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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Evacuated: Elise, Me, and Chip Chip

photo by LEZLIE STERLING / lsterling@sacbee.com

Elise and I were evacuated from the Roseville Galleria last night. We were waiting in the line to see Santa when an announcement came over the intercom, "This is the Roseville Fire Department. The mall is now closed. Please calmly make your way towards the nearest exit."

This compilation of photos at the SacBee shows exactly what we experienced. I saw the man standing on the counter. I saw the people with musical papers standing all around. But instead of a "Random act of musical kindness," what they actually did was cost the city hundreds of dollars, and cause an evacuation that scared the bejesus out of my kid. Plus, she didn't even get to see Santa; and she was waiting, patiently, for over an hour to see him.

The first sign of trouble was when we heard a loud bang above us as we came out of the Apple Store. (Don't worry, my husband doesn't read my posts, so he won't know I was shopping for him there :-)

The sound of the bang did vibrate through the floor below to where we were standing and I heard people scream. But I looked up and no one looked scared or worried behind the glass walls.  I figured it was a display case that fell over or something and we went on our way to see Santa. Then, again another loud bang, another vibration on the floor we were on. But once again, everyone looked calm on the top floor so I decided to stay put.

While standing in line I noticed a man standing in front of the escalator blocking people from going upstairs. Similarly, the man standing in front of the elevator was discouraging people from going up there as well. I was trying to read their lips and what I could gather was there were too many people upstairs and they were to try and get people to go downstairs instead.

I never saw a "flash mob" of people but it was suddely very busy at the mall. I did tell Elise, "honey, let's come back tomorrow." "Nooooo!" she begged. "Please, I know just what I'm going to ask him for." She was being such a good girl, playing with her little toy squirrel, Chip-Chip. I caved. We stayed and the rest is history.

Over by Santa there was just an orderly line of folks waiting, a few families eating popcorn, and kids starting to get ancy. But when we were evacuated, I had two choices. Our car was on the top floor of the parking structure next to Macys. But because of the fire back in October, there is a narrow tunnel that we would have to walk through to get to our car. And that's if were were brave enough to go upstairs, which I knew from reading the mall employee's lips was too full of people. There was no way I was going to risk my daughter being trampled in that tunnel.

The second choice was to walk towards the courtyard where Ruths Chris is located. That's what we did. As we made our way to the door I saw the "flash mob". There were thousands of people gathered under the food court. A man in a blue shirt was telling the crowd a joke. Although I didn't hear what he said, everyone laughed.

Once outside, I sat Elise down on a cold brick bench and decided we would wait until the crowd dispersed and then try to find our car. Luckily, my new SmartPhone has a "Where's my Car" app that I had enabled. From GoogleMaps I could see that we were on the opposite side of the mall from our car. I was scared that with all the commotion, we'd be hit by a car trying to scale along the perimeter of the mall to find our car.

Plus, Elise was hungry and thirsty. The jovial crowd began to fill up all around us. Holding musical notes in their hands, a shushing sound filled the air. The crowd hushed, all except for Elise, who was now crying, and shivering and begging to go home. Not even Chip-Chip could make her happy.

 Was I scared? Yes, to say the least. I hate being in crowds and as a mother, there's that instinct that put me on high alert to protect my daughter. Although the crowd was in a good mood, all it would take would be one panicky scream, or a few people to start running and it would be over.

They began to sing "oh, come let us adore him". At the time, I was grateful because the singing calmed the crowd and I was worried that we could get trampled. Despite the fact that the singing was lovely, I pulled Elise out of there. Just as we left, a police helicopter flew above us saying we must leave for our own safety. The crowd thought this was funny. They were waving and cheering. But not me, I was out-a-there. Following the map, after a long trek through mall bushes and shrubs we made it to the stairs that lead to our car.

That's when I got an email from News10 that said the mall was evacuated due to a "flash mob" of people and that the walls may have cracked. Cars were lined up for miles trying to get out of the mall. People were waiting in their cars, standing around to wait out the line, turning off their cars and waiting.

"Come on, honey. Let's go find a restaurant to eat dinner at," I said.

Using my Navigator, I told it we were walking and it took us to the crosswalk and we made it to Red Robins. The wait wasn't even too long. The two of us, I mean three including Chip-Chip, warmed up and filled our tummies before walking back to our car and being able to leave the mall in peace.

What a night. All I have to say is, although the idea was nice, "A random act of musical kindness," it felt more like a random act of stupidity. Next time, don't try and meet on the second floor of a busy mall full of children and families. We are all lucky that no one was seriously hurt.

Was our night ruined? No. But it sure was a lot more difficult than it should have been.

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