As a former Metro rider whose life was made miserable for years by the infamous “Stand to right” sign, I was truly shocked to read the rants and raves of Joe Dempsey (“Stair Masters,” 5/3) in regard to Metro’s “obstructing” the “local escalator custom” of the “walk-on-the-left/stand-on-the-right arrangement.”
As someone who can only properly hold my balance on escalators by putting my left hand on the handrail, I have to stand on the left side of an escalator, so I am quite familiar with the situation described by Dempsey. He is in denial when he claims that people “walk” on the left. Get real: People don’t walk—they run. Actually, they don’t run—they gallop.
Typically, what you’re talking about is young, athletic professionals, bearing heavy briefcases and/or backpacks, storming out of the Metro tracks as if they had been cooped up for an eternity underground and releasing their pent-up energy by running up the escalator with all the more gusto because for them, it’s a free treadmill that doesn’t require the paying of gym fees.
It is true that these yuppies usually tried the polite approach first. They’d ask me politely if I would please move over for them so they could continue their run up the escalator. Naturally, I would refuse to budge. Well, the second time around, they’d get nasty. They’d argue that the “Stand to right” sign gave them the “right” to run up the left side, and me the “obligation” to move over for them.
Assuming this was a long escalator with time left to continue the discussion, I would then proceed to explain that this was the only way I could hold my balance, that they were endangering my safety and my life and those of hundreds of fellow riders aboard the escalator, and, finally, that this was not the proper place for them to get their daily exercise. The more I would explain this, the more outraged these yuppies typically would get: They would get red in the face. They would become enraged. They would start insulting me and try shoving me around. In other words, it was all about “Me first” and “Damn everybody else.”
In all my years of using the Metro escalator, not once, not a single time, did I heard such a yuppie reconsider and tell me, “Well, ma’am, maybe you’ve got a point there.” And I can’t tell you how cynical this whole experience has made me about the American people. No longer do I consider that there are any adults in this country. We’re talking about a band of overgrown, spoiled, self-serving brats. Forget about community interest. What governs these people is raw self-interest, selfishness, narcissism, and push-button instant gratification.
Metro is not the best thing that has happened to Washingtonians since sliced bread. It is a faulty system—poorly designed, poorly managed, poorly operated, poorly staffed, poorly policed, and poorly accountable. In fact, my suspicion is that Metro operations were deliberately set up to minimize liability in the face of spectacular design flaws. Hence the arrogance of Metro management. (“We can’t be successfully sued, so why should we care?”) In and of itself, it is a dangerous mass-transit system (not just for the disabled), which I have given up riding in favor of the good old bus. But it certainly isn’t helped by the attitude of its riders.
Will Dempsey’s next offering be “Metro obstructs a local custom of treating the trains as dining cars”?