Thanksgiving is here – a time to show our thanks by gorging on food until we are miserable and complaining about leftovers.
Retailers remind us that this is the official start of the Christmas shopping season. In fairness, many of them have been reminding us for a couple of months now. I even have a friend bragging that they have finished their Christmas shopping. For this year. Disgusting.
No one, however, warns you about the dangers of an evil escalator. That’s my job.
I battled the escalator monster at the age of eight. To this day, I approach those moving steps with trepidation. Before entering, I check my feet to be sure that my shoes are secure, laces tied, and feet fully protected. You would be equally as cautious if you had had the battle.
I grew up in a small manufacturing town. Retail was primarily downtown; “the” mall would not open for several more years. Main Street – yes, it was really called Main Street – had a number of stores in its couple of blocks, but the highlight was our only department store. A multi-story department store. Ok, fine, a two-story department store. Santa Claus was there. A real, working train set circling a town. Christmas decorations. Crowds. Toys.
And a pair of escalators.
I have no specific memory of the down escalator, safely gliding you from the second floor to the first. But the up escalator lives in my nightmares. The time it attacked me. Held me against my will. My father wrestling me from the beast.
For some strange reason, we made a decision as mankind that we could no longer walk up or down a flight of steps without mechanical assistance. No, we needed the steps to move and carry us – and so we invented escalators. People simply step on to them, unaware of the danger, and ride from floor to floor.
Being kids, my older brother and I would turn the escalator ride into an adventure. We would walk backwards bumping into people innocently riding. We would lift ourselves on the handrails and fly. We would leap off of the end (I should have practiced that more). Or, we would simply hit each other for the fun of it.
Lots of fun until Dad would get irritated at us and tell us to “Knock It Off.” That, of course, was the internationally recognized signal for the two of us to start arguing about who started it.
For some odd reason, we were often separated on these shopping trips. No clue why. It sure was not as fun for the two of us. Regardless, on the day of the evil escalator attack, I was with Dad.
The store was crowded with Christmas shoppers. I had already been given the usual warnings. Don’t wander off. Don’t touch that. Don’t break anything.
The item we needed was on the second floor. We approached the escalator without fear (and only a mild warning not to play around). I was in front of him (something about watching me closely) as we stepped on. The ride to the second floor was uneventful. The exit from the escalator was very eventful.
I simply stopped. Could not move. At all. My foot was glued to the floor.
The first person to collide into me was, of course, my father. “Come on, move it.”
I tried, but was totally immobilized.
“Stop clowning around.” He was using his Dad voice. Amazingly, it had no power over my sudden frozen state.
“I’m not. I’m stuck.”
People were now beginning to collide into my father. Frustrated at my game, he picked me up to carry me off the escalator. My foot, however, remained stubbornly stuck to the floor. I felt something like the incredible stretching kid.
Realizing that I was not moving, we entered the land of crazy questions. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I’m stuck.”
“How can you be stuck?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you get unstuck?”
“Would I still be stuck if I could?” The situation was so crazy that I actually lived through that answer.
By now, the entire escalator was full of people trying to walk backwards to avoid the traffic jam. And a massive crowd was forming at the bottom of the escalator trying to get to the second floor. Most of them had no idea what was wrong. Of course, they couldn’t see me, only my father blocking the path. Let’s just say there was an incredible lack of Christmas cheer.
Doing his best to continue walking backwards, Dad examined my shoe. He spotted the errant lace. I was never particularly talented at keeping my shoes tied. Heck, I still struggle with that detail. A shoelace had ridden the steps underneath the guard at the top. Trying to pull my foot forward only wrapped the lace around the guard, locking my foot in place. Since I was trying to move forward, I had the lace wedged.
All we had to do, he deduced, was move backwards enough so that my foot was before the guard and slide my foot loose. That only meant moving the entire crowd backwards one step so we had room. Christmas cheer erupted again.
After much grumbling, struggling and pushing, we had success. My shoe came loose. We stepped off the escalator. The flood gates were released. Wave after wave of shoppers entered the second floor. Most of them had no clue what had caused the traffic jam.
To this day, I think of that moment every single time I step on an escalator. And I do mean every time. I automatically look at my shoes to make sure they are tied. And when I reach the end of an escalator, I lift my foot high to exit. I even use that jumping skill at the end of the ride.
I also live in a town where the stores don’t have escalators. That seems much safer.
Wishing you the Happiest of Thanksgivings. And, if you dare venture into retail this weekend, beware of the escalators. They are evil.