At each mall outing, we had 6 group members participating and observing passerby's reactions.
Below is a long summary of our previous outing a few weeks prior in March 2016.
1st exposure: AT&T, I had lots of questions about a new phone for my mom. She has Verizon service and I would normally have waited until I could go to a Verizon store as I felt I was wasting their time since I wouldn’t be using their service. I asked all my questions and did mention that it had to go through Verizon. The salesperson was very patient, offered solutions, and gave me a business card in case I had further questions. Not the reaction I expected. It thought once he heard Verizon = no sale, he would not have helped me as much.
2nd exposure: Hot Topic, talking to group member about some “racy” boot socks, the store assistant joins our conversation and we get into a lengthy discussion about what kids and teachers are wearing, hormones, you name it. Very entertaining. He later found me at the checkout counter with an item and brought me over to a full display related to what I was buying. Super friendly and easy to talk to.
3rd exposure: I threw a piece of paper into the trashcan in the middle of an open area. A group member said, Marla, did you just throw away your coupon? I dug in and retrieved it. Don’t think anyone noticed.
4th exposure: Not far from the trashcan and 6 feet across from a young man sitting on a bench, I leaned into another bench while the 4 group members sang Happy Birthday to me in this open area. The young man did NOT even look at us!
5th exposure: We wanted to get this young man’s attention. We circled around and came back from the other direction facing him. We skipped all the way down the stretch of stores. He finally glanced at us quickly as we were upon him and didn’t have a reaction at all. There was a man behind him sweeping the floor and he did not even look up. When we reached the end, there were a bunch of teenage girls that briefly looked at us strangely and carried on.
6th exposure: The guys stayed upstairs, and the girls headed downstairs. We yelled back and forth from separate levels for a while in good fun. We happened to be right in front of the Easter Bunny photo place. The woman working there yelled up to the guys, What’s the matter, are you afraid to be seen with them? She joined right in with us laughing. The guys came down. I then approached the other employee at the deserted Easter Bunny place saying that I know we are grown adults but would it be possible for you to take a picture of us with the Easter Bunny? He said it was against company policy and said we could buy one and seemed to feel bad about it. I asked if he’d mind just taking a picture of us all together at the mall. While debating who had the best camera on their cell phone, he was so kind as to offer taking the pic with his good camera and texting it to us. We ended up using my phone and got a great pic. He then told us some funny stories about the Easter Bunny costume and photo taking.
7th exposure: Macy’s Clinique counter, with one of our group member’s practicing a strong accent with the saleswoman. I was obnoxiously, in a know-it-all way type of, telling the group member which lotion to get in front of the saleswoman. The group member asked the saleswoman some good questions, one being, does the lotion have the expiration date on it, which got the saleswoman squinting with her glasses on and said she had no idea, maybe expiration dates apply only to perfume. She may have had enough of us going back and forth, I was asking a lot about the difference between the regular lotion and gel lotion, and she finally offered a sample. The group member asked if it was free, lol! In the middle of this, one of the guys asked the saleswoman, How do you remove the lotion? She replied, Uh, when you wash your face. She really didn’t seem annoyed, maybe more interested in us with all our questions.
One group member attempted to ride the escalator in the opposite way – going down on the side going up. He didn’t get very far at all – those things are powerful!
On the way to another part of the mall, I noticed a beautiful tropical plant, and made an ordeal over it, sniffing it, I was convincing enough that one of the group members came and sniffed it even after saying, Marla, I think these are fake, which they were :) I didn’t really pay attention on that one if anyone nearby noticed.
We came across this area with these huge motorized stuffed animals that kids can ride around the mall. There were 2 attendants watching us excitedly check them out. The weight limit was enough to support us and only $6 a ride! However, the mall was pretty empty at that point and we decided to go for it on a busier night. Note: The staff thought nothing of 5 adults asking the weight limit and were very friendly to us. Maybe they’ve seen it all before.
Last stop: GNC. Four of us lingered in there. One asked about a sensitive topic/product and the salesperson said he was not allowed to answer the question and to rephrase it. Once rephrased properly, he then went on to helping and answering questions. When he was done with that, I asked him about natural sleep aids and went into a big thing about all the different melatonin and other natural remedies I’ve tried and asked him more questions. He ended up advising me to talk to my doctor in the end, in a nice way. Then we gathered to leave the store and he seemed a bit surprised and said, Oh, you’re all together? I wonder if he thought he was being “punked” at that point!
We then debriefed before leaving, realizing that we covered the following on our list:
Practice shouting from one level of the mall to another a few times.
Initiating a conversation with a sales person. (3 times)
Going the opposite way on the escalator.
Ask someone to take a picture with your phone.
Skipping in a crowded place.
Drop something in a crowded area (maybe the trash can counts here ;)
Start singing along to a song. – Happy Birthday
The point of my short novel here is to share all of these experiences and the outcomes.
We actually had fun doing these exposures despite feeling different levels of discomfort.
We watched for people’s reactions to us, and they BARELY had any, despite some of the odd things we were doing! It just goes to show with rational evidence that we are not in the spotlight the way we feel we are when we are in public and people are too wrapped up in themselves to notice, and when they do, they may look at us strangely for a couple seconds, and then go on their way and forget all about us. (Unless that young man was secretly videotaping us during the Happy Birthday song and us skipping towards him and we become a YouTube sensation!)
Once we do these feared things (hopefully in time, with a light heart and sense of humor), we realize it’s not nearly as bad as we thought and the reactions of others are opposite of what we expected. Granted it was a slow night at this mall, and the staff were probably desperate to talk to anyone, it may have turned out differently if it were more crowded and the salespeople were busier. All in all, a great experience and I wrote all of this with the hopes that more people will join us next time. You don’t have to actively engage in anything if you don’t want to. You can watch the other group members make “fools” of themselves. We had a blast!
Fun SAD Exposures
More coming soon, in the meantime, please join the mailing list for occasional updates!