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ESCALATOR STANDING: AN INVESTIGATIVE RANT

In the interest of full disclosure—and Seth-promotion—the spirt of this rant, and other works of Sethiquette, is now available in my book, How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism.


Anyone who’s had the good fortune to share an escalator with me is likely familiar with this rant: and so, for their nostalgia and everyone else’s first-time enjoyment, I would like to officially announce:

I reverse-heart escalator-standers.

Why would a healthy individual interrupt their day (in which, I’m told, time is precious) to wait for a slow machine to carry them to their destination, when the device offers the option to move at double its speed by simply walking?


Note of rant sanctuary: If an escalator-stander has a health condition (sore knees, sore heart, maybe escatripaphobia), or is simply tired and not in the mood to climb moving stairs, they are excused from the ire of this rant.

Note of excommunication from rant sanctuary: The tired stander will be returned to the rant’s scope, however, if they are one of a pair of standers, who—instead of standing one after the other to allow safe passage of those behind—block both lanes of escalator travel so that those who would prefer to kill calories (instead of time) cannot proceed.


My primary objection is to those who stand because of what I can only surmise is habit: I watch 20 year-olds arrive at the escalator and, without apparently pausing to ask, “Do we feel like adding a tiny bit of exercise to our diet?” they stop and stare ahead. I suppose they could have a good reason for the slow-down: maybe it’s their first time on an escalator, and so they want to savour the experience; or perhaps they’re trying to conserve calories: why waste energy that they could store for later?

But I think the most reasonable explanation for why most people stop on an escalator without considering walking is that they are in some sort of trance, a temporary off-button that has suddenly made time not matter to them.

I spend most of my escalator time en route to catching Skytrains, which arrive approximately every five minutes, and so, if I’m forced to I slow down just enough (often because of an escalator-standing-blockade), I often narrowly miss a just-arriving train, thus causing me to get to my destination five minutes later. It’s rare that my hope is to be five minutes later for anything. Yes, Alabama, I realize that we shouldn’t “rush and rush until life’s no fun,” but, if it’s easy, and you happen to be in a hurry, why not step up?

For instance, I’m convinced that the people standing on the escalator to go to the movies would like to get into the ticket-buying lineup as soon as possible to secure goods seats, and yet—with knees capable of speedily climbing to the back of the theatre—they inexplicably freeze the moment their feet hit the escalator.

Indeed, I have been late with friends to a movie, and have felt the “Kumbaya” of our mutual rush only to arrive at an escalator to witness the sudden suspension of my companions’ movement as though the matter is out of their feet’s hands: the escalator, after all, speeds up for no one—what are they supposed to do?

This behaviour seems so irrational to me that I must find a cause to blame. Perhaps it is the fault of our oft-described “sedentary” modern western society and our tendency to avoid unnecessary movement? But I suspect something more sinister: I suspect it is our brains that are sedentary, and that it simply doesn’t occur to people to keep moving on a machine that will get them there eventually.

Evidence for this hypothesis can be found in the aforemocked people who stand two-by-two on the escalator such that they become a obstruction for any would-be non-lazy-people behind them. Surely, if it even occurred to them that someone might like to get by, they wouldn’t be so selfish as to stand in the way, would they?

If I’m right that people stand on escalators because they never thought to use the steps for climbing, then I have replaced one baffling question with another: why the heck wouldn’t it occur to them? I can understand the inclination to let the vehicle do all the moving in the case of cars or buses, but to stop, without thinking, on a device that offers you the option of safely doubling your speed of travel is, to me, a kin to riding one’s bike and discovering a slight decline and so deciding to stop pedaling so as to allow gravity to do all the work for you. If you’re tired, or in the mood to relax and look around, then you have my warmest blessings, but if you stop your exercise simply because you see no point in doing otherwise then I don’t get it.

Similarly, I guess if the sun’s bugging your eyes, then there’s no need to walk to a shadier spot: after all, the earth will eventually transport you out of the sun’s gaze. So, yeah, just sit there and wait.

All poignant exaggeration-sarcasm aside, clearly escaltor-standing is a mystery that I’m not able to solve here, but, if you are a career escalator-stander with no health reasons to justify this habit, I’d like to make a tiny suggestion: try escalator-walking just once. You may be surprised to discover that motorized-inclines aren’t as daunting as they look from the bottom.

If, however, you still see no point in walk-riding when you could just ride, I request that you at least not stand in the way of those who would choose to stroll freely. Stay in your lane, and nobody gets glared at on my way by.


P.S. If I were artistically inclined, I would create a cartoon of a couple standing on an escalator with no one in front of them, a crowd behind them, and a thought bubble above them that simply states, “Where does all the time go?”

