SM (Shoemart Department stores) are everywhere. In the Philippines, your city is not really a city if you don't have at least one SM Mall. It has been a Philippine beacon of civilization. Sometimes, they spring from one toll exit to another. It makes you think how they just want to build malls maybe because they're bored with their old ones. Nevertheless, I am very thankful because an SM mall is five minutes away from our village. Sure it's smaller and less luxurious than all the other SM malls out there, but it has a huge grocery, sufficient department store, hardware store, restaurants, retail hubs, book stores, pet stores and banks. It's a quick and ready option for us who don't want to go to Makati or Alabang just to eat out and shop.
Last Saturday, I planned to buy a new set of office attires, but I had no mood driving all the way to Makati. The answer? SM. Last Saturday I also planned to treat my family to dinner. I just heard that the Savory restaurant just opened. The answer? SM. My mom wanted to go out and do her grocery shopping. The answer? SM.
It was a no brainer. I went there with my mom, dropped her off at the other building while I did my business at the other side. In less than an hour, I bought a couple of work clothes and sniffed around Booksale. As soon as I stepped out of the department store, I just realized people began piling up at the activity center. Whenever this happens, there's a promo tour of some artist or there's a talent search of whatever. I'm okay with crowds as long as they don't touch me, so I mind my way around. I went in and out of stores to search for other reputable buys when I began hearing loud shrieks of delight coming from the hallways. I guess the artist people were waiting for finally arrived. The saleslady who was supposed to attend to me focused her attention outside her store. By then she lost one possible customer.
The shrieks were getting intense. I went to the other building, bought Savory chickens and asked my mom to hurry up. I went back to the other building, where I parked my car, and bought pizza while scolding myself for not doing this earlier since the crowd was now in full frenzy. After 15 minutes, I got my order and hurried towards the stairs to the parking lot only to find out that it was blocked. I was carrying too many bags and a long walk to the escalators would either kill me or the pizza. It seemed everyone also had the same idea and lined up outside the turtle-paced elevator.
I dashed to the department store, used their escalator to get to the ground floor where the activity center is. In the ground floor, there is a public stairs there leading straight to the parking entrance. When I got to the ground floor my hopes were crushed. Humans became like monkeys clinging on to the bars just to take a peek at the stage. Guards are everywhere to contain the crowd. I looked at the elevator and the line was impossible. The possible exit to the parking lot are the elevator and the stairs that was blocked.
I went to the guard holding a position in the barricade, which was blocking the stairs. The guard politely told me. "Ma'am, di po pwedeng dumaan." Obviously, with the metal railings, no one would be able to go through. I politely said "Kuya, pupunta lang akong parking." I raised my car keys so that he'd know I was telling the truth. Waving my car keys caused effort since I was carrying heavy bags.
"Ma'am di po talaga pwedeng dumaan. Sa elevator po kayo. (Ma'am, you really can't pass through. Take the elevator.)" He began to sound stern. With his choice of words it sounded like he didn't give me any other options.
I tried to look back and hoped to find a thinning line, but it was impossible. It would take me years to get down to the parking lot. I didn't need statistics to figure it out. I was in ground floor, there were two other floors above me that had snake lines of people waiting to get in.
"Kuya, marami po kong dala. Masyadong mahaba ang pila. Di po ba ninyo ako pwedeng padain saglit? Wala pa naman ata yung artista?" (Sir I have so many things with me right now. The lines at the elevator's crazy. Can't you just let me pass for a few minutes before the artist arrives?)"
By that time, I think I was already raising my voice because I felt stares already. That time, another security person in a barong and a walkie talkie approached us.
"Sir, can you just let me pass. I just have to get my car and pick up my mom at the other building who is waiting for me." I pleaded.
"Ma'am, di po pwede, mag-elevator nalang po kayo. (Ma'am, you really can't. Take the elevator.)" The guy wearing the barong said.
Then I lost my cool.
"Kuya, kung mapapansin ninyo, ang haba ng pila sa elevator. It would take me forever to ride that snail-paced thing at ang dami kong dala. My mom is waiting for me at the other building and where else do you want me to go? I'm not going to line up in that thing. Just let me through, I'll go to the parking lot quickly and wag kayong mag-alala. I won't ever think of loitering. I don't even know who's arriving and frankly I don't care. I just need to get to my car."
The guard, with a stern look, opened the metal gate and let me through.
While going down, I felt stares of people at my back. Apparently, I was the only one passing through. I was walking the path where the supposed artists will walk. Nearing the exit, I saw a huge van at the entrance. Frantic audience and fans were at the side of the path waiting for the artists to step out. I think I caused them delay. I was too mad to care. The other ladies even went as far as block the entire path where I had to squeeze myself and the pizza box in, tilting it. Clearly, the deranged fans have the tendency to lose respect and geometrical estimates.
I picked up my mom and she asked me how I did. It turned out we both accomplished what we needed to do, but we were both disappointed and stressed by the crowd control in SM. We realized there's comfort in isolated malls sometimes. We were just lazy to go anywhere else. We realized that there will be days wherein our nearby SM mall would be our savior, but there will be busy days when we have to consider other options especially on moments we want to avoid stress. We love SM, but apparently so do most people.