I’ve long had an irrational fear of escalators. I think I heard some horror story as a child about a kid getting sucked into one by his shoelaces, disappearing into the tacky underbelly of the mall, never to be seen again. Each time I approached one I checked my shoes, to make sure I wasn’t about to meet my maker.
Once, my aunt took me to the top level of Dillard’s. There were normal escalators throughout the department store, until you got to the top level, which had a death-defying skinny escalator. I have no idea how we reached the bedding and customer service/gift-wrapping sections of the top level, but my best guess is by elevator. In any case, when it was time to leave, my aunt led me to the death escalator. It was so skinny, I couldn’t imagine any human stepping on and surviving. I should say that I was about 5 years old at the time, and all of 40 lbs. I could have fit three of me side by side on this thing. But when my aunt stepped on, I did not. She didn’t notice at first, but when I started shouting, “no, no!” she turned around. “Help!” I shouted to confirm that I was, indeed, in distress. She gave me her “dammit, Lauren” look before doing a stealth running man up the escalator. One foot in front of the other, she marched, never making it any further. “Get on, Lauren!” she shouted. “No!” I said. I really thought we’d established that I wouldn’t be boarding.
People began to look, and my aunt was clearly feeling the heat. She went into Olympic mode, and somehow made it up the three escalator steps needed to reach me. She grabbed me and pulled me on. I screamed, thinking, “this is it, this is how it ends.” Spoiler alert: I survived!
Since then, my fear of escalators has waned, but I’m still wary. If I hear one making a weird sound, I’ll take the stairs, or just abandon my destination altogether. Recently, I was in DC, and was stunned by the height and angle of he elevators. I don’t understand how everyone in DC doesn’t tumble down every single day.
About a week, something terrible actually did happened on an escalator in Hong Kong. The up escalator started going in reverse. That’s right, the up turned into down, with no notice. Not only that, but it started going three times faster than normal. Pretty much my worst nightmare. Somehow, only 18 people were injured, according the this Business Insider article (I know what you’re thinking, and no, I definitely don’t read Business Insider). The video is pretty scary to watch, and I’m quite certain I would have been saying my goodbyes, as I held on for dear life. These people are all the biggest of champs.
While most of the accounts within the article were relieving (like the fact that most of the riders were young, so agile, and maybe not unfamiliar with being in a pile of bodies), one was a bit disturbing:
“Some people ran upwards. Some even jumped over to another escalator on the side,” Chu said.
Come again, Chu? If I were on a speedy backwards escalator, I definitely wouldn’t think, “maybe I can outrun this bad boy.” Nor would I venture to jump across to another escalator like I’m Spider Man (I don’t have a solid understanding of who Spider Man is or what he does). I’d probably just die of fear of being in a body pile.
Oh, and it’s also worth noting that apparently this was done intentionally. Two awful people messed with the things (technical term, look it up), and made it go in reverse. It’s most upsetting. I salute those escalator victims, and hope the garbage people who caused this nonsense can’t figure out how the treadmill at the gym works, and are forced to run really fast, backwards, and fall and skin their knees.
Listen, I’m not saying we should all stop riding escalators. But stay woke. Hold on. Keep those laces tied.