Let’s review what I have in common with Lucille Ball: red hair, no. Comic genius, no. Extraordinary Hollywood and television success, no and no. Now let’s see what I share with Lucy Ricardo: a penchant for putting myself in sticky situations, yes. The ability to take an awkward situation and somehow make it even worse, yup. The knack for getting myself into trouble over what seemed like a really good idea at the time — ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.
Close-up of me browsing through your typical store — clothing, cosmetics, cute shoes. After about a half hour, I decide that nothing piques my interest and make for the exit. And here we go.
Like lots of stores, this one has two sets of automatic sliding doors (one set for entry, one for exit), with a vestibule between each pair. Here I am, nonchalantly strolling up to the first exit door, which obediently slides open and allows me into the vestibule, closing behind me. I then approach the second exit door and … nothing. It doesn’t move. I do a bit of fancy footwork in front of it, thinking that I can trick it into opening. Again, nothing.
Okay, I’ll go back the other way. Except that now I’m trying to enter the exit door, which will not open because, let’s face it, you can’t enter an exit door. It’s in the door rule book (as opposed to the one about a window opening when a door closes, which apparently is not).
Stuck in the middle, I signal for assistance by waving at the first person I see. Good news, he walks up to the door to try it out. Bad news, now even the door leading from store to vestibule won’t open. He waves back at me with a smile, mouthing the words, “Door’s broken.”
Yeah, got that.
Worse news, he strolls over to the other set of doors (the entry doors), waits for someone to enter from outside, and leaves the store, and me, behind. Now I’m the one mouthing words. Loudly. But no one hears you when you scream in outer space — or in an inner vestibule.
Attempting to mime (read gesticulate wildly) that I’m trapped and need to get out this place, which is becoming smaller by the second, only results in a couple of eight-year-olds imitating me and laughing hysterically.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. The only thing separating me from the entry doors just to my left is a set of metal rails with a narrow opening between each. If I can squeeze through one of those openings, I can make it out the in doorway. But no. For one blinding moment, my left leg (and I have slim legs) gets caught. I now have visions of having to gnaw off my own leg in order to escape the purgatory of what has become a shopping hell. Somehow, I manage to slide my leg back out — but I’m still stuck waiting for Godot.
Next idea: I try calling the store to plead for help. Thinking this is a genius plan, I finally get a hold on my mounting concern that I may never see freedom again — until I get put on hold listening to bad, bad elevator music interrupted at times by a voice telling me that my call is very important to the store and please not to hang up. I hang up.
And then I see it. A space beneath the aforementioned metal bars that looks just big enough to squirm under. Here goes. Flat on my tummy, inch by inch, I begin to wriggle through to the promised land. I can almost taste victory when — ding, ding, ding! — the store alarm goes off. Apparently, the metal bars are a security sensor and, even though I have no store merchandise on me, moving under them like that causes an uproar.
In two seconds flat, the broken doors are miraculously wrenched open manually and a young security guard the size of the Titanic rushes over to me and asks what it is I think I’m doing. Doing a reverse crawl, I stand up, dust myself off, and regroup. I have had it.
“I am,” I say in my haughtiest tone, “attempting to leave this store. Although,” and here I pull myself up to my full (short) height and glare at him, “it appears that while I can check out any time I like, I can never leave.” He looks at me, puzzled, and I realize that paraphrasing the Eagles lyrics a) means nothing to this kid and, b) is probably about to land me an even longer delay in getting out of there. Except. Except.
Except that Mr. Security (actually a very nice guy named Rick — no joke) is a big Eagles fan (his dad was a roadie back in the day). So much so that my response elicits a snort, followed by a laugh, followed by an all-out Joe Walsh air-guitar tribute. When I get the chance to explain my mishap, he immediately apologizes for any inconvenience, escorts me directly to the manager, and waits until he is sure that I am unhurt and that I have been compensated for my troubles with a very generous store gift card. And then he personally escorts me out of the store, as I do my happy dance.
I love Lucy. Ricky loves the Eagles. And I can’t wait to use my gift card — online.
Talk about an exit strategy.
ⓒ 2019 Claudia Grossman