You’re strolling around the mall. You want to get to the second floor. You see stairs and prepare to walk up them. But wait! The stairs are moving. Is it magic? You stop and stare at the steps; prepare to grip the moving handrail; get ready…. and then…. gingerly, carefully,  place one foot in the middle of one of the steps; stumble…. get the other foot in place just in the nick of time. And… WheeeEEeee…up you go.

Slowly, gently you glide higher and higher and higher. You stand perfectly still so you don’t fall off and look around in awe and wonder. “Look at me!” you think to yourself, bubbling up with unexpressed joy.  “I’m up high!!” Wheeeeee!! What fun. So much fun. So very, very much fun. And for free. You could stand here all day!

Except that there are normal people behind you who are not as enthralled with a stairway as you are and might have places to go.  Go ahead and enjoy your happy little thrill ride, but please, for god’s sake, stand over on the right so that people who use the escalator as it was originally intended to be used, can get by. (e.g.: “escalate” — to increase; as in speed of getting somewhere).

It’ll enhance your escalator-riding adventure, too,  because you’ll see me swoop by like Wonder Woman, faster than any human could possibly travel. Because I’m using my legs as well as the mechanical wonder of the escalator to get from point A to point B in a more efficient manner.

Citizens of any city with a subway system learn escalator etiquette very quickly because commuters will shove you out of the way if you’re blocking the left side of the escalator. People have been injured and even killed for violating the unwritten “stand on the right” law.  

Same deal with those moving sidewalks at airports. They’re designed to move people around more quickly, not more slowly. And yet, people hop on and stare at the scenery pass by around them; and even glance impatiently at their watches as the moving sidewalk creeps ever so leisurely toward their destination.

And yes, I’ve probably mentioned this topic before, but it’s still making me crazy so I needed to vent. Thank you.


36 responses to “Escalating

  1. LMAO.. we need to shop together. I hate when people block the escalator. The Man says I need to work on my patience… I think he may be right.

  2. You just have to be very careful about the overflow.
    When going up if you walk too fast, that, with the added speed of the escalator can end up throwing you into the air at the top. Crashing back down on unsuspecting shoppers is a no no even in Ottawa.
    Going down of course the extra speed can send you into the floor resulting in spinal compression injuries.
    Just remember to moderate your speed at each end.
    Good advice for so many things in life.

  3. Wow. This is something I’ve never given much though to, but upon doing so now, I can proudly say that I instinctively have always stood on the right!

    I think this is part survival instinct (never put yourself somewhere that gives strangers the opportunity to shove you down) and part retaining awareness at all times that there are other people in the world besides just me.

    Surprisingly, this last thing is a trait a shocking number of people fail to possess.

    Thank you for this elevating post! (That’s right. I typed that. SO?)

  4. I am always running up and down escalators. I say “excuse me!” behind the folks I am overtaking and they usually squeeze over to one side. However, on some of those narrow escalators like at the Rideau Centre, it can get difficult, especially behind large people or people with packages. But they are not very long so I guess I can wait. It’s when they stop right at the end and stand there right after they get off the escalator, blocking the people coming behind them that gets me. Keep moving I say! You are right when you say people learn the etiquette in cities with subways. In London (UK) you risk harsh language and prods with umbrellas, elbows and briefcases if you stand in the way, even on really, really long rides like at the Holborn Station. There are always walkers and the standers get over to the right. There are even signs that tell you to get over.

  5. This is why I’m a fan of yours. It’s one of the things that distinguishes you from my other crazy friends. When taking an escalator, my partner and I seize the opportunity to take some time out and gaze into each other’s eyes while letting the escalator gracefully move us to our next destination. One of us inevitably gets jolted back to reality momentarily to say, “Let’s stay to right on this escalator though, ’cause if XUP was nearby, she’d give us an earful.” We’ve had similar discussions when riding our bikes. “I hope XUP is not walking up ahead on this sidewalk. She’d give us a whatfor!”

  6. The standers are less likely to die of veins suddenly popping inside their heads. You gotta take life slowly sometimes, smell the roses, enjoy the scenery. Screw the people on the fast track to premature death.

    However, I must concur with the disdain towards people who stop at the top or bottom of an escalator. They deserve to be shoved to the floor/sidewalk. Take at least one step to the side, Moron!

