Saturday, April 17, 2010

Esprit d'Escalier

I must admit that sometimes I step onto the subway and feel "rogue hatred" (as Tom Wolfe put it) for all of humanity. I supopse it's the reptile-brain's reflexive reaction to competition for finite resources, the snarl of jackals at the shrinking water hole. But I also think there is a rational basis for some of it -- the completely rational disdain for the free-rider. Start with the people who manage the stations: often I come into my home-station at morning rush hour and two escalators are running up, and one down. As the ratio of entering (thus descending) passengers to exiting ones must be at least 50 to 1 at that time, this represents an utter dereliction by the person sitting in the glass booth next to the escalators. That person ought to get off the lazy ass and reverse the direction of one escalator, and he or she ought to get written up for failing to do so. But that would the introducing accountability and responsibility (and more efficiency and rationality) to the system, and we can't have that. Actually expecting employees to notice things and take an interest? Socialism!

Of course if we wanted to really improve the system by raising the consciousness of the riders, we would also encourage the able-bodied to walk up and down the escalators instead of riding, lumpen on the right side, as if the device were a vehicle and not a thoroughfare. This would empty and fill the stations much faster -- which is what the escalators are there to do. But that would probably be too much like Sweden or something, actually encouraging the couch-potatoes to get exercise and promote efficiency! UnAmerican!

This morning I saw a couple of young, smug, affluent (and exceedingly stupid by their chit-chat) white folks blithely pounding down mocha smoothies and chowing on bagel sandwiches on while riding downtown -- in blatant violation of the commonsensical laws against food on the subway. I felt like saying something like "The law doesn't apply to you...why?" But I didn't. In retropsect a better idea came to me: next time, I think I'll simply snap their picture with my constant companion the PowerShot, and we'll just see what happens from there.


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