“Cheater!” she yelled, but I just kept going.

“Ignore the flak,” I thought to myself, “this is no shortcut or violation of rules.”  So I continued my steady pace down the steps of the ‘down’ escalator, even though it was moving ahead at its own plodding pace.  Careful not to bump other riders on my escalator that ran in the same direction parallel to its fuller partner in JFK International Airport in New York City, I was cruising faster than other riders precisely because I was walking.  I was running late, needed to reach my flight at an outlying gate — the last flight to Seattle for the evening.  Guess my hurry offended a female rider on the adjoining escalator.

As I turned briefly to look at her glaring at me, I noted that she was young (probably late twenties) and carrying only a handbag slung over her shoulder.  Best I could tell, she was not disabled in any way and could have walked, too. But for some unknown reason, she chose to stand her ground and yell at me.  Oh, well.

As I reached the bottom of the escalator and stepped off, I hurriedly covered the distance to a second down escalator that dumped me off just before a turn, after which one of three moving walkways, each in succession, came into view and would take me nearer my gate faster than I could walk on “solid ground.”  Marked with signs that said to move to the right to stand, to the left to walk, the walkways were there for all.  I moved to the left and continued my brisk pace forward, passing several riders in the process without bumping or being rude to anyone.  On the second of the three motorized walkways, another woman chose to yell “cheater!” at me after I passed.

Now my curiosity was triggered. “What the heck is that about?” I asked myself as the analytical corner of my brain started searching for answers at this second accusation.  One heckling remark could go unanswered, but two in a short time required an  answer.  After all, if I was offending someone — two someones, in this instance — I needed to know why in order to avoid further offense.  So the analysis began:

  • I’m in New York City, so perhaps it’s nothing more than high-spirited and confrontational New Yorkers.
  • On the other hand,  maybe there’s an unwritten code here that I’m unaware of.  What could it be?  Nothing obvious; no signs that said one must stand still on escalators and motorized walkways.  Matter of fact, signs on walkways clearly anticipated the opposite, as already mentioned.
  • These were comparatively young women yelling at me, neither of whom I’d touched, hit on, or compromised in any other known way, nor had I impeded their progress or threatened their spot in some unknown line.  Am I missing something?
  • If I had been running up a static set of stairs, would they have yelled at me because they were only walking?  Wasn’t what I had just done analogous to using the left-hand passing lane on a highway, passing in a legal manner?
  • Was the heckling a result of some weird distortion of egalitarianism?  That we must all be equal, so no one can go faster than anyone else on any moving conveyance? If so, this is the airport equivalent of “dumbing down” the classroom by holding back the quicker students to the pace of the dullest.
  • In a corollary vein, was the heckling a result of some ostensibly-liberal (but quite the opposite) outlook that dictates that one must never “take advantage” of others in any way?  And was I taking advantage of others by simply walking, using my legs to cover ground at a faster clip than they could cover by standing still and letting the equipment do the work?  Such a conclusion would mean that no one could walk faster than the slowest walker on a public sidewalk.
  • Was I somehow not being “green”?  That would be a far-fetched conclusion, since I was not enlarging my carbon footprint and was the only one exponentially expanding efficiency by using my own muscles.

I reached no firm conclusion in my mental queries.  My faster progress had not hurt anyone, delayed anyone, or consumed “more than my fair share” of the world’s space or energy or resources, nor had it profited at the expense of others. Yet it had offended at least two for reasons unstated and unknown.

I mark it up to insanity, some distorted view born in the Political Correctness maze, some weird moon cycle, or … mere heckling for the helluvit.

Can you, my readers, enlighten me?

Carpe diem. Vita brevis.

© January 21, 2012, by Michael E. Stubblefield.  All rights reserved.


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