    I lived in North Bay for 3 1/2 years. It’s been more than two decades since then, but it’s still one of my favourite places in the world. Funny thing, though: Not an escalator anywhere within city limits.

  7. Nat – Bah! It’s got nothing to do with patience. It’s got to do with courtesy. If you have all the time in the world and want to stand on the escalator, feel free, but don’t assume everyone is like you.

    Bandobras – Don’t worry. I’m in full control of my faculties whilst escalating.

    Missy – Ack – don’t even remind me!

    Lesley – You are a good, good person. A saint, almost. I’ve said it before. Please come and escalate with me any time.

    Julia – I’ve done that before too, but usually by the time they figure out what I want to be exused from, we’re almost at the end of the ride anyhow. And I usually get dirty looks or even rude comments for being a party pooper.

    GC – I’m not sure I get the distinction between me and your “other crazy friends”. And you can mock my fruitless quests for public courtesy and consideration, but I’ll keep harping away anyway.

    Bob – Why do you draw a line between the people who stop at the top to make out or chat and the people who are making out or chatting ON the escalator, blocking everyone’s way? Or even the people who stand around chatting and making out at the bottom of the escalator before getting on?

  8. Oh dear. Don’t come to Edinburgh. Just don’t. It’s not that we wouldn’t love to have you (we would!) but your escalator experience might turn out to be less than optimal. We do however queue for buses in a stunningly orderly fashion that must be seen to be appreciated.

  9. I think the closest escalator to where we live is over 50 miles away, so we don’t use escalators often. However, when we are at a place where there are escalators — such as Little Rock — it seems as though most people don’t walk while on them. Of course, where we generally see them is in shopping malls or large stores, not locations where people are in a hurry to get somewhere.

    My first experience with escalators was in 1965 during the summer I spent living near downtown Houston. Foley’s downtown department store was one of the world’s largest and the largest with air conditioning when it opened and, even though I didn’t have any money to spend, I remember going there quite a few times when I was out wandering around to get out of the heat and ride the escalators.

    Since leaving Houston at the end of 1971, I’ve never lived in a town where there were any escalators — that I know of. I guess there could have been one in some building I didn’t know about, but it’s not likely. We’ve seen plenty in our travels, though. The longest that I recall are some of those going up out of the Washington, D.C., metro stations. And when I was traveling for business, those moving walkways were very helpful in making it to your next gate when there wasn’t much left to catch your flight.

    Escalators CAN be dangerous, though. Our daughter runs the second largest department in large department store where there was an incident where a child was injured on one, something that happens all too often (see Danger On The Escalator).

  10. I panic at escalators… I’m always afraid the person in front of me will not “jump out” soon enough before me, we are going to collide, panic will arise, people will scream, there will be blood, tears, desperate… No wait. Not that much. I’m “escalating” my fears!

    Have a good day!

  11. I’m with Newsguy Bob on this. Also, when I am changing planes and I have to go 63 miles between gates, I will use the moving sidewalk to catch my breath because I have already been running for several miles. I squeeze to the side in case some lucky person who has not also been running for several miles has the energy to scoot by, but I usually don’t see a lot of those people. Most people are in the same situation as I am and are also using the thing to catch their breath. In a store, if my hands are full of shopping bags, and I can’t really hold on, I will stand on the escalator just so I don’t fall down, likewise if I am pulling a heavy rolling suitcase at the airport, I stand on the escalator. As far as standing to the right in that last case, I guess you’ve never seen some airport escalators. The ones leading into DFW from outside are about 2 feet wide. There is no “right side.” Maybe you should wear a whistle. If I was about to get on a two ffoot wide escalator with my suitcase and heard a whistle, I’d be glad to wait until you’ve whizzed by to get on.

  12. Loth – We’re animals when it comes to bus queues – pushing, shoving, butting in…little old ladies get trampled underfoot. No one knows how to form a civilized line here. I think I might be able to put up with elevator standers if I got good lines in return.

    Mike – What a brilliant idea! I shall move somewhere without escalators.

    MissyM – It’s hilarious really to watch. All the hustle and bustle of the airport and then there’s this long oasis of immobility…

    Guillermo – Oh dear. It DOES get kind of scary when you’re in Toronto or New York with luggage on your way in or out of a subway at rush hour. Don’t do it.

