Given the success of our first outing with the prop body bag, it was only a matter of time before we tried it again. During his time off, “Bob” had been upgraded. The three sacks of birdseed had been re-worked into a clothing covered design to better spread the weight and give a more body-like look. In addition, a mostly deflated old basketball was now in place as a head.
To complete the costume look, we decided that nothing says attention to detail like a fake badge that says “Coroner – All Access Pass”. Truth be told, they look more like something you would use to get backstage at a rock concert – and hey, “Coroner” is a fine band name!
This go around, we set our sights on Chandler Fashion Center mall. The plan was simple enough: the four coroners (including one of our newest core group members) were to be dropped off at one entrance, walk straight through the upper level, exit by the food court and get picked up and whisked away by a second driver. Since the reactions of passersby are the goal of this prank, we had stationed lots of covert videographers along the route.
Once we had the word that all of the covert agents were in place, we pulled up to the bookstore entrance and hastily unloaded “Bob”. With each of us grabbing our assigned corner of the bag, we put on our serious faces and headed in. Like most mall locations, the bookstore has very narrow aisles and so we made the most of asking patrons to excuse us to pass which, as you might guess, got us lots of double takes and “did you just see that?” stares.
Right outside of the bookstore is a walled kiddie play area. The kids played on, oblivious, since only the adults were tall enough to see us over the enclosure. And look they did, staring in disbelief as we made our way past. At the halfway point, we passed within a few yards of the mall’s info desk. We hoped that since they were faced the other way, they’d take no notice of us (one of two groups that we really didn’t want to encounter during the prank, for obvious reasons).
Things were going great until we got to the food court walkway. Here, the plan called for us to set the bag down and briefly scan the lunch choices before deciding that we couldn’t decide. We were about to pick the bag back up when a mall security guard, dressed in black and yellow and looking like a bumblebee on a Segway, approached and asked what we were doing. With the bag in hand, we answered truthfully, “We’re leaving,” and proceeded towards the exit, just 150 feet away. We found the exit blocked, however, by two additional mall security guards on bikes.
In situations like this, we fully expect to first be asked to leave the premises and to only have issues if we won’t comply with that order. However, these guys were sure we’d committed “a dozen felonies” (not clear if they meant per person, or like 3 apiece) so they decided to detain us and call the Chandler Police Department. When the officers arrived, we explained our intent and pointed out that we had offered to leave immediately. One of the officers collected our IDs and our extremely fake badges (which he immediately returned to us: sorry mall security guy, not a felony). After verifying that we had no outstanding arrest warrants, he proceeded to debate us about the merits of our endeavors, eventually agreeing that we would just have to disagree. Interestingly, with the police on scene and the body bag sitting there, it probably looked even more like there had been an untimely death at the mall.
A few humorous things came to light while we were standing around waiting. The Segway rider got a call on his radio asking when he’d be back; apparently it was somebody else’s turn to ride it around. There was also a call about some improperly placed balloons in the food court. Hope that got resolved peacefully!
One reaction from the mall patrons really stood out. One of our covert agents was near a kid’s birthday party at the McDonalds in the food court. All of the adults were discussing what was going on with us when the birthday cake arrived. As soon as the candles were extinguished, the adults immediately turned back around to watch our drama with security play out and one was overheard to say “well, I think it’s a prank, but they’re not teenagers, so I’m not 100% sure.”
In the end, the four costumed participants got banned from the mall for three months and we all received little pre-printed Code of Conduct cards that list the activities that are not allowed (we got assigned the same category as “unnecessary staring” and “sexually explicit language”, go figure). A few people have asked why we didn’t just refuse to be detained, since mall security doesn’t have any more authority to do so than a regular citizen. Well, basically, we were trying to avoid a physical escalation to the confrontation. The guards appeared to have Tasers and/or pepper spray and since they were sure we’d committed some heinous crime, we were concerned that they might not hesitate to use them. Our group is all for poking at people’s preconceptions, but not provoking violent reactions.
It has since come to our attention that this particular mall has been having a problem with, get this, gypsies. We shall have to ready the puffy shirts and head scarves for our triumphant return to the mall in June!