Stair climber

I am an escalator climber. Ninety-nine per cent of the time*, I will take the climbing lane (which in London is the left lane, odd because on the roads they overtake on the right).

When I get off my Tube train, there is usually two train-fulls of commuters shuffling to get on the escalator. I immediately migrate to the left of the crowd to get into the climbing lane. This is an imaginary lane — it’s not until you get to the escalator that the climbing and standing lanes are defined.

It can be a teeny bit frustrating when I stand behind someone who turns out to be an escalator stander. It means either I haven’t moved far enough to the left or some stander has cheated by illegally using the faster climbing lane to get into prime position.

So every morning I play a game where I try to stand behind people who look like climbers. It’s trickier than it should be. Sometimes, perfectly healthy looking men in suits and flat shoes turn out to be lazy standers. Then you have women with dangerously high heels who turn out to be climbers. One trend that is clear, though, is the fatter the person, the more likely that they are standers.

This makes me think of positive (self-reinforcing) feedback loops.

In related news, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and resolved to take the stairs to the fifth floor, where my desk is at work. I did it every day last week. I hope I can keep it up.

Five floors is not a lot. It takes me about two minutes, which is about the same time as it takes to wait for a lift and stop at all the floors in between (which is what happens at rush hour). I’ve avoided taking the stairs because (I know this sounds weird) I felt embarrassed walking past the crowd waiting for the lift. I felt especially embarrassed if someone in that crowd knows I work on the fifth floor because they, too, work on the fifth floor. In that context, being a shown to be a stair climber seems self-righteous and snobbish.

So now I breeze past the lift crowd, (a) avoiding eye contact with anyone I might know, and (b) pretending I only need to go to the first floor.

(If someone gets in the lift on the ground floor and gets off on the first floor, I have nothing but ridicule for them. Unless they have a disability, like a limp.)

The main reason I climb stairs and escalators is to build up my chocolate consumption credit. Also, as someone told Damjan, who told me, there will come a time in my life when I physically don’t have the option to climb stairs (and, of course, climbing stairs now can delay that future deterioration of my body).

*I stand on escalators when I’m with someone else and I want to continue a conversation and in case they don’t want to climb.


  1. auheM says:

    I agree with the English climbing lane on the escalators. It means the “standers” get to put their right arm on the armrest.

    Climbers don’t need no armrest.

  2. vera says:

    I get annoyed when I’m running down the escalator for a train, and there are people standing there, taking up the whole width of the escalator.

  3. joanium says:

    Yes, vera! I know exactly what you mean! It makes me want to scream, ‘OUT OF THE WAY! OUT OF THE WAY!’

    The culprits seem to usually be tourists, immigrants and lovebirds gazing into each other’s eyes.

  4. says:

    I always prefer stairs to an escalator or elevator because going up or down stairs is much more exciting than standing still for a while. Also, stairs mean I avoid the escalator standers altogether.

    I especially like going down stairs! I try to keep a rapid and smooth downwards movement where my feet just graze the edges of the stairs. I think of it as “falling with style”.

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