Sunday, 1 April 2012

Escalator Etiquette: Are You a Cruiser or a Climber?

Here's my last published Heckler column, this one from 2003. There are some important insights to be gained from something as seemingly simple as escalator travel. Hope you learn something useful!

Cruising your way to the top
May 14 2003

You are how you behave on an escalator, says Janine Harrison.

Forget star signs and personality quizzes - I have discovered that the world is divided simply and irrevocably into cruisers and climbers. You can witness this on the escalators at any train station. There are those who queue to the left to take their place and ride the escalator all the way to the top. These are the cruisers.

Then there are those who queue to the right in order to continue walking to the top, even as the escalator is carrying them to their destination. These are the climbers.

These two basic categories transcend all class, gender and racial divisions. Anyone of any age can be a cruiser or a climber, but if you are a child cruiser, you are destined to become an adult cruiser.

You may join the climbers occasionally if you are running late for work, but even as you are bolting up the moving stairs you will be glancing in envy at those sedately cruising their way to the top. If you are a climber, you will never be content to stand still when you could be moving faster, and getting to wherever it is you are going a few seconds earlier. That is your nature.

Once you have started to notice which of these categories your friends, loved ones and co-workers fall into, the world will begin to make more sense to you. My own status as a cruiser has not blinded me to the good qualities of climbers, but for obvious reasons I cannot help but draw the conclusion that cruisers are of a higher intellectual and moral character than their climbing brothers and sisters.

Unlike cruisers, who have easily adapted to technological innovation, climbers have yet to grasp the fact that the stairs are moving for a reason, namely so that humans don't have to.

As a rule they tend to be more aggressive, impulsive and excitable than cruisers, and their attention spans are limited. They are not prone to reflection and find any opportunity to think, however brief, a little disconcerting.

The more primitive mindset of climbers also means they see the world as a competitive place where they must fight to get to the top. Each day they act out this struggle on the way to and from the workplace. Many times I have witnessed the sorry spectacle that ensues when some poor soul, unfamiliar with the etiquette of escalator travel, inadvertently blocks the climbers' queue, only to be pushed and trampled underfoot until someone in the cruiser lane kindly lets them in.

Compared with climbers, cruisers are much calmer, rational and generally good-natured. They recognise that it is futile to exert themselves unnecessarily only to wind up hot, sweaty and flustered before their day has even begun. They look benignly on the world about them and smile gently to themselves as the climbers rush past them each day. For, as many cruisers have come to realise, the climbers can huff and puff and push their way to the top as much as they want, but on the great escalator of evolution they will always be a few steps behind.

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