Botched Attempt at Connecting

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

June 22nd, 2009 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

This post is a continuation of In Search of Good Friendship and Shoes.

The trip to the mall turned out to be somewhat akin to a slapstick comedy. For starters, the directions that Grace gave me from MapQuest said to turn right off the exit ramp onto H Avenue, then make a U-turn at C Street, to go back in the opposite direction on H Avenue for 1/10 of a mile, at which point I would see Macy’s.

“Why don’t the directions just have me turn left at the exit?”  I wondered aloud to Grace.  Together, we decided it must be impossible to turn left off the exit ramp. Regardless, I had the impression, and it seemed Grace did too, that the mall was right off of the freeway.

So when I exited the freeway ramp and did not see C Street right away, I figured that MapQuest was having me drive unnecessarily far. I made a U-turn at the first possible opportunity and drove east on H Avenue, looking for the mall on my right.  After I had driven one mile, I realized that the mall must not have been as close to the freeway as I had thought.

So I made another U-turn and drove west on Mall Avenue, looking for C Street.  A few miles later, I still had not seen C Street, but I did see Macy’s in the big mall – on my right, not on the opposite side of the street, where it was supposed to be. I figured that, despite my vouching for the accuracy of MapQuest, it must have been mistaken this time.

I contemplated parking my car in a handicapped space, being that my ankle was not feeling 100%. I don’t like to park in handicapped spaces unless I am absolutely in need, however, so I parked in the first space I found, about a 3-5 minute walk from the store, and headed inside.

I called Grace on my way up to the second floor bathroom.  She said she would meet me there.  I waited around for a while then phoned her.  She said she’d been looking for me and calling my name, and that she had since gone over the designer shoe department.  I told her I would meet her there.

As I headed down to the shoe department, my ankle started to really hurt, and I regretted not having an ankle brace on me. I figured I could ask Grace to help out by picking one up from a drugstore that was sure to be in the mall.

When I got to the shoe department, there was no sign of Grace.  There were, however, many “comfort fashion” shoes, although not the brand I was looking for.  So Grace and I figured that we were in the two different Macy’s in the same mall.  But when she went to the other shoe department and did not see me, we asked sales clerks about the name of our respective malls and realized that we were in two different locations.

As we tried to figure out who would go where, Grace informed me that her cell phone battery was about to die. Because of my ankle pain (but without telling her the reason), I asked Grace if she would come to my mall. She said that her car was parked in the wrong place, apparently far away from where she was. I didn’t anticipate it would be a big stress on my ankle to go to her, as the sales clerk made it seem nearby and easy. So I went.

There was a lot of traffic on the street, and being that I have a manual car, the clutch action really did in my ankle. Meanwhile, H Avenue turned out to chock full of strip malls for several miles, so I had to scour the signs regularly, to see if Macy’s was in each particular mall. I finally reached the one I was looking for. By the time I parked (in the handicapped space this time), I had to limp in pain to get into Macy’s.

I asked the sales clerk whether their shoe department upstairs had designer shoes or lower-end shoes, to gauge which location I was in. She kept telling me that the shoe department on the second floor was the only shoe department. “There are two Macy’s in this mall, right?”  I asked.  “Yes,” she said.  “Does your shoe department have designer shoes?”  “Yes,” she said. “Okay I’m in the wrong place.”

I explained the situation to the sales clerk — including the parts about how Grace’s phone was dead, how my own phone was about to die, and how my ankle was killing me, so I couldn’t go running around anymore.  I asked the sales clerk if she could call the shoe department at the other mall and ask them to page Grace. 

There was a bit of drama around the phone call, as the sales clerk did not have the number, but she was very accommodating and got the information. After being on hold for a while, the sales clerk informed me that they would not page Grace, because they only page in instances of lost children. 

I asked to speak with the representative on the phone and explained the situation again.  “Since you can’t page my friend, can you call her name and see if she responds ?” “No,” the representative said. “Can you at least look around your department and see if there is a petite, redheaded, white woman there?”  The representative looked around but did not see Grace.  At that point, it had been well over half an hour since I had left the other mall; and I did not know where Grace might be.

I used the last juice on my cell phone to text Grace and leave a message on her voicemail, in case she turned on the phone for a minute or used another phone to check her voicemail.  I then drove all around, trying to find the other Macy’s, which ended up involving crossing a busy street that ran through the middle of the mall.  (Who designed this place?)

Finally, I found the second Macy’s.  Even parking in a handicapped space, however, I knew I would not make it.  Macy’s was on the second floor, back away from the parking lot. Initially I contemplated trying to push myself, but the pain in my ankle was too intense.  I just couldn’t do it.

So I drove back to a restaurant I had seen, thinking that I could use their phone to call and leave Grace another message that I would wait for her there.  At the restaurant, however, all the handicapped spaces were taken; and the other spaces were just too far away for me to make it. 

It been almost two hours since I had arrived in the area; my ankle was shot; and I was exhausted and frustrated.  So I accepted that I had done everything I could and began making my way home.

On the way back to the freeway, I saw a Verizon dealer and stopped to get a car charger for my phone.  After I gave it a few minutes to juice, I called to leave a message on Grace’s voicemail, just to let her know that I was leaving.  Miraculously, she picked up. I was excited and immediately moved into the left lane, to make a U-turn and go back to the mall.

While waiting for the light to turn green, I told Grace about the situation with my ankle and said that while I could not go shopping with her, we could meet up at a restaurant in the mall and have dinner (being that it was already 6:00 p.m.) I figured that she could shop after dinner, being that Macy’s was open until 11:00 p.m.

I said that I was in the left turn lane, making a U-turn to come and meet her. Grace responded that she had “stuff to do” – ie, that she wanted to buy things. “Can we reschedule?” she asked.

You are fucking kidding me.

Although my feelings were hurt, I expressed that I wanted to at least hang out a little bit, considering the effort we had made to get together.  “I waited in the shoe department for an hour,” Grace whined in response. (Oh, how I would have loved to be the one waiting in the shoe department!) ”It’s not like I was hanging out somewhere,” I said. “I was running around trying to find you, even with my ankle killing me.”  “Well you’re the one who went to the wrong mall,” she said in a blaming tone.

Again: You are fucking kidding me.

“Forget it,” I said.  “I’m going home.” With that, I hung up and tried to get back into the stream of traffic heading toward the freeway.  Nobody would let me in for a while, and I ended up stuck in the middle of the intersection, with cars whizzing past me in either direction. Then I was not only upset but also scared. To top matters off, I got onto the freeway, only to find that it was jam-packed — meaning lots of fun clutch action for my ankle.

Fortunately, I managed to get all the way back home with very little use of the clutch.  I was also grateful that it was still daylight, so I did not have to deal with the eye pain I get from headlights.

As I hobbled up the three flights of stairs to my apartment, I felt exhausted on every level, hurt and angry about what had happened, depressed about how this botched attempt at connecting just made me feel more isolated, and anxious about how long this round of ankle pain would last and how bad it would be. Could I do my laundry ?  Shop for food? could I even get around my apartment, being that the pain was so intense?

On top of this anxiety was the disappointment that over the next few days, Grace did not try to talk or just see if my ankle was doing OK. I emailed her today and let her know how the whole incident let me feel.

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