25 January 2008

escalator etiquette

what's your hometown's escalator etiquette?

there are plenty of points of divergence, but on this americans and koreans agree:

1) the driver sits on the left side of the car and drives on the right side of the road.

general walking protocol, however (e.g. between subway platforms, while crossing the street, etc.), is different. in korea, folks trend to the left, while the american right of way is (in theory, anyway) on the right. it's no wonder why i still have many awkward tête-à-tête's with koreans on busy sidewalks. as we approach one another, i reflexively step to the right just as they move to their left. rather than passing each other, we meet again... and repeat. it's yet another apt metaphor for living-abroad-culture-shock.

escalator etiquette is another point of divergence. with the exception of washington, dc's masses of very self-important suit-and-tie subway commuters, americans use the escalator to rest, not to move faster. maybe it's cause we're fat, but even in busy nyc, there are always several dopes blocking the way, oblivious to the backup behind them. let's blame the tourists.

contrast this to seoul, where i'd give the locals an 8+ out of 10 (maybe even a 9-) when it comes to leaving the escalator's left-side clear of obstructions for we walkers. even when an affectionate couple cuddles side-by-side, they can feel my stair-climbing feet behind them and merge back into the standing queue. this is surprising given typical korean subway behavior: ajussi will often give you a two-handed shove while their female counterparts throw their purses upon entering the subway car to "reserve" seats.

while cavorting around asia last year, i noticed that each country had a slightly different transportation protocol. re: escalators, singaporeans stand to the left while their colonial brothers in hong kong stand right. hong kong's central-mid-levels escalator lays claim to being the world's longest outdoor covered escalator system, at 800 meters long. in japan, tokyo riders should stand on the left but on the right when on osaka's escalators (it's the kantō-kansai rivalry thing).

although residents of major u.s. cities, london and paris are supposed to abide by the stand-right, walk-left system, this is not a NATO-inspired standard. draw whatever cultural conclusions you want, but canadians are not supposed to walk at all. in the name of safety, toronto's transit commission requests that no one walks on canadian escalators. walking (very fast), however, might have helped the 31 people who died when a london escalator caught fire and exploded in 1987. you know, i've always been scared of my shoelace getting caught between an escalator's sinister teeth.

first patented by a massachusetts yankee in 1859, and first constructed in 1896 by a new yorker, the continuous moving stairway we call the escalator moves masses efficiently while occupying no greater physical space than a staircase. a fine invention indeed!

anyhow, i'm curious to know your city or country's escalator etiquette. left, right or none of the above?


Jonith said...

germans have mixed attitudes toward this... some of the airports have signs like these, but most places are an un-signed mixed bag like seattle. some people naturally stand on the right allowing others to pass, some don't. but the key difference is that germans will step right up to whoever is blocking the way and say "excuse me". seattle people are too p.a. to do that and will instead stop two steps short of the fat blocker and breath out heavily. good on the seoulites for taking that on. it's a grossly under-appreciated public courtesy.

Swisslander said...

In Poland you stand right and walk left.

matt said...

indeed. another seattle tradition (at seatac, anyway) is a large group pausing directly in front of the escalator. they're usually from iowa. nuthin gets me riled up like public discourtesy (being oblivious counts).

swisslander: thanks for the poland info. i find this interesting. visitors from poland are "nice day"'s 4th largest cohort! maybe you just have several computers... ;)

1. usa
2. korea
3. japan
4. poland

toni conjunctamahoney said...

i would love to ask poland's swisslander when they're planning on getting rid of the other kajzinski brother. heinous.

where does germany rank??? i'm shocked that we didn't make top 4.

matt said...

don't fret, germany and canada are duking it out to clinch the final spot in the top 5.

how bout yours?

Jonith said...

it goes:

usa (seattle, la, new york, chicago, sf - in that order)
costa rica

marijoy said...

Here in Philippines that would be none of the above.