This update was a little essay I wrote for Strange Bedfellows, but they haven’t given me any feedback in two weeks and the site has ceased to update. I’m not sure what the deal is, but since they haven’t bothered to respond to my emails I will assume that any claims they have on my work are null. Someone might as well enjoy my blathering meanderings, so I’ve decided to place this here. Enjoy.
The escalator is a wonderful invention. Lugging yourself up massive flights of stairs simply to get your body from one level to another is rarely a pleasant experience, so the ability to be whisked away on the back of a metal contrivance is a pleasure indeed.
I have traveled to many places. As a result I have ridden upon the backs of many of these devices and have become something of an expert. The process is fairly straightforward. You merely place your feet on the bottom step and the rest takes care of itself. If that werenâ€™t enough, you also have the option of walking up the moving stairs to double your speed. Since people have different preferences, it is a common courtesy to stand on the right side to allow people to pass you on the left. Occasionally, this unspoken rule is broken, which can be a minor annoyance but is generally dealt with amiably.
For the most part, this procedure is universally acknowledged as the proper one. However, it must be noted that England takes it a step too far.
I have made several trips to the UK. And due to my innate ability to make gross and sweeping overgeneralizations based on brief observations, I canâ€™t help but come to the conclusion that blocking the left side of an English escalator is a cardinal sin of the worst sort; something akin to theft or tax evasion.
I was guilty of this unspeakable act seven years ago, when I dragged my jetlagged self and my oversized bag onto an escalator leading into Paddington station. The bag was innocently lying next to me, taking up the whole step. I immediately felt bodies pushing from behind me, followed by grumbling and coughing. â€œYouâ€™re blocking the queue,â€ came a surly voice behind me. As the step ahead of me was taken, there was little I could do. I turned around to explain this to the complaining gentleman, but shock froze my mouth shut.
From behind, a looming column of intense hatred rose above me like a tidal wave. Sour mouths, furrowed brows, and disapproving expressions jabbed at me like tiny invisible spikes. I grinned stupidly like the clueless tourist I was, but nobody was amused. I could only hold onto the side railing and suffer the burning red-heat of British indignation all the way down.
Suffice to say, I quickly learned my lesson and never did this again, but I noticed scenes like these replaying themselves with alarming regularity. On my trips to England, I have witnessed countless travelers innocently stand on the wrong side of an escalator only to suffer the wrath of a British tongue-lashing. I canâ€™t help but think that there is some primitive force at work here; some holdover from the caveman days that incurs rampant bloodlust in British people when this minor taboo gets broken. This is something that is probably worthy of further study, and if any of you anthropologists want to pursue it feel free to do so. I only ask that I get a percentage of the royalties. I take cash or Krispy Kremes.