Last Wednesday, on what is a weekly fare-free day on Ottawa’s transit system, I headed out to a suburban mall, Place d’Orleans. It took two buses, the second plying the ‘transitway,’ our buses-only mini-freeway that parallels the only east-west freeway in this national capital of 1.25 million. Thankfully, I took along a book to read on the bus. I say, thankfully, because I needed it for killing more time that the ride.
I noticed, when I alit, that the pavement everywhere was wet. When I got inside, there was a dreary look to everything. There were people standing and sitting, talking to each other, but there was nothing else going on. And it was rather dark.
I started my walk to the shop I had planned to visit first, but noticed that most shops were closed; and all spaces were dark — no overhead lighting. When I passed the food court, I saw most places open, and stopped at the A&W counter to ask what was up. “The power went down during that thunderstorm about 10 minutes ago. Since I had been walking for five minutes, it means that the power went off just as I had arrived.
A later stop at the info desk got me more info: the problem was elsewhere, but not far away, as no other malls or commercial areas were affected. I decided to hang around till the power was restored.
I walked some more at first. I found the Bay store, one of the two ‘anchors,’ to be open. That meant having power for both lighting and for their point-of-sale machinery. Then I headed to the opposite end of the mall to the other anchor, Zellers, that I had planned as stop #2, thinking it, too, might have planned for this, and also installed emergency power (as the mall had for all washrooms and other public-area corridors). But Zellers was down, too.
I then sat at one of the many benches that sat under one of the many skylights, and read from an odd 1929 book, The Life of the Automobile, by a Russian, Ilya Ehrenburg. It was written by a Parisien resident, in Russian, translated into German for publication i 1929, and finally translated in 1967 into English. Despite its obscurity, it is about a popular target that is written about all too often. I expected to be reading a novel, but I found it to be a series of chapters on different aspects of the automobile’s then-current history (roads, gasoline, the stock market, tires, and two ‘lions’ of the industry: Henry Ford and Andre Citroen). Although mostly non-fiction, the author admits to making up some content to make it more interesting and tgo fill in gaps in his effort to use many quotes and anecdotes.
Anyway, after an hour of walking and reading, my expectations that the investment in time would be repaid with a short hydro-repair time was realized. However, although the two stores opened promptly and the aisles were wide-open, I didn’t find what I was looking for. I did get well into the new book, though.
But I did find that malls are very dependent on electricity, and that consumers will go through a lot to live out plans to shop. There were still some window displays worth looking at. Couldn’t the stores have remained open (the staff were mostly among those sitting in the mall, just by handing our flashlights to customers? Apparently, the sales electronics can’t be so easily replaced by batteries.