    Geewits – Ya, I think you’re right about those skinny airport escalators — they aren’t made for walking because everyone has luggage and walking up or down stairs with rolling luggage, just isn’t on. As for the moving sidewalk, it’s okay if people want to stand on them as long as they let people who want to walk get by. BUT, you wouldn’t have to run so hard around the rest of the airport if it didn’t take you so long to ride the moving sidewalk. If you perhaps strolled on the moving sidewalk you’d save a lot of time and you could also stroll around the rest of the airport???

  13. I don’t trust escalators what keeps them from just folding flat and everyone slides down? I have seen it happen..okay in cartoones, but everyone knows if it happens in a cartoon it can happen in real life.

  14. I rarely walk up the escalator because … for some very strange reason my dad would freak on our heads if we did. I don’t know. Maybe he fell as a child? BUT I do stand to the right, so that you Escalator Wonder Woman types can breeze on by.

  15. I didn’t know there were rules!!! I just assumed that I was the one breaking rules when I walk/ run up an escalator.

    When my path is blocked, I smile and loudly (but politely) say, “Excuse me…”. Most people get out of my way, but not before giving me a look that I thought meant that I was crazy for wanting to walk up when I could be taken up…

  16. growing up in Halifax we knew to stand on the right hand side as usually we are very good with the whole queuing up and all but not until I moved to Toronto did I know that people actually walk up and down them!

    then we moved to the south where people have no idea how to que up OR walk some where!

  17. oh XUP you touched a nerve…

    The same SHOULD apply to sidewalks… I say SHOULD because I’ve never been in a single city where it works. Slow walkers are the bane of my existence!

    As for escalators and moving sidewalks, I’m a little bit country, a little bit rock n roll. I do on occasion like to be the yocal gawking about the fandangled whatawhozits all around me, BUT, and I stress this, I am totally off to the right so as not to impose my singular enjoyment of a few moments of rest to all the other people.

    When I’m on the go… and when I’m in the moving – passing lane, please to be getting the F outta my way. I WILL check you unabashedly if you do not. and unless the person is older than my own parents they get NO sympathy.

    And yea the I view people the stand at the TOP or BOTTOM of escalators and this applies to stairs as well and bus doors and metrocar doors, entrances to buildings etc etc as personal practice targets… MOVE! MOVEMOVEMOVEMOVEMOVE!

    What the hell are these people just standing around for.


  18. Cedar – Ya, but if you do fall in mid-air you always have the opportunity of moving your legs really fast in a running motion, thereby perhaps making it back to solid ground before gravity kicks in.

    Bandobras – Do they? I never noticed because I’m not standing there gripping the handrails for dear life. I’m WALKING.

    UP – My daughter used to freak on me for making her walk up and down escalators when no one else was walking. Once we spent some time in bigger cities, however, she realized that walking was the cool thing to do.

    Woodsy – Like I said, there are rules in larger cities where commuters race up and down escalators on the way to and from subways; the rule carries on to mall and other escalators there. It hasn’t quite hit the less travelled spots. Wait until we get that light rail tunnel, though — look out escalator standers!!

    Helen – Interesting isn’t it? I remember Halifax was pretty good about line-ups. Ottawans seem to be seriously line-challenged, though.

    Kitty – THANK YOU! I totally get that some people like to take their time, stroll around gawping and gaping and chatting; but they should be a bit more considerate of those who have to get places. The grocery store is another one — where people gather in groups in the middle of the aisles (with their carts) to catch up on gossip.

  19. We’re standers on escalators, but we always stand on the right. We’re walkers on the moving-walk-ways, unless we have Claire (or a lot of bags) in tow…then we either don’t use them or stand off to the right-side.

