Life Is Like An Escalator

I’m  sitting in front of a down escalator.  I won’t go into the details of why I’m doing that, just that I have discovered a very distinct pattern of escalator riding.  There are a limited, it seems by my observations, of ways to ride down an escalator and very few variations.

First there is the “stand at attention” method.  The person stands in the middle of the escalator with a hand on each handrail.  Legs spread slightly apart.  Eyes front.

Then there is the more “casual stand at attention,” where the backpack is on one shoulder and the other hand is on the railing.  Still in the middle though.  Eyes still front.

There’s the “parade wave.”  Someone at the bottom of the escalator has spotted the rider, or the other way around, which results in the rider removing their hand from the safety of the handrail and waving below.  Not everyone does this, so probably not everyone has someone waiting at the bottom or is afraid to let go of the moving handrail.

Another interesting variation is whether the rider puts the carry-on in front of them ….Wait, there’s a guy holding a purse on the escalator for god’s sake.  Oh, his wife is behind him with the baby, so that now makes sense…or pulls it behind them.  Sometimes they pull it to the stair next to them and sometimes they let it ride on the stair behind them, maybe for an easier dismount.

If you know someone on the escalator with you and they’re riding above you, you can use the “sideways stance.”  This allows you to talk to them while riding down the escalator.  Hopefully someone will let you know when you get to the ill-fated and possibly dangerous bottom of the escalator.

There is the “coy pose” ride down the escalator.  One leg is cocked at the knee to the left or right, standing on only the one remaining leg you look rather coy.  This is predominantly a female stance on the escalator.  Sometimes the leg is swung out in front, heel riding on front of the stair.

Here comes a “side stance rider.”  She knows the person(s) above her.  A “rear carry-on rider” just went by.  Little variation, this rider let the carry-on go two steps up behind them, I guess for an even  smoother dismount.

Finally there is the “walker”.  They are usually  found on an empty escalator.  They’ll walk down the stairs, glorifying in the fast pace at which they are going down stairs, until they hit the bottom and stumble off the escalator.  Sometimes a walker will be on an escalator with people and will walk as far as the crowd will let them and then stop in one of the other stances.

Patent #25,076 was issued March 9, 1859 to Martin Ames for an invention he called Revolving Stairs.  He never built it.  It appears he died in 1860.  Along comes Jesse W. Reno in 1892.  He patents the first working type of escalator.  It was introduced as a novelty ride at Coney Island at the Old Iron Pier in 1896.  It was basically a conveyor belt without stairs slanted at a 25 degree angle.

Next on the scene is George A. Wheeler and Charles D. Seeberger.  Both file patents for their designs starting in 1891.  Again in  1892, 1896, 1897 and 1899.  In 1900, Charles Seeberger registers the name “Escalator” a name rumored to be a combination of  the Latin word “scala” for steps with part of the word elevator (the prefix “e” with the suffix “tor”) to form escalator.  However this has never been confirmed.  I guess nobody ever asked him.  It is speculated that he might have used the French word “escalade” which means to climb over a wall.  By 1921 the Otis Elevator Company owned the Reno and Seeberger patents and the registered trademark.  They made the final improvements to the design which is the escalator you see today except the stair treads were made of wood.  So what happened to Wheeler?  Seeberger bought his patents and then went to work for Otis in 1899.

So there you go, the history of the escalator.  If you’re bored sitting in an airport after your flight has been cancelled, sit in front of a down escalator and see if you can come up with any new riding methods.  Yeah, bored shitless.  Maybe I’ll go sit in front of an up escalator for a while.

“Life is like an escalator.  You can move forward or backward; you can not remain still.” –  Patricia Russell-McCloud.  I think she should have said you can move up or down but you can’t remain still.  Oh well, who am I to say.  And an escalator never breaks, you know, it just becomes stairs.  There was a power outage at a department store yesterday and twenty people were stuck on the escalators. – Steven Wright.

Do you remember the first time you rode on an escalator?  Me neither, but I know I was never trained.  I grew up in a town where there were no escalators and only a handfull of elevators.  We used to sneak in one of the apartment houses on the way home from school and ride them for fun.  We almost always got caught.  The doors would open on the fourth floor and there would be a tenant waiting to get on.  “What are you boys doing here?”  WTF…riding the elevator.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Life Is Like An Escalator

  1. Cute! I usually take the stairs if offered, I’m such a klutz and usually trip getting off. I’m the rider clutching the rail fearfully. “Escalator” was a great choice of name for this contraption, wasn’t it! It really stuck.

    Now elevators are a different story! Songs, stories, and movies have been written to them. When I was a kid I had a friend who lived in an old apartment building that had the kind with the gate you pull shut. If you left the gate open after you got off, other people couldn’t use the elevator. Remember those? Tenants were always mad. And department stores actually had elevator operators! Imagine!

    I LOVE Stephen Wright!

    • There’s an escalator at Universal Studios in California that would scare the bezesus out of you. But it’s so high and long, although there are stairs, I think the walk could kill you. It’s the longest one I have ever been on.

      I remember the elevator operators, but I was very little and still living in New York. Macy’s Department store actually.

      Yep, Steven Wright is pure genious.

  2. Old Age: Life always feels like that nano-second right after you’ve stepped off an escalator.

  3. Pingback: Proverbs, the 5th - sex.religion.politics

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