Kerre Woodham: Why I'm avoiding the maul

On the face of it, you can see the sense in malls. For multi-taskers, you can do the weekly supermarket shop, drop off the drycleaning, resole your shoes, pick up a CD, find the perfect present and grab a bite to eat all under one roof.

You don't have to dodge skateboarders or cyclists, it's safe - I can't recall the last time someone was mugged in a mall - and it's dry, an important consideration in a city where it rains every 10 minutes.

And yet for all the sense it makes, I hate going to malls, here or overseas, and for so many reasons.

I have the great good fortune of not working normal hours, so I'm not used to traffic jams. Consequently, when I find myself queuing for half an hour to get to a place I don't want to go to, I react very badly. I can feel the impotent frustration and fury building within me and that can't be good for an old girl's system.

Last Christmas, I was persuaded by the teenager to take her to the mall for last-minute Christmas shopping and encountered a woman standing in an empty carparking space, calling her husband on the mobile phone. They'd split up - he by car, she by foot - to find a parking space and she was occupying it until he could negotiate his way to her.

I was torn between admiration for their efficiency and teamwork and a desire to get out of the car and pummel her to the ground. And again, that's not healthy.

I turn the radio station to the classical programme and try to let the gentle music soothe my soul, but to no avail. And that's before we even get into the bloody place.

Maybe it's because I'm only the height of an overgrown labrador, but I find crowds claustrophobic. I'm about armpit height, which doesn't make for a pleasant ambience, and if I didn't project bristling aggression, people would continually jostle me.

And why do people have to move so slowly? Do they not have lives - things to do, meetings to attend, places to go? They aimlessly wander as if they have all the time in the world and I'm forced to undertake dangerous passing manoeuvres, at pace, around pushchairs, pashing teenagers and families of 15 straggling behind one another like dozy ducklings. Sometimes it's best to just do a Jerry Collins and charge my way up the middle.

Consequently, I gave the opening of Sylvia Park a miss. I may be the only person in Auckland to have done so because this week saw chaos with the opening of New Zealand's newest and biggest mall. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to be there. Some people were queuing outside the doors of the Ware-Whare to take advantage of the opening-day specials and throughout the day, the equivalent to the population of a small New Zealand town kept the checkout operators working overtime. The motorway was clogged and residents in the surrounding areas were unable to get into and out of their streets.

Transit New Zealand has threatened to shut down the motorway access routes to the hyper-mall as it did on Thursday if there's a repeat of the madness and I don't know whether the mall's owners should be delighted or horrified by the response to their development.

All I know is that while I like the idea of the mall being New Zealand owned and operated, they won't be seeing me for a while. I'm going to have to gird my loins and approach any visit to Sylvia Park as if I were undertaking a trip to a foreign and alien land. Somehow, I don't think they'll miss me.

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