Katherine Hayton | Trapped
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25 Dec / Trapped

Once upon a time, many years ago now, my darling and I went out at night in Sydney. We were there on holiday, and chose to go tourist-as-all-get-out by having our evening meal in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Centrepoint tower.

If you haven’t been to Sydney, this is a very thin and very high tower in the middle of the Sydney CBD. The bottom floors are taken up with a mall with exits to major streets in Sydney, and then there is an elevator that takes you up, up, up to the very top to the restaurant.

At the time we went it would perform a complete revolution every hour. There were large windows all around the side of the restaurant, and you would have an uninterrupted view of the Sydney CBD as dusk fell on the city. I heard later that the revolving part had stopped, so to see the full view you actually had to walk around and stuff, but I’m sure the experience would still be wonderful.

The meal was a smorgasbord, and you would step from the revolving floor portion where the tables were located, to the fixed portion in the middle of the restaurant to fetch each course, and for the facilities and exit elevator.

Anyhow, on this night we’d enjoyed a great meal – with far too much dessert, the hallmark of any truly good smorgasbord – and made our way down in the elevator.

My darling and I are early diners, and fast eaters, and although we’d travelled up in the elevator with a group of people, we made the journey back down to the ground floor levels alone.

We exited the elevator and tried to walk out of the Centrepoint Mall through our usual exit. It was bolted shut. The retail trading day had come to a halt and no new entrants were being allowed, so we turned around and tried to find another exit that was still operational.

Malls are neither of our favourite thing. There’s too many shops, and too many people. Although this one was only occupied by ourselves at the time, it still felt as though it was crowded with people – the dead-eyed stare of many a shop mannequin upon us at every turn.

All up, it probably took us fifteen minutes to find a way out of the maze we’d found ourselves in. Not much of an adventure it’s true, ‘the day I was trapped for a short amount of time in Australia’s most famous city’ doesn’t have the ring of a great thriller about it, but it still left an imprint.

Over the intervening years, there’s certainly been more than one night in which I woke from a nightmare of endless corridors all leading to bolted exits.

Today was (or still is for a little while) Christmas Day in New Zealand. We’ve celebrated with family for much of the day, and after returning to our hotel room this evening we decided we felt a little bit peckish and headed out for a light evening meal.

We found a certain theme developing as we walked through the streets of Queenstown – many shops and restaurants are closed for the holiday, but there were still plenty left to choose from. A Vietnamese restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, a Korean restaurant. There’s a trend in the cultures that do and do not observe Christmas day closing.

At one point we went down a down escalator to a food court – the escalator had actually stopped working at some point so we had to physically move ourselves down the steps. For some reason this involves more effort than walking down a similar size staircase would.

The portions of the food court that were open were McDonalds and a Turkish Kebab shop. After a quick perusal of their menu we decided that we would prefer to sit down in a proper restaurant setting, rather than the plastic seating area in the basement of a mall, and headed up to exit back onto the main streets of Queenstown (once again on an escalator that forced us to use our own steam.)

At the top we found a yellow plastic sign with No Exit printed on a piece of paper sellotaped to the front of the sign parked in front of the electronic doors we’d so recently entered through. On closer inspection the newly placed sign seemed to refer to the gigantic padlock that was now holding these doors firmly shut.

Unphased, we turned around and saw another exit downstairs. Probably the one we should’ve used in the first place.

Grumbling only a little bit, I headed back down the frozen down escalator, and we walked through the basement exit.

Or at least, we walked through it until we reached a yellow plastic sign with No Exit printed on a piece of paper sellotaped to the front of the sign parked in front of electronic doors which had a gigantic padlock holding them firmly shut.

Trapped in a mall. The nightmare came full-circle.

My breath came a little faster and my forehead glistened with sweat.

This may have had something to do with the fact that I’d just been clambouring up and down stalled escalators, and it was 28 degrees outside, and slightly hotter inside (for Fahrenheit and non-tropics based people, that’s very hot.)

Or it may have been something to do with the past reliving itself in the present.

Luckily we joined forces with a group of fellow desperate-escapees and managed to exit by climbing up the internal stairs to the McCafe and pushing aside a white plastic security gate.

We emerged, gasping for air, onto the street. Some of us were clutching beige, red and yellow bags of food. My darling and I were not.

A Thai restaurant that had a wide-open front door, and outdoor seating drew our attention shortly after, and we had a lovely chicken stir-fried rice (him) and chicken stir-fried egg noodles (me) before stopping for an ice-cream to eat in the heat of the park. That was our little treat to make up for the terror of being trapped.

By Katherine Hayton in Katherine Hayton's Blog

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