The Escalator Shuffle

I’m not sure it’s confined to any one culture because I see it all over the world, and I still don’t understand it. The Escalator Shuffle is when people in malls or wherever race to be ahead of others on escalators, but then stand still as soon as soon they’re on it, usually two abreast — or however many it takes to block any idiot who insists on walking up or down. No one is expected to try to pass, or scowls will be exchanged.

This of course is a very strategic manoeuver, and leaves them well-placed to, er, do what exactly? It prevents anyone passing them, which can only be a good thing for one’s self-esteem, but raises interesting questions as to why they rushed to be on the escalator if they’re not in so much of a hurry that they’re actually going to walk up or down said escalator? Because they want to show off their new pants to the folk standing behind them? Because they find all the other people trying to get on the escalator really ugly and don’t want to have to look at them as they glide up or down said escalator? Because they are exhausted from racing so fast to get on there first they couldn’t possibly walk a step further?

I must confess I don’t understand this. In Jakarta, Singapore or Bangkok it seems natural enough not to rush the whole escalator thing. No one is in that much of a hurry in these places, unless they’re in a car. But it always amused me in Hong Kong because there everyone will use any ruse to gain an extra inch on everyone else. But still, except for poor delivery folk whose life depends on getting everything done in 30 seconds, the escalator seems to be sacrosanct, a hallowed neutral zone where everyone can stop for a second, mop their brow and stare at the next person’s ass (going up) or hairpiece (going down). I guess it’s Hong Kongers’ idea of a holiday. Maybe that’s what the Escalator Shuffle is: a short holiday, in the middle of a busy day doing nothing in an air-conditioned mall.

Using Technology To Spread The Load

Is this the future of shared machinery. BBC reports of a Spanish washing machine called

“Your Turn”, which will not let the same person use it twice in a row.

It uses fingerprint recognition technology to ensure the job of loading is not dumped on just one individual.

Nice idea. But why stop at washing machines? Bathroom doors that won’t let you go back in if the other folk in the house haven’t had their morning shower; dishwashers, trashbins and cookers; even the household computer. Dog leashes; garden hoses, leaf blowers, lawn mowers.

In the office, one could use it for the paper trays in printers and photocopiers, so one poor sod doesn’t always have to do it. The office canteen microwave; the office coffee maker.

And why not variations on the theme, so, say, lifts won’t work if people have entered the lift before allowing people to get off first? Lift doors that won’t close if users try to shut them before everyone who wants to has gotten aboard? Escalators that stop if users don’t stand to one side to allow others to pass; cars that won’t start if they’re not parked properly between lines so that other cars can park next to them?

The possibilities are endless, as are our peeves. A Monday morning fantasy…