Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Well-Wisher and the Tress

IN THE MORNING at the easternmost end of the 7 train platform in times square, at the entrance to the escalator leading up to the principal concourse, a man stands and surveys the commuters with heavy lidded eyes. He is thick goiter-necked and broad faced, with fingers like rolls of Kennedy coins and pants that taper to the bottom at such a degree as to resemble a confectionery icing bag, he is not dissimilar in appearance to a resident of Del Fino island. As he watches the somnambulant New Yorkers walk past he removes and then replaces his MTA stovetop conductor’s cap, his apish lower lip hangs, surprising tapioca-ball teeth exposed between two unshaven jelly bowl cheeks, rhythmically announcing “Watch your step getting on the escalator, folks!”

I am not in the habit of haphazardly stepping wherever my feet may please, letting them drag me about like two leashed ferrets. However, I must admit, in my reduced early morning state I may without even consciously realizing it neglect to choose my step, perform the step, and watch to see how it turns out.

Certainly this process is crucial whilst navigating the subway system, particularly when entering an escalator. Any number of unfortunate bloopers may occur, for example one may step with the foremost part of their shoe residing on the moving tread but the heel of the shoe wholly or partially placed on the landing’s immovable comb plate. As the tread continues to move forward at 1-2 feet per second, depending on the distribution of the individual’s weight, vibrations will occur, stuttered dragging forward, or perhaps simply staying in place as the moving tread massages the underside of the foot. Having not achieved the desired result of being carried forth by the moving walk, one will look down in confusion as a slide whistle sounds out a note pitched from high to low. The individual sees the misplaced foot framed clearly between the metal tress and as realization occurs a spring loudly breaks free of the cloth membrane of a mattress.

Another highlight-worthy blooper is when a commuter steps in negligence with their shoe partially on one step, partially on another. At first our poor soul will not realize the folly of their actions, as the steps are relatively flush in the first few feet of their escalator excursion. Oblivious contentment will soon turn to alarm as the steps separate at 1-2 feet per minute, leaving the heel unfound and the toe bearing the entirety of the foot’s burden. If ones other foot is placed firmly on the lower step all is well, but if both feet are left hanging in this position, toes and calves rapt like an athlete on the high-dive preparing a back summersault twist, one of the most classic pratfalls of modern times has all but certainly been set in motion. The individual will teeter and sway, hand searching for the rubber polymer of the handrail but grasping nothing but air as a warbling birdcall is sound from an unknown source. The individual tips back into the startled escalator passenger behind like some sort of impromptu trust game, and as they are begrudgingly cradled and pushed upright by the unwilling participant a cacophony of pots and pans hit the floor.

For helping us avoid these embarrassing transgressions we thank our man, collectively, as a people, for reminding us, instructing us, guiding us, and ultimately spiritually transcending us in our use of an unremarkable pedestrian traffic unit.


Bob said...


Starting Over said...

im always kind of scared my shoelace or the cuff of my jean will get caught in the escalator and my leg will be sucked in and will then need to be amputated. but it's not the amputation that scares me, it's the embarrassment of everyone watching me get stuck and scream and yell for help.
lots of people in nj have died on escalators. i swear.
better off taking the stairs like they did in the olden days.

Tim said...

Remember in "The Good Earth" when those two guys tried stairs for the first time? That must have been scary too.

Billy said...

Most commented blog evar!