Elding the Helperly

How much rude is 30 seconds worth?

I work in midtown Manhattan. Each day, I take an escalator up to street level from a deep subway platform. Standing still, the escalator ride takes about one minute. If you walk the moving steps, the ride will take you about 30 seconds.

Today I noticed a woman: old, a little bent in the spine, slow-moving. She got on the escalator, on the “wrong” side. That means, if you ride on the left side you are expected to walk up. Standing still on the escalator means you should stand on the right. At least that’s the crowd etiquette – I can’t say I’m a fan of it.

But the old, bent woman stood on the wrong side. Halfway up, she got poked several times in the back with an umbrella (lightly, but poked nonetheless), by someone who want to walk up the escalator.

Did I mention that walking up takes about 30 seconds less than not walking up? That means, at worst, on the worst of terrible mornings, you might only might, if you are extremely unfortunate when it comes to such things, just might get stuck behind a stander, and waste 30 seconds of your day.

Which is horrible, of course. I just don’t see it that way.

So she got poked in the back with an umbrella, and the poking continued until she shuffled over to the “right” side of the escalator. Nobody pointed out the problem.

Before I reached the top, I noticed another woman: old, bent, moving slowly, who was painstakingly lowering a luggage cart step-by-step, descending the hundred or so steps (no escalator on the descent during the morning rush hour at this subway station). I know how these things go – I see it every day. Commuters will push past the woman, not thinking of stopping to help. I knew I had to stop this misbehavior.

So I get to the top of my own escalator ascent, antsy now, since I am wanting to go help the old, bent, slow-moving descending luggage-carrying woman before she has to go very far. I rush over there and – amazing! Someone has stopped, and is helping her.

It was breathtakingly unusual, for this part of town.

This evening, I stopped at (ahem!) McDonald’s, for a snack wrap. A woman with a walker was trying to order a medium coke and fish ‘n chips. She takes her order (sort of..) and starts moving toward a table. The restaurant is filled with staff and even a manager, none of whom offer to help. A traffic cop stands nearby, and does not offer to help. Of course I’m going to offer to help, but why does not anyone else?

This is one of the reasons I now live in the suburbs.