Have you ever visited your local mall, and found it almost deserted, and very dimly lit? This was my experience today and it was distinctly eerie.
Shop doors locked, and in many cases, steel shuttered. Subdued lighting. Very little sound. I’m sure we can all agree that shopping malls are always bright and loud– very noisy, a combo of voices, music, public announcements, clacking heels, shopping trolleys rattling wheels, wailing kids, people yelling into their cell phones because of the noisy surroundings.
But not today. I approached the Help Desk at the entrance and asked the young lady: What’s going on? Where is everybody?
To her credit she managed a small smile, and told me Eskom was load-shedding in their area today. I pointed up at the ceiling lights and said: And these?
Our Generators, she crisply replied. She waved a typed list at me and announced that the businesses on the list would be operational today, despite lack of power. To my relief, I saw the name of my Bank on the list. My primary reason for visiting the mall was to withdraw money. So much for the secondary idea of a leisurely coffee and maybe a sinful slice of cake.
But relief died rapidly when I approached the escalator to reach my First Floor bank. Blocked off. Stationary. No service today due to load shedding. There is no staircase linking ground floor and the banking hall. Okay – so that meant I had to join the crowd of people patiently waiting for the one and only lift. Ummmmm. What if the generator ran out of diesel and marooned us between floors? What if/what if/what if ????
Get a grip, woman! barks my mental sergeant-major. I shuffle into the lift and sardine myself into the last tiny space. Good thing I’m small, hey?
The banking hall was in low light gloom, and almost empty, barring for the two security guards having a happy chat at the other end, oblivious to all else. So absorbed were they, I don’t think a herd of elephants trooping past would have registered.
The bank doors were firmly shut – chained actually, never mind shut! But two ATMs beamed out beacons of light. I nervously inserted my card and went through the cash removal routine, praying that the machine wouldn’t eat my card – I’m due to leave on a three week trip in two days’ time, so this is no time to go ten rounds with the Bank to extract my vanished card. But for once, disaster decided to leave me alone and swooped down on some other hapless person.
I scuttled out of the cavernous, dystopian gloom at speed. I noted, grimly, that despite there being no interior power, the external power was still operating the flippen’ parking ticket machines, exit booms and so on – free parking on a power-down day? Nah. In our dreams.