There are a lot of important discussions to be had around malls. Is retail dying? Are we past the need for physical shops especially due to the pandemic? And there is a time for these discussions. But this is an ode to the much-ignored process of entering the mall. And it is a process. For good reason of course.
Ensuring security is of the utmost importance. Kenyans have learnt that the hard way. This makes it all the more frustrating to find inefficiency, a lack of effectiveness and downright irritations on the way into any popular shopping mall. Here are some of my worst pet peeves.
1. Car doors being slammed as hard as humanly possible
From a security perspective, there is a need for guards to look inside our cars. After all, who knows what you could be hiding in your dashboard? It could just be your car’s logbook or something far worse. Why take the risk?
But what in God’s name have car doors around the country done to deserve being so unceremoniously banged when the search is complete? If you have to mentally prepare for the sound of a door closing, then there is something wrong. Chances are you have to prepare twice because many guards decide that the first bang just wasn’t satisfying enough.
2. Everything beeping and no-one doing anything about it
I am not a security expert by any measure and must have a rudimentary understanding of the machinery. But I do know this. Beeping equals bad. Or it requires going for another round until there is no beeping.
So why is there often a symphony of beeps that could rival the Nairobi orchestra at every mall entrance? This is often followed by a guard nonchalantly waving a monitor at you like they’re shooing a fly rather than checking for security threats.
3. ‘Bag checking’
I can’t count how many times a guard has asked to see inside my bag only to not even look at it. I’m not sure if I should be offended that my bag wasn’t cute enough to look at or concerned that someone with nefarious intentions could easily be let through. I just hope they have a cuter bag than mine so that it at least warrants a glance.
4. Temperature checks…or lack thereof
If there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught me, it’s that it has been possible not to touch sinks and dispensers this whole time. Those nifty foot pedals for taps and motion sensors for hand sanitiser dispensers have yet to lose their novelty for me. They even have hand sanitiser dispensers that double as electronic thermometers. Ah, technology.
While all of this is brilliant, I am not yet sure how I am supposed to feel when the person whose temperature is being taken in front of me sends the electronic thermometer into a beeping frenzy and they are still let into the mall.
5. Lining up
The Brits left a lot behind in Kenya. Except the ability to queue. It seems that some have still not gotten the memo that breathing down someone’s neck does not get you into the mall faster. If this message still hasn’t hit home even during a pandemic where social-distancing is paramount then I’m afraid that’s beyond help.