Yesterday my family and I got trapped inside a store in New York City with Justin Bieber and a bunch of paparazzi and it turned out kind of awesome.
Well, for us, at least.
Hold on. Let me rewind.
For my oldest son's birthday gift, he requested a family day in our favorite city, Manhattan, instead of a birthday party or an extravagant gift. At 15, he's got one foot in childhood nostalgia and the other racing toward a future that will hold car keys, college visits, and broken curfews in no time at all. Needless to say, I was thrilled that his request was a nod to nostalgia. At least for one more year.
We filled the day with some of our favorite tourist stops including Central Park and Times Square, and when handed an unseasonably warm day, we decided to walk from Central Park to Midtown via 5th Avenue to do some window shopping.
We lingered in Tommy Hilfiger. Moved a little faster through the cologne-scented lobbies of Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch and took in the extraordinary sights at Louis Vuitton and Gucci, with my son even trying on a jacket at Gucci for fun. His jaw dropped when he saw the $4,000 price tag.
"Who spends that kind of money? On a jacket?"
"I have no idea, actually." I laughed.
"Imagine having that kind of money to drop on a jacket? You got to admit. That would be fun."
"Oh, I don't know. I think there are better ways to spend money, don't you?"
He shrugged. He's 15 after all.
We made our way to Times Square, scored some discount play tickets for Aladdin, walked leisurely in and out of the M&M store for a pre-dinner snack, and then landed in the Swatch store. My youngest was picking out a watch to put on her Christmas list. I sent her to the other side of the store so I could buy it and put it away, and I was just finishing up my purchase when we heard a chorus of screams and yells at the front door to the store. There was a group of people closing in on the glass doors. They looked stuck there, almost as if they had somehow joined together as a mass and couldn't squeeze through the door in their conjoined state. I stood there staring at the screaming, frustrated optical illusion for a few moments, wondering why the people couldn't just separate and come inside to buy some adorable and colorful cheap plastic watches like I had done.
But then I realized a few larger men dressed in thick black hoodies were blocking the way. They kept pushing the mass back. A thin man in a hoodie decorated with embroidered roses popped through their grasp into the store shaking off the scene he'd just exited with annoyance, and looking around anxiously. Some security stayed outside the door, but a few security guards followed the thin, annoyed man inside, inadvertently bringing with them some straggling amateur photographers. A buzz of slowly escalating chaos ensued. I saw someone hold up a sign outside the door:
Justin, we love you.
Justin? As in, Bieber? Could it be? I tried to get a better look at him under his hood as he looked toward the store's side exit, furtively, for somewhere to escape to.
Concerned about the chaos, my husband started pushing the kids out the same exit Justin and his guards were eyeing.
"Come on," he demanded. "We don't know what's about to go down here." I stared for another beat, curiously, and then nodded, agreeing, pushing kids toward security guards who were blocking the doors to get outside. They were trying to keep everyone outside. But as a result we were stuck inside. A few men ushered Justin to a back stock room. We pushed past security and from the outside sidewalk, we watched as the guards conferred animatedly with store managers who obviously weren't too happy about the fact that Justin Bieber had just shut down their store.
No one inside the store looked too happy to see him. And he didn't seem to be enjoying himself. He wasn't even shopping for Swatches.
My kids and I continued watching the drama unfold as a few of the guards came outside and ran up the block trying to create a diversion, while a few more guards went back to the Swatch stock room and escorted Justin out the door we'd escaped from a few minutes earlier. The mass of people reassembled itself and followed him through Times Square yelling and screaming.
"Wow. That was crazy. Where's he even going, now?" My son asked as we walked the opposite way through Times Square with our discount play tickets, cheap plastic watches, and (albeit overpriced!) M&M's in hand.
"I don't know. Maybe Gucci?" I winked.
And we laughed. Because of course Justin Bieber is exactly the kind of person who can drop $4,000 on a Gucci jacket, but to be honest, yesterday, he just didn't look like he was having nearly as much fun as we were.