Escalator Etiquette and Other Notes

(Image from here.)

I've had a bit of a rough day and feel a bit like whinging. There's no real reason for this, just an overall sense of aggravation and frustration, which is mostly unjustifiable.

I love London but sometimes living in a city that pulls at you the way it does, a city that allows for so little personal space, grates. Most days I am so much in love with all that I get to see and do here that I barely notice the inconveniences of jamming my body into the hot tube every morning, but today everything felt like a challenge. If I had to pick one thing that annoys me the most it is the men and women who line the busiest streets and intersections pawning off London's free dailies - London Lite, Metro, etc., etc. They block doorways, entrances and sidewalks, their insistent arms jutting out in front of you, all but forcing you to take one. I'm not sure how their employers instill such passion in these people who surely must be poorly compensated for their time but almost without exception approach each passer-by with an almost religious-like zeal. Take what I have! Take one! When I am really at odds it takes everything in my power not to tell them to kindly take their paper out of my face.

The first time I visited London, I remember getting on an escalator going down into a tube station and like so many newbies to the city, I planted myself firmly on the 'wrong' side of the moving stair. In London everyone is in a rush all the time and to enable those people, the proper thing to do is to stand on the right hand side of escalators to leave room on the left for those people who are in such a great rush that they choose to walk. Instead of being told gently to move to the right, I am pretty sure that someone yelled at me and maybe even shoved me a little bit. I felt embarrassed and a little annoyed at the rudeness. It's amazing how many other non-Londoners share this exact same experience.

When my mother was here visiting a few months ago, I warned her in advance about escalator etiquette and as a result I am pretty sure that the only one reminding her to move over was me. She remarked quite a few times on how rushed people were in London and now, instead of commiserating about the rudeness of Londoners, I found myself defending them. In a city filled with thousands of people, most of whom are commuting good distances on a daily basis, it is easy to find yourself pushing, trying to get in front of slower people and even desperately impatient when others don't follow the rules. Tourists are fair game because, especially during the summer, they are everywhere. This isn't to say that I don't try to be polite when I tell someone to please stand to the right so I can get past, but now instead of empathising with them, internally I am shaking my head just a little.

Here are the top few rules I wish someone had told me before that first trip to London:
  1. On an escalator, always stand to the right so that people can walk to the left.* If you use crutches or can't walk at a reasonable pace, please stand to the side.
  2. Never travel on the Tube at rush hour unless you absolutely have to. There are thousands of people who are forced to cram onto those tiny bullets and if you aren't one of them, you should really try to not compound the situation.
  3. If you are going to consult a map or book, it's best not to do so at the top or bottom of busy stairways, in doorways or smack in the middle of a sidewalk. The same rule applies for taking a photo or having a mobile phone conversation that brings you to a standstill/near crawl.
  4. Get out your Oyster Card or travel pass before getting to the gates. It's not cool to stand in front of a gate rifling through your bag while other, more prepared people, wait on you.
These are really pretty basic things but when you aren't dealing with the day to day push of the London grind, it's easy to overlook them. It will make for friendlier Londonders and a nicer trip.

Now if only we could think of a way to address all the free paper pushers.

*Rule doesn't seem to apply to escalators at Westfield Mall if my trip tonight was any indication.

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Darlene Juschka said...

hi Amy. Good to hear you are doing well. I too had to learn to move in a large city when I moved to Toronto, although certainly Toronto is not as large as London. Once I got into the swing of it, things were just fine.

Amy said...

Thanks Darlene! I do love London but to be honest, I kind of see it as a short term thing - a few years maybe. It's exciting and I am learning a lot but it is exhausting sometimes. I miss heat, though I hear you guys aren't getting much of that this summer anyway...