I have been preoccupied with more essential things than writing blogs this fall. Today I post a story that happened six years ago on Boxing Day. Needless to say, I am staying at home today.

Even though I have self-righteously not entered a mall in ten years [Oh what bliss!], I inadvertently and against their will dropped my wife and four children off at the biggest mall in the province on the second busiest shopping day of the year.

It all started rather innocently. We wanted to do something together as a family over the Christmas holidays. We have varied interests and it is especially hard to please teenagers, but the one thing we all enjoy is watching movies. Choosing an appropriate movie is difficult since our kids range in age from 8-19. We finally agreed on “Fantastic Mr. Fox” since it was not the usual Disney or Pixar variety and most of the kids had read the Roald Dahl book at some point in the past. Unfortunately, there were only two theatres in Greater Vancouver who were still showing the movie. Also unfortunately, both of these theatres were near large malls. A third misfortune was that it was Sunday, December 26.

We approached the side of the mall where the theatre was supposed to be but saw no sign of it. The traffic was intense and without realization we were swept headlong into the bowels of an underground parking garage like we had never experienced – a vast darkened expanse filled with cars and people scurrying about like maggots on a rotting carcass. The low ceiling, the semi-darkness and the echoing sounds of revving engines, crunching metal, honking horns, and cursing patrons vying for spots caused us some disconcertion bordering on panic as show-time drew near. Finally after driving around in circles for 15 minutes on three different levels of parking I suggested I drop them off to find the theatre and get in line for tickets while I attempt against all odds to secure a legal parking space.

I was tempted a few times to park illegally as many already had, but my sharp rural conscience held me back. Finally after another 15 minutes of driving around in circles I accidentally happened upon the exit and then reasoned that I could park a mile away and run back quicker than I could find a space in this dungeon anyway. Just as I exited, what to my amazement did appear in front of my eyes but a sign that said, “Free theatre parking on the roof-top.” I followed the sign with renewed hope even though show-time was now 10 minutes past, and alas, on the roof there was nary a car! I jumped out of the van and had barely entered the hall when there before me was the movie theatre, but no family in waiting.

I asked the kind student employee if I might enter the theatre to look for my family of five. I walked down the aisle as the main feature was just commencing but there was no sign of my family. I waited and wandered around the entrance to the theatre for another half an hour wondering what great tragedy had befallen my loved ones, but without cell phone [another of my anti-consumerist vows] I was relegated to prayer and worry. Had my youngest son got lost in the mall? Surely the mall wasn’t that big! What had happened? They should have been here a long time already.

Finally 45 minutes after the movie had started my family arrived, bewildered and bedraggled after an hour of wandering through the maze of a crowded mall. My 17 year old son uttered the first words with loud prophetic disgust, “This mall is hell.” [Well spoken my son, at least I won’t have to worry about you asking to hang out at the mall with your friends.] I was in remorse. I had inadvertently but deliberately dropped off my loved ones at the gates of hell. My youngest son was crying because we had now missed half the movie. And it was my eldest son who was the one who temporarily got lost, going on ahead to run interference against the raging mobs. My wife, ever the optimist, says, “Oh, its all part of the adventure.” My daughter retorts, “Not my idea of an adventure!”

How can I ever do penance? I bought them tickets to the next showing and in the meantime we hung out at a fast-food joint for a few hours [more penance needed for that]. Fantastic Mr. Fox was a delight of stop motion animation, and the title character was a bit of a conniving, hypocritical, hen-stealing, cider-guzzling anti-consumerist himself.