When I moved to Seattle after 26 years of residence on the East Coast, I knew I would be making lifestyle adjustments. I imagined investing in more waterproof footwear and learning the difference between recycling and compost. I was prepared to approach all “cultural differences” with an open mind and sense of adventure and use my new life on the west coast as a chance to slow down. In the past year I’ve been here, I have adapted to re-useable shopping bags, bikes being everywhere, DOGS being everywhere, but the one thing I cannot navigate is how to ride an escalator in Seattle.
Of course, there are escalators in the East Coast. But the way I was raised, was to view an escalator as invention to help fast moving people move even faster. If you hear the subway train approaching, RUN DOWN THE ESCALATOR; about to miss the opening kick-off at Gillete Stadium, RUN UP THE ESCALATOR. However, do not mistake the brisk speed of escalator riders for chaos or disorganization because there is an important factor to remember… and that is unofficial escalator etiquette. The unofficial escalator etiquette is known by all and is as follows: “Stand right, walk left”. These are words to live by, because if you intend to ride stationary on the left hand-side (or God forbid THE MIDDLE), one of two things will happen.
A) Someone will bump/push you aside or
B) You will get yelled at.
The unofficial/official knowledge is, only tourists stand so the faster you walk, the more New England-y you appear.
Keeping the above in mind, you can imagine my dismay when I came to realize there was no such escalator code of conduct in Seattle. My initial rides were awkward and uncomfortable. Like Moses trying to part the Red Sea, I would ask stationary people to move so I could get by. This usually resulted in people becoming extremely apologetic to the point that I started apologizing too (for reasons I am unsure of). When I try standing on an escalator, it feels like I am not using the contraption to its full potential- like using an iPad as a coaster. I understand that for some people, an escalator can be a break from a busy day and a chance to relax even for a few seconds. For me, it’s a year later and I still avoid escalators. If an escalator is completely open, I’ll jump on and relive my glory days, but other than that, you’ll find me wheezing on the stairs.