The Escalator Dictator

I try to respect every form of commuter. Everyone from the, “I still need space to read my Kindle on a crowded train” to the, “Just want to let you know, I’m gonna sneeze all over the place,” these are my fellow Chicagoans, we are all trying to survive the long winter commute.

When I lose this friendly, we’re all in this together attitude is with the Escalator Dictator; a tyrant who is not so much a person but an ideology that has taken over malls, theaters, sporting arenas, you name it. Wherever there is an escalator there is a chorus of sighs brewing behind you, trying to speed things up. Trying to turn the escalator into a staircase.

No place in Chicago is this pressure higher than at the North and Clybourn Red Line stop. Here’s the visual:


Besides that the photo looks straight out of the first Saw movie, what I want to point out here is just how clear these two options are.

Option 1

You had a well-balanced breakfast, three shots of espresso, have the Rocky soundtrack playing in your headphones, by all means take the stairs.

Option 2

But if you were just crammed on a train, stopped briefly in a dark tunnel because there was increased railway traffic, you pulled out your phone to let your family know you love them, train finally starts moving again, save the text message as a draft, train comes to your stop, you start with a few, “Pardon me, scuse me, pardon me’s,” before things get intense, you hear the announcer say, “Doors closing,” you stiff arm a 94-year-old man, barely slide through the doors, turn around and see the timid person who was following behind you get tackled and devoured by the mob of people, then please, take a deep breath.

Stand still and enjoy the minute of escalator peace before going back outside to the cold.

I’ve tried to stand still on this one lane escalator and every time it sets off a chain reaction of sighs. I turn around. Everyone is doing that stuck on the highway look, craning their neck to the side, seeing if there was a crash ahead that’s holding up traffic.

My noble stand lasts about five seconds. I want to hold my ground longer, see if I start getting booed, politely tapped on the shoulder, if people start making car horn sounds, but the pressure of the sighs is strong enough. I cave to the Escalator Dictator.

Two Lane Traffic

Most escalators are just wide enough to setup like the people movers at airports with a clear walking lane on the left, standing lane on the right. This allows the Escalator Dictator to push their way up the left side, smacking people’s calves with their suitcase, breathing out sharp, “Excuse me. Ex-CUSE me’s.”

What I don’t understand is the motivation of the Escalator Dictator. If you are an overachiever or not even that, if you want exercise, if your doctor said, “Hey, you gotta do more than just Cherrios for your heart,” if you’re in a go-go-go mood, that’s fine, more power to you, the stairs are right there.

But the person who walks up the escalator is like the guy who goes into the stall, stands and pees with the door wide open. Why are you not at the urinal? If you’re in the stall, close the door, sit down and relax. Or it’s like a group of adults saying, “Hey, wanna go play basketball?” and the dictator saying, “No I’m alright,” then heading to the local elementary school instead to dunk on fourth graders.

Us escalator people are slow. We’re not trying to win a race. If we stopped in the middle of the staircase, you would have every right to push us over. But when you step on our lazy turf, do as the lazy do and stand still. I promise, we will still move forward.

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