If you live in a decently sized city or town, chances are you used an escalator more than once. They’re a pretty cool feature of modern society so I try using them when I see them. Give or take, it takes about 5 to 15 seconds to go from one end of the escalator to the other, and that’s enough time to notice the people around you. After twenty years of deep observation, I was finally able to divide the people riding the escalators in 6 different groups. Even though I use “he” or “him”, these apply to men and women equally; I just didn’t feel like going through the whole he/she thing…
1. The Angry Person: It’s the one you will always find running on the escalator really fast, looking agitated and concerned. They seem to be very busy, really focused on a place they need to be, or perhaps just late catching a bus. You can see in their eyes how the escalator is that one little boost of momentum that they needed. They are probably thinking: “That’s it, once I get on the escalator, I can run, and I will gain those two seconds I lost back at the door.” They are impatient, seldom impolite, most of the time pushing others on the escalator, because, of course, they are extremely busy and they need those two seconds put to good use. When they meet with a Douchebag (see below), a conflict is likely to ignite. We call this kind “angry”, because regardless of how fast they are going up or down the escalator, they always feel they could do better if it wasn’t for all “these other people.” If the escalator was much longer, these people would commit a murder by the time they get off of it.
2. The Guilty Sedentary: These are people who really, really, really wish they could go to the gym. They want to, they talk about it, they even dream about it. But they never do, and therefore they feel guilty. When they step on the escalator they feel everyone’s eyes on them, all the judgmental looks and head shaking; they can almost hear their thoughts: “Yes, take the escalator, it’s not enough that you didn’t go to the gym where you pay your membership for over a year, but you can’t even climb a damn stair.” So that guilty conscious will push them to walk up the stair. They usually have a sort of grimace on their face, because they are really out of shape, but they will try to make eye contact with other passer-bys in hopes of getting one of those elusive head nods that seem to say: “Way to go, buddy, at least you are walking, even on an escalator.” But those looks never come. These people will get off the escalator and avoid eye contact for the rest of the day. Sooner or later they will become a True Sedentary.
3. The Average Joe: He is not in a hurry, realizes that just because the escalator is moving you don’t really need to stop, and is aware that other people behind him might be in a hurry. Most of the times, however, he is a judgmental person. Even though his act of walking on the escalator doesn’t stem from an internal desire, but more from inertia, he will often look down toward the Sedentary (see below), and he will shake his head in a disapproving manner, while staring at the back of their heads, thinking that somehow they can see him anyway. If more than one is traveling, they will often speak right after getting off the elevator and make some remarks about how this country is getting fat and nobody is doing anything about it. A lot of these people later become Douchebags (see explanation below).
4. The Physically Challenged: These are people who, due to a specific physical reason or old age, can’t really walk up and down the escalators and usually wind up standing on the right side. Many times they are flanked by a True Sedentary (see below). Often, an Average Joe will help them get on and off the escalator. Throughout the remainder of the day, that Average Joe will believe he got an extra credit in his After Life. The person they helped will still be wondering who was the one who put them on the escalator, when in fact they were going in a completely different direction.
5. The True Sedentary: These are the people who completely gave up hope, at least when it comes to their physical appearance and/or health. Their goal in life is to find as many places as they can with escalators, automatic sidewalks, elevators, and benches. Their life revolves around them. If they had enough money they would install them in their home. Once they find one escalator they will immediately position themselves on the right, and lean on the rail to get as much support as possible. They will also make eye contact, but the look in their eyes says: “That’s right, I am standing here. I don’t care about anything anymore so you deal with that.” This kind of person is a bit like the sheep at a zoo: we all know it’s there, we can see it, but we really don’t care to interact with it. One last thing to mention: there is a rare form of a True Sedentary – it’s the rarely seen Guilty True Sedentary. He still has a shed of shame left deep down inside and to hide it, he will usually wait until he can hide behind a physically challenged person, to be able to invoke some sort of reason for the fact that he’s not moving. Often they travel together to catch these opportunities in a pack. Many times, if the escalator is broken, the True Sedentary will give up and return home. If he is stranded somewhere on the upper floors, he will call security and complain about the broken escalators. At home he will tell the story about how “he told them off” for many Thanksgivings to come. People will listen because they know that it’s all he’s got.