    I’m still a little nervous with escalators. My mom instilled in us a great fear of them. The edges will grab the toes of your shoes, and then, you’ll get sucked in at the top. (or something like that). You stand on the side, and you stand still! Until it reaches the top, then you jump over and out of the way as fast as possible! And, be thankful you didn’t get caught in the evil mechanism in the process! (I wish I were kidding…)

    To this day, I’d rather take the stairs. 🙂

  20. Ahhh a topic close to my heart 🙂 escalators as well as sidewalks… I rarely, if ever, stand to the right of an escalator while alone so will go up and say ‘excuse me’ and do respond to anyone giving me “the look” “stand right, walk left ma’am/sir/whatever”. grrr…

    Ditto for sidewalks, I’m well known for walking very fast and not suffering fools or mall walkers gladly. And now that I’m running downtown, we’ve discovered that it’s perfectly ok to say “to your left/right” to announce we’re coming up running. The only thing is that pedestrians don’t always know what it means so I usually say “to your right, to your right!” to make them move! Then I will say thank you! Because it’s just right to be polite non? lol

    My best story was in King subway station, when I was taking the subway and the morning commuters would overtake the stairs, totally blocking for us to go down to the platform. One day I was behind this girl who was clearly overwhelmed by this sea of commuters and I told her loudly to just get going will ya? they won’t let you go… and I push my way through the crowd. lol Put it this way, there was a few angry commuters going to work that morning!

    I’m very happy I don’t have to take the subway or the train anymore. I’m spoiled by having to walk only 1/2 hour, even though I’m freezing these days…

  21. CP – I think escalators are scarier if you’re just standing on them; waiting for them to thrust you onto the floor above or scoop you up from the floor below. When you walk them – you’re in control.

    UA- Wow, you really ARE an Urban Animal. Between living in Montreal and Toronto, you’d go crazy living in Ottawa or some other smaller city. The only place here where things seem to move in an orderly and efficient way is the river when it’s frozen in the winter

  22. Urban Animal – I’m always confused when I hear someone yell “to your left”. Am I supposed to move to my left, or is the jogger/bicyclist/unicyclist/whatever coming by on my left?

    Escalators are wonderful child enchanters. Last summer the girls and I went to Toronto to meet up with bloggers Jen on the Edge and No Internal Editor. Jen’s daughters and my own bonded instantly when one of hers said to mine in the lobby of the hotel, “Wanna ride the escalator?” Instant friendship. And for the record, they were standers, all 4 of them, holding hands. Mind you, no one else was using it at the time.

  23. Urban Animal & alison: It’s funny that you mention this. In the US, riders and runners yell the direction they are on…not the way the walkers are supposed to go! (Here anyway…maybe it varies by region) For example, we’re walking on the sidewalk, on the right side, and it’s not uncommon to hear “ON YOUR LEFT!” as the runner zooms by on the left.

    I can see where that would be confusing if you come from somewhere where they are yelling at you which way to go, rather than announcing where they are.

  24. AAAAAAAAAAAARGH! Grocery Stores and grocery carts…

    And it’s not even so much the ones that leave their carts in the middle of aisles it’s the ones that constantly bump into mine or more to the point … Me. I am well aware of myself and my cart and my spatial surroundings… I’m like a fricken Irish wolfhound about this… I try to be ever aware of what’s around me, ensuring I can get from A to B and others can as well without my impeding them, so when someone what’s to be where I am currently they can just flipping wait. I can still recall one such instance, CLEARLY and this was a good 10+ years ago now. The mistake I made, and I admit it freely was that I was in a grocery store in Westmount, where it’s all about entitlement … this one woman seems to be trailing me and was constantly pushing into me to be where I was. I kept on pushing back, at first gently but as time went by a little more aggressively… she didn’t get it and really had no clue that when a gasket of mine blows, and kitty’s claws come out, there’s no putting them back in. While in the dairy aisle, picking up an 8-pac of yoghurt, the ‘lovely’ woman pushed her cart into mine and thus into me. I turned immediately knowing who it was, picked up my cart a good foot off the floor and slammed it down right beside her, next I picked up her cart and dropped it where mine had been, and screamed in her face.. “ARE YOU HAPPY NOW? YOU’RE EXCATLY WHERE I WAS? THAT’S WHAT YOU WANT ISN”T IT? YES? I’LL BE OVER NEXT TO THE BREAD NEXT. SEE YOU THERE!” Oddly enough I didn’t see my new BFF again that day…

    See! I told you, you touched a nerve.

    I know It might seem like I’ve got some major anger management issues, but I assure you, I will withhold a lot, but when I blow, I blow and rest assure each and every idiot that becomes the target of my venom deserves it, soon won’t forget it and if I’ve done my job, might reconsider their actions in the future…

    (Did you catch my litter bug post a couple weeks back?)

