Years ago, I friend told me a story about a friend of hers when she was a little kid. The friend was around three, an age when a kid can get petulant and whiny and say "NO!!" just to say "NO!" Anyway, she and her parents were in a department store when the mother said they were going to on the escalator. The little girl got all upset and started to tantrum. "No," she cried, "no." She didn't want to go on the "esca later." She wanted to go on the "esca NOW."
So, this is a tale about German escalators.
To be fair, these are the escalators at IFA, but I've been told that this is the way most are in Germany, if not all. Here, escalators don't run all the time, non-stop, but are stopped when no one is one them. Only when you pass an electric eye and step on do they start up. I assume this is to save energy, and probably it does, but usually when something electronic starts, there is a large burst of energy which would seem to defeat the purpose, since this tends to happen regularly. But I guess there are still more saving. Perhaps.
It's a little disconcerting for Americans, though, and probably those from many other countries. It looks like the escalator is broken, so your first instinct is to take the stairs. But also, sometimes the escalator is broken, and you get on, expecting to start gliding up...and nothing happens. Which, again, is disconcerting, as well. Worse, an escalator step is significantly higher than a regular stairway, so unless you backtrack down and take the stairs, it's hard slogging up the esca-steps.
One other oddity about the escalator here at IFA, and I'll guess all in Germany. In the U.S., when you reach the next floor, if you want to keep on you turn to your right and get on the next elevator. Here, you turn left. And that, too, as you might figure is disconcerting, because if you're engrossed in thought about something else, or dragging tired, you might turn right and, stepping on the next escalator and find yourself going in the wrong direction.
I did that the other day and took a few seconds to realize what felt so bizarre. (I'm wanted to go up, but it kept pushing me backwards, down.) When I finally did grasp what had happened, I almost was knocked over, but quickly got off. As it happened, there was someone at the top, who as he glided down called out, "Don't worry, I didn't see that..." I called back, "I suspect that this being IFA there are video cameras everywhere, and it probably is streaming all over the world."
(And yes, as you might imagine, the elves taking care of the homestead found this quite amusing.)
One would think that escalators should not require a users manual...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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