Throngs and slews and other holiday signposts

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 11/22/19

Despite formidable traffic, navigating our car into the busy parking lot of Southpoint Mall Saturday afternoon was a cinch; no more trouble than falling off a log.

And once easily in, finding a …

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Throngs and slews and other holiday signposts

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Despite formidable traffic, navigating our car into the busy parking lot of Southpoint Mall Saturday afternoon was a cinch; no more trouble than falling off a log.

And once easily in, finding a parking space at the red-hot shopping spot in Durham was effortless, too. We didn’t trouble ourselves looking for a space close to an entrance, choosing the sanity-saving option of sticking to the outer bands instead, where competition for parking wasn’t fierce.

Our car parked well away from the hustle — as well as the bustle — we had to brave a few extra paces on foot in the mid-November wind and chill to reach the mall’s interior, but that was easy, too.

This quick trip — in and out of Southpoint for a couple of quick errands — was going smoothly, so far.

Almost too smooth.

But I could sense a disturbance in the Force.

Scanning the horizon as we walked towards the mall entrance and spying, as we walked, long rows of cars aimed at the exits but stalled going nowhere, I knew that unless something dramatic happened in the moments while we shopped, leaving the mall would be a different experience than getting in.

I thought about those old advertisements for the Roach Motel: “Roaches check in, but they don’t check out.”

Last Saturday afternoon, Southpoint seemed to promise a bit of likewise, but for consumers.

You could get to the mall — parked and situated — with little fuss.

But leaving looked to pose a challenge.

Like Scarlett O’Hara, however, I opted not to tax my mind with that concern, just yet.


First, there were those errands.

And that might have been my first mistake.

To think that anytime during the sweet spot that is November and December you can just park, run in, then run out of a place like Southpoint is itself folly.

I know better.

One December, very close to Christmas Day — a decade or so ago, it was — I spent an hour at Raleigh’s Crabtree Valley Mall and never got out of my car. I drove in, searched in vain for an empty parking space and, never finding one, spent the next 45 minutes in stalled, bumper-to-bumper traffic trying to leave. I swore after that I’d never make such a tactical error again.

So I’ve done this before.

More than a week before Thanksgiving, a holiday which I believe is also known these days as Black Friday, I didn’t expect Southpoint in the waning afternoon to be such a hub of holiday activity; but it was.

Santa was there, seated on his Santa throne and taking visitors. There were even folks, to my surprise, already lining up to plead their cases with him and have their pictures taken with the big man. At this early stage in the Christmas process, Santa looked well-rested, in spite of the aforementioned hustle and bustle, which surrounded his seat in its epicenter.

Meanwhile, throngs of people — or perhaps it was a slew; it was hard to pinpoint in the midst of so many people — went about their mall business.

But we did what we had set out to do, exiting the mall with a couple of bagfuls of the stuff we’d come for, retraced our steps back to our car parked in the periphery, turned on the ignition of the car and then turned our attention to driving home.

For the next half hour, we did very little actual driving. Instead, we sat in our car in one of those long and winding strands of stalled traffic I’d noticed when we’d first arrived. Time had not resolved the earlier traffic problem; if anything, it was worse.

But in situations like this, what can you do except deal with it? Getting upset doesn’t hasten traffic flow, nor does Zen-like calm; but patience helps the nervous system so we patiently waited and eventually — it was dark when we cleared the final traffic hurdle — we were on the road home.

It is, as the song says, beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

And if I were judging by Southpoint on Saturday alone, I’d say it’s beginning to look like Christmas is tomorrow.


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