Awhile back, in a column of Metro reminiscences, I mentioned that I suffer from a strange disability: I have trouble walking on a stopped escalator.
This is a problem, since so many of our subway escalators seem not to escalate anymore.
I'm not alone. Wheaton's Trish Broud said she also has trouble walking on stopped escalators, though she can walk on moving ones. "I think that it is because the risers are higher than a normal staircase," she wrote. "When they are moving, the momentum provides a 'lift' (so to speak); your body is already moving so some of the impetus is there already."
Abby Thomas of Silver Spring noticed the same thing. "I'm conditioned to expect a nice boost walking up, or a floating feeling walking down."
Marguerite Coomes of Kensington said she remembers reading somewhere that the problem is due to the striped treads on an escalator. "They have a strange effect on depth perception," she said. "The recommendation was to close one eye as you walk down the escalator. This has not worked for me, but it might for you!"
I'm afraid if I close an eye on a Metro escalator I'll lose a leg.
Another problem, said Sam Davis: "Escalators aren't built in flights, with breaks every 7-10 or so steps, giving a little rest periodically. They just keep going in one continuous string."
These days we're surprised when we encounter a working Metro escalator, but there was a time when it used to be the opposite. Mike Horner of Arlington shared a memory from the first Joe Gibbs era. "It was a big game and the crowd taking Metro to the stadium was enthusiastic. Metro would get crazily crowded during these times, but it was a happy crowd. My friend and I and hundreds of others filed out of our train and hopped on an escalator to lead us out of the station. The escalator was packed. About halfway up, it stopped. The noisy crowd grew silent, looking around, puzzled and worried. After about 15 silent seconds, a woman on the descending escalator yelled 'Walk.' There was a collective, 'Oh, yeah,' and the undeterred masses continued on to the game."
Not related to escalators, but worth sharing, are these Metro moments:
Laura Waayers of Alexandria was riding the Yellow Line home during rush hour one afternoon and, "as always," stragglers ran toward the train at L'Enfant Plaza trying to get on before the doors closed. "After leaving the station, the conductor comes on the intercom and says: 'Attention, customers. When you hear the 'doors closing' bell, please do not attempt to board. If you wish for me to hold the doors open, please bring $100 to the front of the train.' It was hilarious. Everyone was laughing about it the rest of the way home."
My colleague Jacqueline Dupree passed along a great Metro vignette that she observed: "A bunch of tourists got on my train at L'Enfant one day and were looking at the map, and consulting back and forth. Finally, one said, 'No, we're definitely on the Orange Line; you can tell from the color of the carpet.' "
Speaking of Tourists
Did you see that recent article by Lyndsey Layton about the eternal battle between people who walk on Metro escalators and those -- usually tourists -- who clog up the left-hand side?
The most interesting thing in there, I thought, was the revelation that it is Metro's official policy that you not walk on its escalators. Metro used to have signs that said you should stand on the right and walk on the left, but those have been removed, lest it appear that the transit system endorses walking on escalators. It's a safety thing. The Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation advises standing to the right and facing forward while firmly gripping the handrail. (The EESF also warns against window-shopping while riding, something that doesn't really apply at, say, Judiciary Square.)
Trying to keep people from walking on the escalator is like trying to hold back the tides. If Metro won't launch a tourist-education campaign, I will.
Or, rather, we will. Please send me your ideas on how to persuade tourists to stand to the right. Posters? Public service announcements? Whip-wielding Metro employees who climb up and down the escalators all day long, clearing a path on the left? Send your suggestions, with "Escalators" in the subject line, to email@example.com. Or mail them to John Kelly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.
Finally, let me assure any escalator-clogging tourists who may be reading this that we feel no personal animosity towards you. We welcome you to Washington. We appreciate your interest in our city. We value the vibrancy you bring and the dollars you leave behind.
Now stand to the right. We have a train to catch.
Send a Kid to Camp
Camp Moss Hollow's opening campfire is just a week away. Starting June 26, groups of at-risk kids will find a much-needed refuge in the hills of Fauquier County, courtesy of Washington Post readers such as yourself.
Our goal for this year is $750,000. As of yesterday, we'd collected $137,615.51.
Here's how you can contribute: Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to: Attention, Lockbox, Department 0500, Washington, D.C. 20073-0500.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/camp. Click on the icon that says, "Make Your Tax-Deductible Donation."
To contribute by phone with Visa or MasterCard, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in KIDS, or 5437, and follow the instructions.