6. The Douchebag: This is the person that everyone hates. Why? Because as soon as they get on the escalator, they position themselves solid in the center of the step, they don’t move and they don’t allow anyone else to pass them by. The douchebagginess in this situation stems from so many places, that I felt compelled to break this down into sub-categories to make clearer:
6.1. The Polite Douchebag: this is the douchebag that gets on the escalator and sits there, but not really for any particular reason. He’s simply oblivious to anything that goes around him and somehow thinks that the escalator is there just to serve him. He will look confident and apparently aware of what goes on around him, but he will not move on his own. But, being in the polite category, he will move when tapped on the shoulder, when asked by a person behind him, or when kicked in the back by one of the Angry People. Sometimes he will even say “Sorry”, but other times he will mumble some curses in a low voice. However, at this point, nobody cares. Everyone saw him move away, and nobody interprets that as being polite; instead they read it as being weak. And a weak person cursing in low voice is not interesting. Might be cute, but not interesting. But just between us, we know that the person is really polite… he just happens to be a douchebag as well.
6.2. The Accidental Douchebag: The people in this category find themselves here by complete accident… well, let me elaborate. I am talking about those people who carry such a large luggage which makes it impossible for them to clear the way or walk on the escalator. Whereas most people would understand their situation, they will be cursed in people’s minds throughout the entire escalator journey. Then you have the people who are quite large – so large that they occupy the entire width of the escalator regardless if they stand sideways or not. These people will not be able to move to the side and are almost incapable of taking one step. Now, this is really not a complete accident, not all the time. Sometimes it is, due to some disease but other times it isn’t. Sometimes it’s being premeditated since kindergarten when breakfast, lunch and dinner consisted of McDonalds. Nevertheless, most people will understand and pile quietly behind these massive rotund travelers. All people in this category belong in the True Sedentary group as well, by the way. So they too will get the disapproving nod and the “country getting fat” comments. Most of the time, when getting off the escalator, these people will stop and rest because the height difference between floors makes them dizzy. And the last type of Accidental Douchebag is a person that stands next to a Sedentary leaning on the right and has a conversation with them, thus blocking the way. Sometimes the conversation is so intense that you feel compelled to give them your coffee, cover them with an umbrella and hum a soft tune just to make the atmosphere more intimate. However, the truth is that deep down inside you just want to kill them both. Usually the accidental douchebag will be forced to move by the masses. Since he can fit on the escalator next to someone else, he is not that large and therefore an easy prey for an Angry Person. They move quickly out of the way to avoid being trampled to death. This group is endangered as more and more people realize that a conversation can be interrupted for 10 seconds and resumed afterwards.
6.3. The Complete Douchebag: This is our final and most dreaded category of people on the escalator. The Complete Douchebag is a person who has lost or never had any consideration for any human being around them other than themselves. They will, just like any douchebag, rest in the middle of the step, not moving to the side or up or down and usually they will be deeply and intensely preoccupied with some activity. The activity could be: reading a book, because, we all know that the escalator is the most peaceful place and prone to literature enrichment, or sending an email or texting the boss or spouse about being late, probably mentioning how slow the escalator is and how it contributes to the lateness. In 99% of the cases, the Complete Douchebag is listening to an iPod or other type of music player. They do this on purpose to prevent hearing other people asking them to move. They usually wear a big backpack to deter other people from taping them on the shoulder. Even if you do, they will ignore it. If their hands are not busy, they will firmly grip on the rail on each side in a passive-aggressive mannerism that seems to say: “Thou shall not pass.” When an Angry Person crosses paths with a Complete Douchebag, a battle will most likely begin. Depending on the city and the location in the city their attitude might go anywhere from a bit apprehensive to rabid dog angry, while the altercation might include pushing, cursing, spiting, hair-pulling, hitting, kicking, stabbing, or a staring contest. Most of the time people will root for the Angry Person, even though they hate that person anywhere other than on the escalator. Since the ride is not long, the conflict will end quickly, so there isn’t enough time for betting, which is why it never caught up as a sport. But, sometimes it is entertaining, especially when seen from the opposite escalator.
So, that’s my list. But before I go, I thought of a way that could help us get rid of all the escalator douchebags in the world, by making them become self-aware. So, copy-paste the flyer below, print about 50 copies of it and keep them in your bag with some scotch tape. Every time you are stranded behind a douchebag, put one of these notes on their bag or coat. After a few years, all the douchebags should be gone:
I am a douchebag because:
- I do not move out of the way on the escalator
- I do not walk up or down the escalator
- I do not care about people
- I am oblivious(*) to anything that goes on around me
I will stop these things right away. I will stop being a douchebag.
(*) – Depending on your location you might need to add a little note explaining this word.
Before I go, I leave you with this “Only in America” photo: