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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Aha! Some action at last. Just as I tire of this waiting, two security guards march into the Progressions hairdressing salon opposite.
They chat to one of the staff but do not proceed to eject some wild-eyed customer ... they exit the salon and advance on **ME**!

There have been complaints ... I am suspected of stalking ... in the words of the security goon, the Progressions folks cannot concentrate on their snipping because I "freak them out."

I am dumbfounded. I am reluctant to show ID, suspecting this charade to be a Candid Camera-style practical joke in poor taste. I am told that unless I *do* identify myself, I will be asked to leave the Mall.

*Wretched* daughter - where *IS* she?

I ask how far away I should sit from the affronted coiffeurs to no longer cause offence? What is their 'UN-freak' distance? I am told it is subjective. We are getting nowhere: they insist I quit the area; I have no way of letting Anna a new rendezvous. And why the deuce *should* I?

As we ponder this impasse, up strides the unsuspecting darling. Poor lamb - I blast her for a) not watching the time b) involving me in this totally imbecilic and paranoid questioning.

On the security chaps, I fix my fiercest glare and bid them a frosty, "Good BYE!"
I am furious. As we drive home, I mentally draft my most pompous letter of protest:

"I apologize for adding to your workload with such trivia but yours was the name given to me. I trust neither of our time is being wasted.

In the interests of public relations and dealing upfront with the parties mentioned, next week I will mail hard copies to the managers mentioned at the end of this email.

We are both busy men so I will save on unnecessary prose and stick to bullet points:

  • For the past year or so of weekends, I have acted as chauffeur to assorted daughters, wife and overseas visitors in driving them from Bainbridge to Kitsap Mall where they like to start their shopping at Bon-Macys, leaving me to enjoy coffee, pastries and the newspapers at the excellent and friendly Fraîche Cup.
  • In cases of a longer than usual wait, I - and any accompanying husbands - have sometimes left our outside café seats to inspect shops around the rendezvous point. I have met nothing but courtesy from shop staff and Mall personnel.
  • Yesterday, Saturday Feb 5, as I waited on my teenager daughter to complete her buying spree in the Bon, I underwent an unsettling experience that I would like to bring to your attention.
  • Out of the blue, I was approached by security personnel - perfectly civil and professional - and subjected to a series of such intrusive questions that I wondered if someone wasn't playing a practical joke à la some Candid Camera jape.
  • There are always two sides to a story, and you will have received a report from your own staff and tenants, but here is how it looked to me.
  • Apparently, a customer or member of staff in the Progressions salon decided that my behavior was threatening enough to, in the words of security, "freak them out" to the extent of summoning the authorities. Everyone is entitled to a gut-feel reaction.
  • I realize this country places store on physical attractiveness. I am no longer in the first bloom of youth, but over the 18 or so months that I have frequented your Mall, I have never varied the discreet manner in which I await my shopping family.
To be suddenly singled out for interrogation was a shock and embarrassment and I just thank goodness none of my family or acquaintances were there to observe this humiliation.
  • In the case of visiting friends from the UK - many of whom are journalists for European retail and property publications - I shudder to imagine the snide diary items they could have filed.
  • In the case of my younger daughter, who I whisked away from the scene before she could observe the farce further, she is too young to be placed in a situation of losing respect for elders and betters by seeing us in a laughing stock situation.
  • As I say, you will hear your own side's story and reach your own conclusion, but I flatly refuse to believe in grown adults succumbing to such uncalled-for and paranoid behavior.
  • I was offered the option of awaiting my daughter outside the Mall but she is only 14 and I have strict rules about where and when we rendezvous.
  • I have no idea or interest in who within Progressions had placed the complaint and even the security guard agreed that the distance I should keep from the salon was 'subjective'. I was asked *not* to contact anyone in the salon, which I have never patronized. We were at an impasse, only ended with the final appearance by my daughter, who was mortified and will probably not go over her allotted time again, so some good may have come of this confrontation.
  • Putting myself in your position, I proposed to my family that they change their shopping pattern. Their response is that they are too fond of Bon-Macy's to agree to this and, frankly, the prompt and friendly service I meet at Fraîche makes me also unwilling to be bullied into any concession of where I await them.
  • If it's happened once, it will happen again: I cannot change my appearance and I cannot second-guess subjective perceptions of what does or does not 'freak' people out.
  • My proposal, since I and mine intend to continue regular patronizing of your tenants: on arriving at your Mall, and allowing my accompanying shoppers to go their various ways, I would like a representative of your security division to attend me promptly in the doorway of Progressions, where I will each time supply the exact same ID and contact details I provided at Saturday's incident.

    This way, in full view of both customers and staff of the hairdresser - and anyone from the Bon or the coffee shop who wishes to attend - I can be seen to provide full bona fides.

  • I also suggest I be provided with the call-sign of the interrogating officer to hand promptly to any other security personnel who may be summoned to question me during however long I need to wait.
  • As a ‘pater familias’, it would be more than my quiet life is worth to set an actual fixed time during which these strong-minded women are permitted to spend my money.
  • If you have a better idea, I am happy to hear it and work with you towards the continued smooth running of your property and tenants.
To repeat, I hate to add to the complications of your work week. I want only to return to the positive shopping experience my friends and family have enjoyed over the years.

In the interests of a prompt solution, and to save you the tedium of liaising with the various parties, I am copying in those mentioned or who might have an interest in resolving this matter.

With best wishes, etc

A damn'd professional and satisfactory reply comes back:
"I'm sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience while visiting Kitsap Mall on Saturday February 5, 2005.

We are required to respond to specific complaints and investigate unusual behavior. However, it is very important that we do this professionally and with as little embarrassment to individuals as possible.

The unusual behavior that triggered a call to our security was when you apparently witnessed and went into the Progressions salon to retrieve and return the already concerned complaining guest baby's pacifier that had fallen to the Progressions floor.

Once our security got your information and heard your story we were satisfied and appreciated your cooperation in having you wait closer to Fraiche Cup as opposed to Progressions on this day.

I would not anticipate any future time when you would be asked to provide us identification or explain your behavior while simply waiting for your family and or friends anywhere in Kitsap Mall.

I'm convinced you can return to your more positive shopping (or waiting) experiences for many more years to come.

Sincerely, etc"

I am mollified and impressed. I reply:
"Good answer. Thanks. I guess we live in a time when a fellow parent cannot even act on friendly instinct. He was rather a cute little lad and as I watched the pacifier gradually slip from his chubby fingers, I remember thinking to myself: Thank *goodness* we dont yet live in an oppressively over-correct land where one would wimp out before do the decent thing and hand the toy back to the child before the parent wheels it away without noticing the loss.

Of course, i had no idea who or where the parent was or how long the lad would go without his pacifier.

Naturally, I felt a bit of a twit as I placed the pacifier in the baby's hand only to find the mother being seated alongside her child for the next part of her beautification. But, too late: I was in the shop, had the pacifier in my hand, so I decided to see the good deed thru. In fact, I was right - the mother had no idea it had slipped from the child's fingers.

But how absolutely pathetic - and what a silly woman: if she'd been so "freaked out", why on earth pretend to be so appreciative and give me all those simpering smiles and nods? Even when I'd gone back outside to continue my glaring into the Bon for sight of my errant daughter.

I have decided there we'll give the Silverdale visits a bit of rest. Even when they resume, the oddball clientèle that Progressions seems to attract makes Fraiche far too exposed and unsafe to spend any length of time there. I shall find a new coffee place, at a safe distance, and the ladies can make do with whatever shops are in *that* area.

Thanks again. I appreciate the prompt reply."

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