When I first became disabled, it took some time to get socially adjusted. Before going out somewhere, I had to consider scenarios I never had to before.
Does the location I’m going to have steps? If so, do they have a wheelchair ramp? I know they have an escalator, but do they have an elevator?
I’m a big fan of movies. A good movie can tell a story so well you feel as if you are a character within it. And storytelling is something I enjoy on the telling end and the listening end.
Sometime in the first year I was injured, my sister and I went to the movies for a Sunday matinee. When we arrived, the mall the movie theater was in was open. When the movie was over, however, the mall was closed. It was Sunday, so it closed earlier than usual.
This posed a problem. We had parked on the opposite end of the mall from where the theaters were because we did some shopping before the movie.
There was an exit available for people leaving the theater after mall hours, but we couldn’t use it because it was too far away from our car.
We were literally parked on the other side of a very large mall. Walking around the mall via the parking lot would have been extremely long but possible.
With my wheelchair, however, we were in trouble. Parts of the parking lot had landscaped areas my wheelchair simply couldn’t get through.
We snuck through the security barricade, meant to stop people leaving the theater from wandering the empty mall and began wandering the empty mall! We were looking for a way out.
Every single store was closed. Even the anchor stores like JCPenney, Sears and Macys were locked up like Fort Knox. We were simply looking for an exit, closer to the car. It was looking as if we were screwed.
We decided to walk back to the theater exit. My sister would have to take the long walk to the car alone and drive it to the entrance where I would be.
We had to walk the entire length of the mall inside again. Just when we were approaching the hallway to the movie theaters, we encountered a gate, floor to ceiling. It was late enough that the theater area was now closed.
In the beginning of all this, we were hoping to not meet up with a security guard. Now, we prayed for one. We didn’t care about getting in trouble… We just wanted out!
We started wandering back through the mall, looking for any type of exit, or something that looked like it could lead to an exit.
Toward the end of the mall, on the opposite end of the theaters, we came across a hallway. I had noticed it before, but thought it led to public bathrooms or mall offices. We walked down it to investigate.
We came upon a freight elevator. It was huge. But as best we could figure, if it opened to the parking lot, we would be able to get to our car.
We looked at each other and hit the silver button next to the door. I was shocked when it opened. It was completely filthy, and you could have easily fit a few cars in it. But it was a possible way out.
We got in. Before we pushed the button to close the door, it occurred to us we could possibly get stuck in here, or worse. We had no idea how often the freight elevator was used or if it went to a basement or storage area of the mall, dark and dirty, just like the ghastly thing we were in.
We closed the door and pushed the only other button there was. We held our breath as the massive elevator started moving. It was so big, I couldn’t tell if we were going up or down. Due to the location we thought we were in, we prayed for down.
It stopped and the doors opened to outside. In the empty parking lot, we could see our car. It was a long walk away, but it was a flat one. Hallelujah!
If you have a disability or a special need of any kind, a little planning goes a long way. I’m all for spontaneity, but I also don’t relish having to use a freight elevator littered with banana peels and industrial garbage bags to leave the movies.