have to live with the drama of people rushing in and out at every floor from basement to the top. Finally when I am inside the hall, it is 9.27pm. 27 minutes, is as long it took, just to print my ticket and get into the hall.

After the movie was over, I walked to the basement to say goodbye to my accomplices. I see cars haphazardly parked all over the place and even on the driveway and the ramp as there is not enough parking. It should take the last person anywhere around twenty to thirty minutes to get his car out. I feel good about having parked the car outside, the only feel good moment while I was at the mall, and drive home swearing never to come back.

Later, I remembered an employee from Fun Cinemas whom I know telling me that they are having a tough time getting permission to open the hall there. No wonder it was so. First, the already busy Cunningham road gets clogged during the end of the show; and then there is not sufficient space and parking for everyone. But somehow(you know what 'somehow' usually is) folks from Fun Cinemas seem to have pulled it off.


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