Whoever thought it would be a good idea to go to the mall to see a movie on the day after Christmas was kind of an idiot. Oh, I guess that was me. After pulling in to the parking lot and realizing that it was waaaaay more packed than it had been on Black Friday (Yes, I went. Don’t judge.), Husband decided that was a good time to remind me that last year we went to a movie in the morning. And when we walked out of the theater and surveyed the crowd which had gone from “somewhat busy” to “violating fire code insanity,” we had remarked, “Good thing we didn’t wait until 2:00 to come!”
I glanced at my phone: 2:30.
Oh well. We were there, and we managed to find a parking spot. We had already tried to eat at Five Guys with the thought we would go to a later show, but when we couldn’t even get in the door because of the line, we thought we’d see a show first, and eat later. So in we went.
I have never been to Grand Central Station, but I’ve seen it in the movies, and this seemed pretty darn close. Some people waiting in one of several long lines, other people leaning against walls and larger-than-life ads of a cartoon baby in a suit or LEGO Batman and still others just wandering around in circles, staring up at the movie times in red LEDs, muttering to themselves. I looked up at that same movie sign, scanning it for Rogue One, and finally found the 2:50 showing. My joy was quickly dissipated, though, when the 2:50 suddenly changed to the word “FULL.” Crap. So I stood in line for 10 minutes to get tickets for the next showing, all the while wondering what the heck we were going to do in this crowded mall for over an hour and a half.
It’s not like we’re huge shoppers — especially the boys — but couple that with the fact that it was literally difficult to even move through the walkways in between the stores, and the prospect of leisurely shopping at Bath & Body Works or for God’s sake the Apple Store made me feel nauseous. We did, however, have to make an exchange at Hot Topic, so we decided to venture there. But first we had to make it through the food court.
As we tried to weave our way through the people and around the lines, I reverted back to my “mom of little kid” self and couldn’t fight the urge to grab my boys’ hands in the fear that we would get separated and never see each other again. First we walked past Zombie Burger, which had a sizable line, but at least they had organized it, and since it was at the end of the food court, had people standing right next to the wall instead of out in the walkway with everyone else. And everything was going ok — until we came to the hallway for the restrooms.
So many people were spilling out of there, and it seemed to me like they were all moving in fast motion. It was like a hose was turned on and was just spraying these people out. I honestly found myself thinking, “What is going on in there? Are they having some sort of entertainment back by the vending machines and the family restroom?” And of course these people were all swimming against the stream or trying to merge into our lane that was headed out of the food court. It was literally body-to-body contact with perfect strangers. What made it even more challenging was that half of them were also carrying trays — trying not to lose their Potato Ole’s or Mongolian beef and rice.
When we finally reached the end of the food court and could come up for air, at least for a few precious seconds, we shuffled to Hot Topic, just a few stores down. And we entered.
Have you ever been to a Hot Topic store? I don’t know if it’s every Hot Topic or just the one at our mall, but I’m positive it carries the most merchandise per square foot of any other store in the world. T-shirts, skirts, robes, pajamas, keychains, bags, Pop figures, earrings, chokers, lanyards, candy, posters — it’s all there. All jammed together. And to display all this merch, they have to have racks and display cases and shelves everywhere. It was a maze, but with what seemed like only dead ends. We could see the wall of t-shirts that Boy #2 needed to get to in order to pick out a shirt to exchange, but getting there was an entirely other matter. We tried to walk around the Pokemon display — blocked by a tween girl with pigtails and her mom. We tried to squeeze between the “Stranger Things” and Disney Princess racks — blocked again by two guys who seemed way too old to be buying a Pikachu onesie. Finally, after going what seemed to be the longest distance between two points possible, we made it to the wall.
I instantly got dizzy looking up at all of the t-shirts that were displayed clear up to the ceiling. Boy #2 hadn’t decided what he wanted, so we stood there, pressed against the wall and sweating, necks craning, trying to decide between the sloth in space, Edgar Allen Poe on a police bike and pug with laser eyes. Finally, he settled on an Alexander Hamilton one, which I would agree was a good choice considering some of the alternatives.
So here I made the sacrifice moms make, telling Boys #2 and 3 to save themselves as I fought my way to the checkout. Again, taking the most circuitous route possible, I managed to get to the end of one of two lines. There were arrows on the floor that I think were supposed to help us know where the lines began and ended, but they did not seem to actually correlate to anything related to the line or the cash registers, so we all ignored them and just picked a place to stand and wait. After 15 minutes waiting behind another middle-aged mom with glazed-over eyes and her teenage daughter who was buying a hardly-anything-there babydoll top that made me thankful I didn’t have girls, I finally made my even exchange.
When I stepped out of the store, I took a deep breath and also instinctively covered my eyes at the sudden change from dungeon darkness (I’m pretty sure they don’t have any lights in Hot Topic, or if they do, they’re always burned out) to bright mall light. I found Husband and the boys, who appeared to be having just as good of a time as I was, leaned up against the wall between Lids and Orange Julius. At this point, Boys #2 and 3 were starving and didn’t think they could wait until after the movie to eat, so we headed back into the belly of the beast—the food court.
I don’t know how you get when you’re hot and tired, but in our family, we become incapable of making any sort of decision. Such was the case here, and we stood, trying not get knocked over by other hungry people, taking turns saying, “I don’t care” when asked where we should get something to eat. I had to go to my happy place and do some inner self-talk to remind myself that we were having a fun family adventure and so I shouldn’t completely freak out on them. Finally, we went with the shortest line, which was an Italian place that curiously had no line as opposed to the other restaurants that were at least 8 people deep. The thought that it was because the food totally sucked crossed my mind, but at this point I didn’t care. I just needed something to fill my boys up and waste about 40 more minutes of time. Crappy pizza it was.
We actually managed to find a booth without wandering around hunting for 10 minutes. Out of the corner of my eye I spied a family getting up from the table and made a beeline, ready to knock over an old man or small child if I had to in order to secure the seats. (Ok, I wouldn’t really have knocked over innocent people, especially vulnerable ones like old men or toddlers. At least I don’t think I would have.) As we went to sit down, Boy #3 said, “Mom are we really going to sit here? The table’s all dirty and still has people’s trash on it.” Just sit down I said in a guttural voice that emanated from deep within, and I think Boy #3 knew that he probably shouldn’t complain again.
And there we sat, waiting until we could get into our movie at 4:15. We didn’t even chance having the boys get up out of the booth to get napkins for fear of someone else trying to hone in on their seats, so, like the good mom I am, I just told them to wipe off the blobs of pizza sauce on their faces with their hands. “But it’s all over my hands now!” Boy #3 whined. “Just keep rubbing your hands together and it will go away,” I heard myself saying.
Finally it was time. We could get into our theater, where we could at least wait in the comfort of cushiony seats that recline a little and, even though the movie eventually filled up, was still much less crowded and hectic than the rest of the mall. By the time the movie finally started, we had already eaten our popcorn, but we didn’t even care. The movie was really good, and the conversation afterward at Applebee’s, breaking down the scenes over hamburgers and hot-wings-Boy #2-didn’t-realize-were-actually-hot-even-though-they-were-called-hot–wings, was priceless.
I think we’ll do this again next year.