Category Archives: Navigating crowds

The Mall of America – My Happy Place

twinkly-lights-at-the-mall-of-america

I may not be the luckiest gal in life (points to damaged spinal cord), but I haven’t struck out completely. I live 20 minutes from the biggest mall in the United States – the Mall of America. Oh yes, all of you shopaholics out there be jealous; very, very jealous. This place really is that good.

If you haven’t been here before it’s pretty spectacular. I’ve been going since the mall first opened when I was 12 years old. My dad brought me to the top floor my first time visiting so I could see the indoor amusement park, and it’s been my happy place since; especially after my injury. A lot of things changed after I became paralyzed, but the Mall of America wasn’t one of them.

It’s funny how a giant concrete building full of stores can make me happier than Prozac (I guess that means I would not be happy in North Korea?). The place has so much meaning for me. When I was 17, I would take the bus to the Mall of America with my rehab-mates; newly injured people also looking for a place to forget their problems.

We’d take the number 19, get off and go to the 4th floor to see a movie, then hit up Hooter’s for some wings (yes I was hanging with the guys lol). I even worked at Victoria’s Secret on the first floor while in college.  It was quite the interesting experience selling lingerie as a wheelchair-user, especially in the front room where they put me. Selling bra and panty sets to traveling businessmen for their wives back at home was always movie script-worthy.

And I was there again just last Monday for my up-teenth time; this time to cruise the newest stores before the holiday rush, or shall I say “holiday insanity.” People fly here from all over the world – Europe, Japan, the US – to do their Christmas shopping. It’s a beautiful holiday spectacle, and I know where all the elevators are.

But here’s the deal, I really can’t handle the crowds anymore. I now only go to the mall on Monday mornings, and let me say nothing gets you in the “Christmasey” mood more than going to the Mall of America right now. They have their twinkly lights up, garland up; it’s breathtaking. The whole place feels like a fairy wonderland, and the best part are all the new stores they’ve opened just in time for the holidays.

Tilly’s (a massive skater clothing store from California), A’gaci (a women’s clothing store from the South that has amazing deals on sexy stretchy pants that look great when you can’t walk), Moods of Norway, a free-standing Pink store, Free People, and these are the new ones as of this month. Did I also mention they have the biggest Forever 21 store in the planet, housed in the old Bloomingdale’s? The store is so big it has its own coffee shop. I got lost there once.

If you like shopping, you need to add the Mall of America to your bucket list. As someone who’s been going since it opened, it’s better than ever right now, with more high-end, hard-to-find stores. And the best part there’s no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota, which means all of your clothing purchases are exactly as it says on the price tag.

After returning home from the mall, I unpacked my bags and felt like I had won. There’s nothing like scoring on clothes at your favorite place in the world. $3 and $5 leggings, a $7 “lip” print scarf, sexy off-white stretch pant leggings for $22, a few v-neck long-sleeved tops from Old Navy; it was a good shopping day. I felt pretty and SO excited to get dolled up. I forgot how much escaping to this place can boost my mood.

I will admit though the mall is far from perfect, crowds, materialism at it’s best, but it still holds so many memories that will always warm my soul. Have I spent too much money here? Probably, but I’ll never ever regret it.

Where is your happy place?

Products mentioned

– Stretch pant legging from A’gaci

– Lip print scarf from Wet Seal

– Long-sleeved v-neck tops from Old Navy

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Navigating Crowds from a Wheelchair

There are a lot of things difficult about using a wheelchair – old inaccessible buildings, narrow bathroom stalls, doors that open the wrong way – but one of the most difficult things by far is navigating massive crowds from a wheelchair.  When you’re at butt level, people just don’t see you.

This is the main reason why navigating crowds is so hard. People won’t move when they don’t realize they’re in the way. They need to be alerted they need to move, and that brings up the other issue – getting their attention. When you have limited arm strength like me, as well as a voice that can’t project very loudly, trying to get someone’s attention in a crowd is really hard; especially if the atmosphere is loud (concerts I’m looking at you).

I’ve honed my skills of getting someone’s attention down pat. I do the reach-and-pat-their-leg move, preferably the thigh, to get them to look my way so they realize they are in the way. This generally works 90% of time. There are some people however that just can’t seem to feel might tap. Maybe they have lowered nerve sensation in their legs or maybe their pans are just really tight; whenever it is these people are the ones that give me the biggest headache.

To get the attention of these particularly stubborn people I will then try to get the attention of other people nearby who will shake that person’s shoulder so they finally realize they’re in the way. This works, even if it’s pretty annoying to have to go through these steps. By the way, I do have a horn on my wheelchair, but it’s only a tiny beeping noise, nothing long enough to hear in a booming crowd.  Speaking of, while it’s not my style, some wheelchair-users have found a solution by putting a bullhorn on their wheelchair.  But me, I’m way too shy to be that brash.

I have another solution that works even better than a bullhorn.  I put my wheelchair in elevator mode; an elevated state that brings my chair up 6 1/2 inches, making me sit at about 5’1 and much more visible to the average person who doesn’t think about watching out for wheelchairs (and sadly, most people are this way).  When I’m elevated, people notice me rolling their way at least 40% more.

And if all else fails in getting their attention, a can of silly spray may be your only option. That or bringing a bodyguard with you wherever you hit the throngs.  Sometimes though you can’t always be prepared for crowds, and you have no choice but to go through them solo. When navigating crowds deftly from a wheelchair, look for holes and routes around the thickest part, and try to get behind a moving group to give yourself a better path.  These are just a few of the tricks I’ve learned in my 20 years of using a wheelchair.

Crowds may suck, but super fun events should not be avoided because of them.  Instead, learn how to get through them, have your tricks ready and still get out there. Other then Mardi Gras and a few other crazy big events where you might get trampled, wheelchair-users should always try to venture out and make it through.  Life is an adventure, no one said it’s easy, and the risk, especially when it comes to crowds, is usually always worth it.

What are your tricks for getting through a crowd in a wheelchair?

Products mentioned

– Wheelchair horn

– Wheelchair bullhorn

– Elevator seat from Invacare

Photo courtesy of Luluw

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