If you live in a big city, there are many things to drive you crazy on your daily commute, and it’s not just overcrowded subway trains.
Vicky Zhao is a mainlander working in Hong Kong. For her, one thing she can’t put up with is people standing on the wrong side of the escalator in subway stations.
“Escalators help us move faster and save time. It isn’t a place to rest,” the 24-year-old says. “I often see tourists block the way with their chunky suitcases or chitchatting on the escalators during rush hour. It annoys me to no end.”
Admitting she is not the patient type, Zhao says things are much better in Hong Kong than in cities on the mainland where “stand right, walk left” signs are often ignored.
The logic behind the “stand right, walk left” escalator etiquette seems obvious. Even though you may want to catch your breath and just wait while you’re transported up or down, you should still consider others and leave enough space for people in a hurry, so that they can run and catch the train.
Many cities’ escalators, including London’s and Beijing’s, use the “stand right, walk left” system to speed up the flow of people. (Australia is an exception and you should stand on the left side instead.) But some cities discourage people from moving on escalators out of safety reasons. In Hong Kong’s subway stations there are regular annoucements asking people to “stand still” on escalators. Even so, most people in this fast-paced metropolis observe the “stand right, walk left” etiquette.
Perhaps this is because those who walk on escalators seem to have taken the moral high ground and like to accuse those who block the way of being inconsiderate.
“Able-bodied people standing on the downward escalator are in effect robbing the people behind them of time,” says Hamilton Nolan, who writes for online forum Gawker and regularly uses the New York subway. He speaks the mind of many walkers.
“Their presumptuous need for leisure may cause everyone behind them to miss a train they would have otherwise caught. Then those people are forced to stand and wait on a subway platform for many extra minutes. Those are precious minutes of life that none of us will get back.”
But the people who stand on escalators defend themselves by telling the walkers not to be so impatient. In a recent story about escalator etiquette, the BBC quotes one stander as saying: “If the person is in such a rush, why not just take the stairs? Even when the escalator is packed and there’s nowhere to move, I see these same people moaning and groaning about not being able to pass.”
Whatever the escalator etiquette is in the place you live or visit, do what most people are doing and always be mindful of others: leave enough space between each other, don’t linger at the end of the escalator, and if someone is blocking your way, a simple “excuse me” is enough.
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