  25. So many workers in the hive. So many busy, busy, time constrained drones.
    So many rules for all to learn.
    It’s a wonder there aren’t more aneurysms and strokes in the busy, busy, world.
    And where will they keep all that time they are saving.
    Surely if it’s put in a bank the bank mangers will just lose it all on some ever expanding time bubble that finally bursts.

  26. TCP and Alison, I guess this comes from my background, you see I’m originally from Montreal, French Canadian so I will say “to your left” because to me, it means I’m positioned to run by your left side so check that side. Having said all this, maybe I do say “on your left” as well. I don’t know. All I know is that it works, people move out of the way exactly how I want them to 🙂 I will admit not thinking about grammar too much when I run, better things to think about but understands that it would be a confusing to anyone walking on the sidewalk. I do say thank you though… maybe that’s why I haven’t had anyone yell something back at me? or maybe it’s because I’m way gone by the time they come to their senses? lol

    But thanks for pointing out the crucial difference in the two.

  27. I had never before contemplated escalator or – somehow more alarming – sidewalk rage!!

    As to airport walkways, the ones I have used have been very wide and became sort of an obstacle course to the racing travellers. There is usually space to get around folks, and if you miss a plane it is not because of those standing on the walkways! Your connecting flight may have been late, or you were simply late yourself; but someone using the walkways to collect their thoughts is in no way responsible.

    I sort of hope you don’t drive much…

  28. Alison – To kids who don’t see them much, they are kind of a fun “ride”. It would be nice if people grew out of that as they became adults, though. Andf you’re walking down the street or sidewalk, you should be on the right anyway, so anyone coming up behind you who wants to pass will be passing you on your left. They shout to make sure you realize they’re there and don’t do anything crazy like suddenly leaping over to the right side of the walk.

    CP – Like I said to Alison, there shouldn’t be any confusion because anyone coming up behind you wanting to pass will pass you on your left. The shout out is just so you know they’re coming. You shouldn’t have to do anything at all when you hear it

    Kitty – It’s nice to know that no matter how “assertive” I might seem in some of my posts, you’ll always make me seem tame by comparison. Really, there have to be some rules of conduct out in public – don’t be smacking into people, don’t block people’s way, don’t run over people with your vehicles, don’t spit on people — nice, common sense stuff like that.

    Bandobras – I seem to recall many stories from you about boneheads at work, on the road, etc., etc., back in the days when you were working. You retirees have it easy. Go do your little bits of shopping right at 4:30 when everyone is getting off work and desperately trying to grab something for dinner and get home while you count out your pennies at the cash

    Heidilou – Yikes!! Wait… I don’t have a beard…phew!

    UA – Like I said, I don’t know why this is confusing. People walk on the right, anyone passing from behind will pass on the left. Why would they want you to jump to the left? Really, you’re not expecting the pedestrian to DO anything, just beware that someone moving a lot faster is coming up behind them, right?

    Lebanowski – I can’t keep up with all your aliens. Now you’re Lebanowski — what happened to Elmer and Lebowski? And, it’s called an escalator because it’s supposed to escalate your speed at getting to the next floor.

    Anonymous – I don’t drive at all really, but if I did I certainly would get upset at someone just cruising along at 20 in the middle of the highway. And I would love to live in a world without deadlines and schedules to meet, but often it’s just those few extra seconds that make the difference between missing your connections or making them. And maybe I like to walk up escalators for the exercise, not necessarily because I’m in a big rush. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to do that? Or maybe I want to walk briskly down the sidewalk for exercise. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to do THAT? Just because you happen to believe the world should move at a snail’s pace? I certainly don’t object to you enjoying the ride of an escalator or moving sidewalk and I don’t object to you strolling down the sidewalk, but why should you have the right to dictate how I move down the sidewalk or up the escalator by blocking my way while you daydream?

  29. GBU@ – You hear voices? And they tell you where do walk and stand? Cool. But seriously, I’ve never heard an actual announcement telling people to do this. But what a good thing. (PS – what the hell is that in your avatar photo?)

  30. i couldn’t agree with you more, even you had a gun to my head.

    i’m fairly certain a new law should be erected stating that we are allowed to either pinch, smack or bite those people.