It started out as a perfectly normal day. I had to drive to Menlyn Park Mall to run some errands. I had to fax a certified copy of my ID to my mom, deposit money into my bank account, and buy a hard drive to store my stuff on. I also wanted to catch a movie. Simple enough, right? Anyone can do that. Anyone…
I got into my car and I started driving. And that’s when the pressure started. There is a person who stands and begs at the traffic light where I leave my suburb. I say person, because I don’t really know what their gender is. Anyway, as the light turned green, someone offered this person money and the person ran towards the car. I got a fright and almost screamed; “Hey, lady/man/person! I almost hit you with my car!” Of course I didn’t do that, because most of my outbursts are inward and silent.
As I drove, it got worse. It’s Friday, and on Fridays everyone decides that they want to drive. I haven’t even been driving for a year, so I still tend to get a bit nervous when I drive with a large group of cars. At the point where I have to turn, the light was just turning orange for the oncoming traffic, but I wasn’t sure that they would stop, so I hesitated, causing my car to stall. People started honking on their horns and I panicked, trying to get the damn car to start. When it finally did start, it lunged forward, almost crashing into an old man driving in a red Golf. I finally managed to drive away, wishing that the ground would open and swallow me with car and all. I sighed a sigh of relief… and realized that I was in the wrong lane. The wrong lane! I couldn’t go into the right lane, because there wasn’t space, so I had to stay in that lane and turn. After eventually finding a traffic circle, I turned around and went back to the mall. I drove in, got the ticket, and drove to the next boom. I didn’t notice that the boom was already up and stuck because another car had driven in before me. I stopped and tried to put the ticket in, when the parking attendant shouted; “Go! Go! Go!” as if I was the biggest idiot in the world. And it wasn’t that there was anyone behind me, so I don’t know why he reacted that way. Anyway, I got a fright and stalled the car… again. After swearing and struggling, I got it to start again and drove in. The parking at this mall is always a nightmare and today was no different. Almost all the spaces were taken. Large parts are also camped off for construction. After driving around, I finally found a parking space. It was, as all mall parking spaces seem to be these days, incredibly narrow and I struggled to get my car in between the lines. After finally parking the car, I sat and sighed. Driving in South Africa is its own horror story. Surely going into the mall would be easy compared to all of this, right?
I walked into the mall and went straight to the internet shop. I walked in and stood at the counter. And I stood. After a while, I began to wonder if the person working there was even in the shop, but then she finally appeared. She was helping some person who apparently didn’t know how to use the internet. When I explained to the girl that I wanted to send a fax it became pretty clear to me that she was even more nervous than me. While she was helping me, a few other people came in and waited. The one old man got impatient and walked out. The girl panicked and shouted; “Sir! Sir!” to no avail. After the fax was sent and I paid (R8.00! Can you believe this?), I walked out of the shop. When I looked at the copy of the fax I wanted to punch a wall. There was no way that anyone would be able to see my face, because it was so dark. I realized that I didn’t have the patience to go back into that shop and stand in line, and the girl would probably burst into tears, so I decided that I would post it later.
After all this irritation, I decided that I would first go to the movies before I did anything else. I thought that this would calm me down, but it turns out that this is where the shit really hit the fan. I went to one of the self service ticket machines, which I knew would be a mistake. The ticket machines in Menlyn never work, but I know that it is preferred for customers to buy there, and I’d rather work with a machine than another rude cashier. I went through all the instructions and bought the ticket. And of course, after I paid for the ticket, it didn’t print. I wanted to kick the screen in. Why are these things here if they never work? I walked to the cashier and explained what had happened. Fortunately he wasn’t rude and printed the ticket and receipt (or so it seemed) and gave it to me. I proceeded to buy overpriced popcorn and Coke and went through to the cinema. I handed the man at the entrance the ticket (or what seemed to me to be the ticket). He looked at it for a moment and said flatly; “This is a receipt. It’s not a ticket.” I immediately felt my blood beginning to boil at his tone, but said as calmly as I could; “This is what the cashier gave me.” “No!” He snapped. “This is just a receipt. I want the receipt and the ticket.”
I knew that I had given him exactly what was given to me, but I put down my stuff and looked in my bag. And of course it wasn’t there. “Did you throw it away?” he asked in his aggressive tone, and I almost said why the fuck would I do that? But I simply said no. I realized that he wasn’t going to budge and he was getting more and more aggressive, so I decided to turn around and look if I had not perhaps dropped the ticket somewhere. I checked the places I had been, but it wasn’t there. I put my stuff on the table where they put salt for the popcorn and looked through my bag again. But like I knew it would be, there was nothing. Two girls stood at the table trying to decide what seasoning they wanted. I know that probably no one was watching me at that moment, but it suddenly felt like everyone was staring at me and finally my anxiety reached a point that I couldn’t handle anymore. It felt like someone had clasped their hand around my throat and was squeezing the last bit of life out of me. I felt like screaming; Fuck this shit! Fuck you all! Why are all you people so NORMAL? And why are the rest of you so RUDE? Screw you and your stupid movies!
I rushed away and realized that it looked weird that I was leaving the cinema with a full box of popcorn, so without even touching the popcorn, I threw it all in the trash. I considered doing the same thing to the Coke, but my mouth was so dry from anxiety and rage that I decided to keep it. Besides, I paid a shitload of money for it. I found a bench to sit on and just sat there drinking the Coke and trying to calm down. In hindsight I guess that wasn’t such a good idea, because caffeine and sugar don’t go well with anxiety. All I wanted to do at that very moment was get in my car and go home, but I had already decided that I didn’t ever want to go back to this mall unless I absolutely had to, so I deposited the money and bought the hard drive. Perhaps I was also trying to buy time because I wasn’t looking forward to going back into all that traffic filled with people who want to stab me in my face and burn me alive because I’m only driving the speed limit. But I finally got what I needed and left (after searching forever to find my car, because the parking is a bloody maze).
When I got home, I sat in my car for a long time. At first I was just playing music, and after a while I switched the music off and sat there in silence. Small droplets of rain started to trickle onto the windscreen. The rain always use to calm me, but now that I have a car it terrifies me because I’m scared that gigantic hailstones will fall from the sky and smash my car to smithereens. I also hate driving in the rain. Fortunately I wasn’t driving and the rain was soft.
The truth is that everything makes me anxious these days. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and stress, but every now and then it reaches a boiling point and I feel like I’m drowning. Yes, perhaps if those people weren’t assholes and everything at the mall worked perfectly I might not have freaked out like I did. But some people are simply assholes and they will die that way. I suppose that with hundreds of shops, it’s impossible for a mall to run perfectly smooth, but what do they care anyway? It’s not like they have competition. They are still going to make their money, whether I go there or not. Because that’s the way life works. It goes on, whether you are out there struggling and cursing your way through it, or whether you are sitting alone in your car in the rain.
And no one will notice if you don’t show up.