By contributing writer Sarah Juliet
Did you know that the first escalator was featured as an amusement park ride at Coney Island in 1895? Kids waited on hour-long lines to experience the joys of the escalator, far surpassing other cutting edge thrill rides of the time, like revolving doors and watching paint dry.
Unfortunately, there must have been a really terrible escalator accident back in those days spawning some sort of crazy urban legend that our mothers were told as kids, because all moms fear escalators like the wrath of God. When I was a kid and my mom took me to the mall, she used to squeeze my hand tighter than Ricky Martin’s butt cheeks and warn me that if I wasn’t careful, the escalator would take hold of my shoelaces and suck me in through that crack at the top. I always imagined a dark, fiery underworld of mall trolls who took kids hostage underneath the escalator and ate them for dinner. I believed this until I realized that it’s basically IMPOSSIBLE to get sucked into an escalator through those tiny little cracks and my mom is embarrassingly gullible for believing that bullshit.
This may have been an early fledgling of my hate for escalators, but it’s the age-old question that really crawls under my skin on a daily basis: should one walk up the escalator, or should one stand-ith one’s fat ass on the escalator and not do-ith anything? Before I answer, let me say that I think as Americans, we believe that if something has the capability of simulating real-life physical activity, then we should replace that physical activity with the simulation. For example, I am an American. I have tennis for Nintendo Wii. Thus, why should I drag myself outside into wretched, blistering daylight and actually play tennis, when I can enjoy the experience of tennis right here in my very own cave?
The same thing goes for escalators. People see stairs and shudder at the very thought of using them, but people see a conveyor-belt moving in the up or downward directions and jump for joy (well, they don’t actually jump, that would take far too much effort). In every public place with multiple floors, you see empty staircases, and then you see packed escalators of people just standing there, awaiting their grand arrival at the top. I detest this. I’m going to firmly state that escalators were put there for you to walk up, and all healthy, able-bodied people should walk up them.
Let me explain. There is this invention that moves from floor-to-floor for the sake of transporting weak people, tired people, or large objects that cannot make it up the stairs (which also happen to be people in a lot of cases). This invention can be found any place stairs and escalators are found, be it a mall, a subway, or an airport. This invention is called the elevator, and it gets pissed when the escalator tries to steal its job.
What is then, you may ask, the job of the escalator? The escalator is essentially stairs on crack—an ascending or descending belt that moves continuously, whose main purpose is to help a flow of people move more quickly and fluidly between uneven planes. You’ll notice, however, that the escalator is not a very swiftly moving device, and in the time it takes you to scramble for a spot between all the old ladies and ride it up, you could’ve walked up the stairs at an average pace in less time. This is as practical as getting in your car and driving 15 feet down the driveway to the mailbox for your newspaper. Please don’t tell me you are one of those people.
Let’s look at this in terms of physics. If you stand on the stairs and do nothing, your body is moving at zero miles per hour. People who actually go out in public and stand on the stairs expecting something to happen really don’t even deserve to be out in public in the first place. But here’s the point: if you stand on the escalator and do nothing, your body is moving at the same velocity as the escalator, but you’re still accelerating at a whopping zero meters per second squared. This is nearly as bad as standing stationary on the stairs. Why limit yourself so????
If you actually walk up the escalator, you are accelerating at your chosen rate PLUS that extra boost provided by technology; it’s like the one time a day for a few seconds that you get to be super-human! Have you ever been on one of those moving-walkways that makes you feel like a fucking speed-demon? When you walk on those sons of bitches, the world around you becomes streaming lines of light and color because you’re going so fast you can’t see anything. It’s fantastic. You might not go this fast on an escalator, but it’s the same idea. Therefore, the conclusion of this mathematical problem is: if one stands on the escalator, then one moves two times slower than a stair-walker. If one walks on the escalator, one moves twice as fast as a stair-walker. It’s that simple!
Now before you jump on the defense, I’ll clarify that it’s okay for handicapped people to stand on the escalator. By all means, if you have one leg or a plastic hip or some shit like that, stand until you’re blue in the face. But please, don’t give me this “I’m out of shape” hooey. Healthcare professionals agree that if you aren’t capable of walking up four flights of stairs without taking a break, then you shouldn’t be having sex. Somehow, I have a feeling that most of these escalator standers are having a lot more sex than their health may warrant. Thus, you can either walk up the escalator with vigor and keep your bow-chika-wow-wow, or you can stand on the escalator and put your horizontal tango career on sabbatical. The choice is entirely yours, but if you’re not stupid, you’ll choose the first one. By keeping your sex life, you will be helping me wage the war against escalator standers. If you’re enlightened and want to help me more, you can meet me at the Time Warner Mall in Manhattan every Tuesday and Thursday where I will be pelting eggs and rotten fruit at unqualified escalator standers all day.
In all fairness to modern technology, though, I’ll admit that these stairs-on-wheels of sorts aren’t all bad. Mitch Hedburg once said, “An escalator is never broken, just temporarily stairs.” This is a great point, proving that the escalator is one of the only advances in modern technology that is more convenient when completely turned off—aside from a PC of course. (Oh! Oh! See what I did there?? That was a Mac joke! Take that, Windows Vista!! God I’m so good.) There’s also the occasional “pants caught in the gears” situation that happens in malls which is a huge benefit of escalators to unsuspecting bystanders. I’ve witnessed a handful of guys in baggy pants completely lose trow to the clutches of an escalator and walk around the rest of the day in smiley-face boxers. Great stuff, if you’re lucky enough to see it.
America: young or old, fat or thin, there are too many of us carelessly riding the escalator. I urge you: be ye not this lazy! Walk with pride and vitality! And if you do choose to stand, I recommend that you conceal your corpulent, lazy self within an elevator as not to clog up the flow of the newly-dynamic walkers, and also to avoid the flying fruits I will be throwing at you. A new day is dawning. I ask you: will you be the activist or the oaf?