P.P.S. Even brillianter, I refer you below to Becel’s heart health commercial, the most profound advert in television history. It deals with the mystery of the escalator stander with grace and impeccable honesty.

LAW & WANDER

I love the television show, Law & Order (the original). SVU’s okay, and Criminal Intent’s annoying, but gimme the straight-up Law & Order, and you’ve got a fan in me.

My mom discovered it for me in the early 90s: I remember her commenting that it was a different kind of cops-and-law-show because the characters behaved much more like real people than usual.

Upon adopting the show myself a couple years later, I was riveted, especially by the legal battles, which seemed to focus on the nitty gritty details of the American legal system that must be navigated in order to prove a villain guilty. (I can’t prove that the show is legally accurate, but I can suspect it on the basis that, when I took a community college law course for interest’s sake, the lawyer-instructor claimed it was the most realistic law show on television.)

So, when it was announced that Law & Order: UK was coming to a television near me, I was intrigued: all the law and order I wanted, plus cool accents (and hairstyles) on the barristers. But then I learned that, as with the transition of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s The Office from Slough, Britain, to Scranton, USA, the first several episodes of the citizenship-changing show would have scripts that would mirror almost exactly plots of the original show. This displeased me because:

(A) to my taste, it didn’t work out for The Office as the characters behaved differently in those first few episodes than their true original natures once the brilliant writers were free to give them original thoughts;

(B) I was craving new L&O adventures instead of redos of previous adventures (after all, those beloved re-runs are already always available when I need them); and

(C) my suspension of disbelief would be damaged by parallel universes wherein the characters had identical stories (and so, instead of following a plot for turns of law, I would simply be comparing it to its clone story).

So I lost interest in Law & Order: UK.

But, yesterday, on a random of strike of my remote, I happened across the show and I decided to honour it with a few minutes of my time (it was near the episode’s conclusion, anyway). It was indeed a familiar plot, and a very good one, too, and so I watched to what I thought was the signature Law & Order final comment.

(Usually, at the end of each show, one of the good guys says something pithy or profound to leave us pondering as the haunting credit “Executive Producer Dick Wolf” arrives on a dark background. For instance, there was the time that Assistant District Attorney, Ben Stone, was asked if he’d accept a dinner invitation from his recently beaten, but always condescending rival, and Ben (my hero) retorted, “Only if he orders crow”.)

But, on this episode of Law & Order: UK, the grand concluding line was not followed by an executive producing boast! Instead, we spent a good minute watching one of the characters wander around London with music playing in her background. Um, no, Law & Order is not a music video. I’m sure the character had some interesting thoughts about the case she’d recently lost, but since I couldn’t read her mind, watching her stoic face was not useful to me.

Moreover, and more importantly, given that this was a copy of an original Law & Order episode, they must have had to cut some of the brilliant details of the parent show in order to add in the walk of the pensive! No!

I may give L&O: UK another chance (I might even consider a full episode), but they’ll have to eat crow first. (Hmm, it sounded better when Ben said it).

Executive Producer Seth McDonough

CAPTAIN’S BLOG

Welcome to SethBlogs. I’m your host and leading-Seth-expert, Seth.

I am not embarrassed to admit—although you may be embarrassed to hear—that it only occurred to me now, as I prepare to set sail on this online journal, that the term “blog” sounds a lot like a (ship captain’s) “log.” Indeed, I’ve just checked with Wikipedia, and it has politely confirmed that “blog” is short for “web log.”

Who knew? (I’m guessing not more than 90% of the web-going population.)

This news delights me because it’s a perfect justification for what I’d already planned to do: I intend to offer this blog as a log, not only for my current thoughts and adventures, but also for my previous ones, which I don’t think should be punished for their author’s delay in learning to blog them.

And, for those who would object that blog entries should arrive fresh and topical to the internet, the following conversation can take place:

WISE SETH: So how do you like my blog?

CYNICAL CATHY: Um, your last entry seemed like it featured an event of more than ten years ago.

WISE SETH: Very observant: yes, my millennium party story is not particularly current.

CYNICAL CATHY: Then why are you putting it on your blog today?

WISE SETH: Because I think it’s a good story.

CYNICAL CATHY: But it’s out of date.

WISE SETH: Yes, well, when you find a shipwreck, and the attached captain’s log, are you going to care if the captain posted his or her log entries ten years after the events, or are you going to be glad just to have the log?

CYNICAL CATHY: You make a good point. I could learn a lot from you.

WISE SETH: Yes, you could: I recommend SethBlogs.

And we all read happily ever after.