The Heart of Darkness

Interesting lunch today…

One of the (annoyingly) few places to grab lunch near my office is the food court in the mall, which is where I headed around noon. I walked to a food vestibule in the middle of the court, which serves sandwiches and drinks, as well as has an assortment of pastries (cakes, doughnuts, etc.). I never, in many month visiting the food court, have ever seen any one go here to get lunch. Those pastries have probably been sitting there for ever (although they do look delicious, but that may just be the petrification process), their picture of a roast beef sandwich apparently promises multicolored meat, and the attendants barely speak English. However, their prices are decent, and I kinda feel bad for them each time I pass and head staight to Chick-Filet. So every so often I drop by to place an order, such as today.

To amuse myself, I try to guess ahead of time what is missing or what will be screwed up beforehand. Last time when I asked for a sandwich, the told me they only had croissants, and no other bread in any form. It certainly couldn’t have been because they ran out, but I guess perhaps a health inspection had just cleared out the stock. So today I asked the young girl (shouldn’t she be in school?) behind the counter for the Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich. She promptly responds that they do not have that sandwich, and gesturing at what amounts to any hot sandwich and specialities, replies “We do not have any of these.” 5 points for me. I finally settle on a chicken salad sandwich (they couldn’t possibly screw that up, right?), and after adamently declining her request to put it on a croissant but rather on a sub roll – 5 points for her – I asked to turn this meal into a combo option (chips and a drink). I asked for a Mountain Dew, but it turns out their machine was out of order. 5 points for me again. So I grab a can of Pepsi, and ask what chips they have. She promptly hands over a bag of regular Lays chips and with a slight motion of her hand insisted that was all that was left. Great. Game Set Match for me.

It turns out I didn’t have much of the appetite (whether it was the ambiance or the sandwich I’m not sure) so I threw out my sandwich after chomping about three quarters of it down and headed to bookstore hoping to come across something interesting and salvage my lunch hour experience. All of a sudden, while flipping through a copy of Outside magazine, I heard a low whirr and the store turned pitch black. Everyone kinda stared at each other with a curious expression on their face, not knowing what was going on. It had been raining earlier, so I thought that perhaps it was a power surge, and half-expected the lights to flicker on any second so I could finish my article on Top Ten Must-Have Gear for the Summer. Some people started filing out, but others didn’t quite know what to make of the situation, and just stood there trying to read in the dark. It was as if the bookstore had suddenly transformed into a cave and my fellow cavemen were silently precociously flipping through their Money magazines wondering how to reconfigure their retirement funds.

I wandered out of the store only to discover to my astonishment that all the power had been lost in the entire mall – no emergency lights or anything. If it hadn’t been for the skylight windows, the place wouldn’t have had any light at all. I immediately saw that the other people had no clue what to do either. The Starbucks next door had a line of people waiting for coffee, only their lattes and mochas were half done, sitting in their queue, their stream of ingredients interrupted by the sudden power outage. They too stared dumbfounded, having already paid for their obligatory caffeine fix and unable to move on without a cup of joe in their hands. I imagine if this was a terrorist strike they still would have held their ground. The Panera Bread next door was silent, its buzzers unable to alert its customers that their only half-baked paninis were ready. I swung open the doors to the streets outside, only to find that the traffic lights had been hampered as well, and cars no idea who had the right of way without trusting select colors flashing before them. Seriously, it was as God had pulled the plug, just to watch the world stand still from its commotion for just one second.

I walked into by building lobby, thinking that this was a local issue, but three men with walkie talkies were scurrying about, and after the elevator did not respond to my command, I was ushered into the freight elevator (which works in emergencies – good to know I was spared the 12 flights of stairs!). As I stepped out on my floor and one of these men followed me out, it became apparent that certain individuals were trapped indside the normal elevator shafts, unsuspectingly caught by the outage. The man began banging the elevator doors, and we heard muffled sounds from the other side. However, there are six elevators, three on a side, and it wasn’t clear where they were coming from. For a second I was confused what to do, but then decided to help. Working together we finally located the correct elevator, using the very artful combination of shouting and banging on doors. The man radioed for more help (his tactic of using his bare hands to open the doors did not work, much to my amusment), and I headed back towards my cubicle.

Amazingly, everyone was still at work, typing away in front of their glowing computer screens. As the door closed behind me, I could feel that surreal world of just moment ago slipping away, and the mundane seeping into me again. The slim hope that our computers were down vanished, and I made my way back to my cubicle.

“What was that noise? Did you hear something?” asked a teammate as I passed his cube to sit down.

“No idea,” I replied, shrugged, and nestled into my desk chair.

I guess you just had to be there.

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