The fun part of marriage are the odd disconnects that make life interesting or, should we say, challenging. Years ago, for instance, we were shopping at a major suburban mall and I noticed there seemed to be few customers in the mall’s primary store, Lord & Taylor. Glancing at my watch, I saw it was nearing 8:00 pm closing time. Just then, an announcement came over the store’s sound system confirming they were closing and everyone should leave.
Now, I’d never been in a department store so late, but I mentioned to Joan that we’d better get moving. She said she’d only be a minute, so I ambled out of the entrance to wait inside the mall. As expected, within minutes, Lord & Taylor’s store lights began winking out with no Joan in sight. Then, to my great concern, a twenty-foot-high metal security gate began descending from the ceiling but still no Joan. Many other mall stores were also closing and, with few people around, there was an eerie sense of abandonment. She’d always made sure I wasn’t to worry in case she didn’t arrive exactly on time; that she’d be alright. But this fortress-like metal gate was clanking its way half-way down and it was now so dark inside Lord & Taylor that I couldn’t see her in last mad scramble to get out.
As the massive, castle-like gate thudded into position, she rounded a corner and stood there, helpless. We were well and truly separated, with not the slightest clue what to do to extricate her. This was long before cell phones, and I had no idea how to contact Lord & Taylor Security, much less the store’s main offices. Would I have to find someone in the mall and call corporate headquarters somewhere in Georgia? This couldn’t be the only occasion when a customer was trapped inside. Did Lord & Taylor offer sleeping bags and emergency rations in cases like this? Were there any other trapped last minute shopper ladies inside? I’d never inspected the store notices, so maybe Lord & Taylor offered all-night champagne parties that no one knew about, but I wasn’t counting on missing anything.
How can wives who love to shop actually purchase anything when it’s too dark to see and no sales people selling them anything? Was this what drove the beginning of the new age of internet shopping, when they can look at a screen, with no salespeople, and customers don’t get trapped inside? In this case, we finally came upon a security guard that let my wide-eyed wife escape. Seeing her tiny, at first clinging in desperation to the wrong side of the bars, her release reminded me of a cuddly thing being coaxed from behind a zoo cage enclosure. We were overjoyed at reuniting, promising such a separation would never happen again.
Of course, the next time we were abruptly scary-separated, we were schlepping two, very large, roll-around suitcases and a smaller version through downtown Portland, Oregon’s streets, trying to catch a rail-car to the airport. It was misting rain, what else, and we weren’t really dressed for the weather. An automatically-operating inter-urban rail train finally arrived, the doors opened, and I began lifting our two, huge, overweight suitcases up into the interior while Joan waited momentarily with the smaller roll-around on the curb.
While I was still struggling with the two pieces, the doors began closing. Before I could locate and push a button to stop the entire process, the train began moving. Joan was still standing, wide-eyed, curbside in Portland’s ever-lasting mist. What to do? Semi-scary panic time. I wasn’t sure where, exactly, to get off. Joan had our airline tickets and I wasn’t even sure what airline we were taking or what terminal to use. Neither of us had cell phones at the time so, should I get off somewhere between the last stop and Portland International, or guess what Joan would do?
I decided the best thing was to get off as soon as possible, still struggling with the two suitcases, wondering how to return to the previous train stop to meet her again. But now it wasn’t obvious where the opposite direction line was located. How much time did we have before the flight left, I had no idea, but we were well and truly disconnected without a backup plan.
Saving us both, the next automatic rail-car arrived with Joan on it before a train in the opposite direction hove into view. She was waving wildly, hanging onto her smaller roll-around, and a passenger pole, which takes three hands if you’re counting. Practically tossing the suitcases inside, I clambered aboard in record time. Greeting each other again after only minutes of separation, throwing our arms around each other, was like Stanley meeting Livingston in the deepest African jungle.