The other night I was at the Livingston Mall returning a handful of Christmas gifts when the lights went out. At first, everyone thought it was a momentary outage and continued on their way. I happened to be in H&M and was heading for the exit when I decided maybe I should stay put until the lights came back on. It could only be a matter of moments, right? Wrong.
I waited near the store’s entrance for about five minutes, fidgeting with my phone, looking through what else I had to return and which store I’d head to next. People didn’t seem too discouraged by the lights being out; they pulled out their phones or pocket flashlights to light their way as they continued shopping.
Initially, I wasn’t fazed by the blackout and figured I would keep on shopping like everyone else. That changed quickly as my mind suddenly reverted back to the recent mall shootings in Oregon and Newport Beach after the lights still hadn’t come back on. Then I got scared. What if someone cut the power and was running through the mall with a gun, targeting holiday shoppers? It was a busy time of year, the mall was packed and crazier things have happened. I decided it was time to leave.
I headed to the nearest exit where my car was parked when I noticed Macy’s was closing its door gates. It seemed strange that they were essentially locking down the store to shoppers which made me even more anxious to get out. Luckily, they were letting customers out (just not in) and I made it safely to my car.
Getting out of the parking lot was horrendous but I knew I was likely safer in my car than the mall. Why did I need to be in a dark mall anyway – there was no power – I couldn’t purchase or return anything, and it was pitch black? As I drove home, I saw at least 10 first responders, from ambulances to firemen to police, speeding toward the mall, igniting my curiosity. I felt anxious, wondering if something was really going down or if the recent craziness of our society made me think a simple power outage was something much more dramatic.
Turns out a transformer blew and the mall closed for two days. There was no shooting, no imminent danger, just loss of power. I felt silly thinking it was something grander and more grotesque than the loss of power, but honestly, going anywhere these days sometimes makes me think twice. With school shootings, movie theater murders and people being gunned down at shopping malls, these type of assumptions are sadly becoming the norm.