If you’ve ever taken the subway from Queens to the Manhattan during the morning rush, and if you’ve ever gotten off at Lexington Avenue, then you know the situation I am about to describe. This is likely true at subway stations around the city, but I can only speak from experience, and the story I am going to relate happened this morning, at Lexington Avenue.
First, a little background. To get from the E/V platform to the exit at Lexington, at the front of the train (where most people go), there are two parallel escalators, and stairs. Both escalators, during the morning rush, go up. You have those people that wish to walk, and they take the stairs. You have those that wish to ride, and they take the escalators. Then there are those that wish to walk quickly, and walk up the escalators. An interesting dynamic evolves. On each escalator, two lanes form, one for riding, one for walking. Looking at the escalators, you will see, from right to left, riders-walkers-riders-walkers. I noticed this dynamic very early (last summer) in my Lexington Avenue commuting career. Similar to on a highway, those that desire speed, stay left. And just like on a highway, every once in a while, you get some shmuck that wants to go 45 in the left lane.
The walkers are generally intent on speed. They like to keep moving. If the walking line stops for any reason, the tsk-tsk-ing is audible, even to the point that people will yell up to “keep it moving!” Whether they are late for work, want to make sure they catch a 6 transfer or just have zero patience (very New Yorker…this city has lost all it’s patience), they like to keep moving. The riders understand this, and keep to the side. Except for once-in-a-while. Like today.
Sometimes, a walker won’t notice the evolving dynamic, or won’t know about it in advance, as the four lines form on the platform (hundreds of people get off each train, it gets bottlenecked), will get on any one of them, not knowing that there are two “walking lanes.” Sometimes, when it is very crowded, there is no room for them to get out of the way, and the walking lanes stop until they get off the escalator. Watching the walking lane start to move is awesome. The moving literally crawls backward down the escalator, until the line is moving again.
And then sometimes, like this morning, something great happens (or appalling, depending on your perspective.) A middle-aged woman (perhaps slightly older, but not a senior citizen), a rider, ended up in the walking lane next to me. (I was in the right riding lane on the left escalator, she was riding in the left walking lane of the right escalator). She was not walking, and had no intention to, either. Pretty common. Except that there was gap directly to her right. She needed only to take on step to her right, to make room for the walkers to go past. But she wouldn’t. Not even when the kind old lady next to her pointed out that the people behind her wanted to walk, and that there was room for her to move out of the way. She refused. Steadfastly. She absolutely refused to concede the lane to the walkers, and get out of the way. This became even more glaring, when the walkers began to snake around her, stepping right and up behind her, and then left and up past her. I was dumbfounded. I could not imagine what would cause this woman to be so stubborn as to refuse the simple courtesy of taking one step right, and letting people who clearly wanted to keep moving keep moving!
Sadly, I never got the chance to ask her. But I have my ideas.