Last month in this space, I invited readers to help me create a public service campaign to address a problem that offends all true Washingtonians: tourists who slow our commute by clogging the left-hand side of Metro escalators.
Sharon Soffer of Arlington noted that the escalators on London's subway system are stenciled with foot prints, "sort of like illustrations of dance steps." The feet on the right are next to each other; the feet on the left alternate going up or down the escalator.
"This is clear, concise and understandable to everyone, whatever language they speak," said Sharon.
Susie Van Pool of the District also thinks we can find inspiration overseas. She sent a photo she snapped in Budapest a few years ago. The front of the subway escalator has an illustration that shows a stick figure standing on the right, while on the left is a walking stick figure. Underneath is "Please stand to the right" in four languages.
"Oh, why can't life be as simple in Washington?" Susie asks.
Tara Greco of Alexandria recommends a shotgun approach that includes bringing back those huge stickers stuck to the floor of Metro stations that said "Stand right, walk left," bagging the picture of a panda that appears on Farecards in favor of the legend "Stand right, walk left" and adding a reminder to stand on the right to those PA announcements they make about suspicious bags.
Bethesda's Dawn Goldsmith was among readers who thought it interesting that Metro has unofficially adopted the recommendations of the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation: don't walk at all, but stand to the right, face forward and firmly grip the handrail. A rider who does that, Dawn said, "will slowly but surely suffer a dislocated shoulder, as the handrails move faster than the escalators."
John Stoner of Richmond saw an extreme example of this between levels at the Rosslyn station one day. The handrail of an "up" escalator stopped moving abruptly while the stairs kept chugging along. "In about a half-second," said John, " someone who held onto the handrail a little too long got pulled over backwards and fell into the person behind him." That person fell into the person behind him and the whole row went down like a line of dominoes.
"Very funny to watch and, luckily, no one got hurt," John reports.
All in Good Fun
And then there were the suggestions that were, oh, not that serious.
Sarah Howard and Michelle Hudacsko think a series of haiku-themed public service announcements should be read over loudspeakers: "Missed my train today/Fanny packs and suitcases/Crowd the steps for miles."
Phil Hostetter of Sterling says Metro should "issue thousands of free T-shirts to 'native' Metro riders that say 'Tourists Keep Right' on the back -- maybe with a large right-pointing arrow as well." (Actually, you can order a similar T-shirt at www.standtotheright.com. It's perhaps a little too arty for our purposes.)
Some readers were downright sadistic. Revella Smith of Silver Spring said, "Metro should install 'zap machines' on the left-hand side of the escalators that give you a little electrical shock" if you tarry too long there.
The District's Brian Crowley recommends that a 2-by-4 be suspended over the left-hand side of the escalator, moving at a moderate pace.
"If it strikes you in the back of the head," Brian said, "you would know to get out of the way."
Warren Firschein of Bethesda came up with a half-dozen suggestions, each more delightful than the last:
1. Hire street performers to sing a song entitled "Stand on the Right, Walk on the Left" at the entrance to every Metro station.
2. If the Expos move to town, rename them the Washington Stand-to-the-Rights, Walk-to-the-Lefts.
3. Emulate the T-shirts you can buy in Paris that say "I climbed the Eiffel Tower in Paris" by making ones that say "I stood to the right in Washington, D.C." Distribute them free to tourists.
4. Change the Pledge of Allegiance to "and to the Republic, for which it stands-to-the-right."
5. Change the names of the two major political parties. Republicans would be "Stand." Democrats would be "Walk."
6. Change the name of our airport to Reagan National Stand-to-the-Right Airport.
Daniel Donoghue was among those who thinks Metro should just remove all the escalators in favor of stairs. "God knows we could all use the exercise. Plus, think of the money Metro would save on repairs."
Finally, Eda Valerio Figueira of Washington thinks there is a simple solution: Just ask the tourists to move. When Eda finds someone blocking her way, she simply says "Please stand to the right; the left is the walking side."
"It mostly works!" she wrote. "Actually, most of the time people thank me for letting them know."
Yeah, I guess we could try that.
I've never much been one for the beach: the sand, the suntan lotion, the way seawater dries on your back, creating an itchy, salty layer. And yet I go there every summer. I tell myself it's for The Children, who love to paddle in tide pools and build sand castles. (At least they used to. Now they just want Dad to hand over wads of cash for henna tattoos, hemp necklaces and roller coaster tickets.)
This is all a long way of saying I'm headed to the shore. In other words: John Kelly is away. His column will resume when he returns. (No duh!) That will be on Aug. 16.
Chat with me today at 1 p.m. Go to www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.