Refuge in a mall


Jullie Y. Daza

On Labor Day when the temperature hovered between uncomfortable and oppressive, people sought sanctuary in the malls for their airconditioning. Which set shoppers and would-be window-shoppers wondering, how come the malls’ cooling systems have not earned a reputation for breaking down like they would in a government building?

Indeed, if the managers in charge of the malls can do it, why can’t those hired for the same expertise do the same for a public building, such as the terminals for arriving and departing passengers at our airports? Not being able to divine an answer, one can only ask a second unlikely question: Has anybody ever been fired for falling down on their job in our NAIA terminals, specifically how to keep the a/c going and keep the cockroaches and other creepy-crawlies out of sight?

True, the malls have shorter operating hours and maybe they pay better salaries. And yet airport workers are supposed to be just as qualified, whether they’re government employees or their services come as part of a package with a private contractor. All of which goes to the heart of the question: Can you imagine what would happen if an SM, Ayala, or Robinsons mall suffered the ignominy of a power breakdown? Their owners and managers would never hear the end of it, they would die of shame for failing their clients and their mandate to give every customer a pleasant shopping experience.

So far I have not experienced or heard about a shopping mall’s a/c system shutting down except for brief, anticipated repairs.

With the heat index hitting the 40’s last Wednesday, I joined the throng in Taguig’s Mitsukoshi Mall, like a tourist on her first visit but more truthfully as a fugitive from the summer heat. And there we were, part of a “throng” -- everybody was there, in their shorts under loose tops, pushing their babies or pets in their prams, carrying/not carrying a package while looking for an empty table at the food court.

I came away with a cup of coconut water with lychees, memories of a long queue waiting to be allowed entry into a Japanese store, and a determination to go back, not just to cool off but buy something nice, next time.