Being old and grumpy, I find myself less and less willing to cope with crowds in confined spaces. Shopping centres are a casualty of my old age and internet shopping means I rarely trouble them with my presence. Also: free returns!
But there are times when Sky Box Office doesn’t cut it and we go to the cinema. Since the nearest cinema to my house requires patrons to have legs which concertina neatly into a six-inch gap, Westfield Stratford City, despite its shopping centre-ness, has been the cinema destination. The flip-side to this is that the place makes me inordinately angry.
The signposting is next to useless, the map and directories are few and far between (again without even a sign telling you where the nearest one is), requiring people to walk aimlessly until they find one. The sensible place for these would be at each junction, particularly where there’s an entrance from the car park, but clearly that was too sensible. The centres of the walkways are crammed with stalls and other stuff which forces shoppers to crowd down each side. And Christ, do they dawdle. They text as they walk, they stop dead in front of you and they block doorways. I realise the infuriating behaviour of its customers isn’t Westfield’s fault but since I’m having a rant about it, I might as well include it. There appears to be no logic whatsoever about Westfield Stratford’s layout – it’s cavernous but simultaneously cramped. It’s as though the management had a list of everything that could be wrong with a shopping centre and adhered religiously to it.
The car park is ludicrously maze-like and I have never once seen the system of lights which is meant to indicate where there are free parking spaces actually work. The parking spaces are tiny, the ramps are too close to the spaces which means you get queues all the way down at busy times. The lifts from the car park are hideously, painfully slow and again, because there’s no clear signposting, no-one’s quite sure what floor they’re meant to be on. The area next to the cinema where all the restaurants are appears to be a magnet for sprawling gangs of wrestling, shrieking teenagers and the restaurants are all the worst sort of retail park chain with music loud enough to require sign-language and staff who look like they’re forced at gunpoint to have fun by their managers.
In short, it’s a fucking hellhole.
Hell is other people
But enough about the shopping. Whoever it was that invented machines where you can collect pre-booked cinema tickets deserves a medal for services to mankind. Whoever it was who then decided to change the machines so you can buy AND collect tickets should be sent to whatever circle of hell deals with this kind of thing. With extra lava.
The guy in front of us didn’t appear to know what film he wanted to see, what time he wanted to see it or what seat he wanted to sit in, so browsed through the entire list a couple of times before selecting a film. He then had to scroll through all the times. The seat map appeared to confound him and there was a couple of minutes of puzzled screen-shuffling. Then he backed out and went through the entire process again with a new film. And then he did it again with a third film. My passive-aggressive cross muttering had escalated to calculated-to-be-overheard and the three women in front of us started to look nervous and edge away. And it wasn’t even just one dribbling cretin, there seemed to be one at every machine. Finally, one of them managed to successfully paw some tickets from the machine and hobble away, knuckles brushing the floor.
Sartre was right – hell is other people. And shopping centres.
Other things which have annoyed me: