One of the challenges that I am facing four days a week is BART between Civic Center in San Francisco and North Berkeley. It isn’t that I love riding on a crowded system, but rather it is a better alternative than driving back and forth. Part of the joy involves the basic mechanics of getting to and from the subway platforms. Most of the time the escalators are working, except when they are not. Most of the others taking the system are polite, except for those who are just plain rude.
Let me explain:
- there are elevators which most of the time are working, bear no relationship to the main portion of the station, and smell like pee at best;
- there are escalators which are usually, but not always, in the middle of the platforms and mostly work;
- finally there are stairs which connect the platforms with the main portion of the station; and
- there are normally all of the above which connect the main portion of the station with the surface of the local neighborhood.
So to get from one level to another you have to pick one of the options. Leaving out elevators which are to be avoided if at all possible, one has to navigate either stairs or escalators. There is the standard custom in Europe which translates to walk on the left, stand on the right. This convention is observed in almost all non-Commonwealth countries some of which may apply this standard in reverse.
It is not a hard concept. Stay on the right if you are not going to walk up if you are on escalator. There is really no great reason to stand on the left. Reading your phone is not an excuse. Making a play for someone in whom you have interest is not an excuse. Placing your luggage or grocery bags at your side rather than in front of you is not an excuse. Any of these are rude and obstruct the flow of those who want to walk up. Why anyone wants to walk is not a concern or needs a comment. It should be sufficient to recognize that someone wants to get by and to allow them to proceed on their way.
Then we come to the stairs. All of the stairs in the BART system have railings on both sides. The railings are there for reasons of safety. They help those of us who need them to haul themselves up, they provide stability for anyone with an unsteady gate, and they help direct the flow of traffic along the sides. NOT DOWN OR UP THE FREAKING MIDDLE. (Emphasis is obviously mine). I don’t mind someone who needs time to get up or down; in fact I can applaud their strength and courage in tackling stairs. I can appreciate anyone who looks at the stairs as a mountain to climb or a chance to burn off a few calories.
What I don’t understand is anyone who needs to walk up (especially) or down a flight of stairs in the middle. Not holding a railing, not keeping to the side, and effectively obstructing completely the flow of foot traffic in both directions. I am exempting anyone with medical/psychiatric reasons for not complying with normal traffic flow. But your average commuter, fixed on their phone, dragging themselves up the stairs while effectively preventing anyone from getting around them.
This morning it was a well-dressed woman with three bags. Since the bags were held in her left hand, there really was no reason for her to hike up the middle of the stairs. She could have used the railing on the right side. She could have even been obnoxious and walked on the left. Instead, she chose to take more than her ½ out of the middle, effectively blocking anyone from below in getting past her on the stairs and forcing the rare person attempting to get to the platform to play skinny statue to the side.
As you can imagine, I had already navigated down at North Berkeley, numerous stops and crowding on the Milbrae BART followed by a scrum on the first set of stairs up from the platform. So my temper was not the best when confronted with someone who obviously wasn’t paying attention to anyone else. I am older, I have grey hair and simply, I didn’t care what she thought of me.
“Excuse me, I need to get past, please.You are completely blocking the stairs.”
(picture the interruption, the angry look followed by glancing behind to see a mass of people including, but not limited to- big, burly people with bicycles.) She actually pulled over at the intermediate platform and started berating me for being rude and not giving due consideration to her age.
I just thanked her for getting out of the way and dashed up the open stairs, laughing because I obviously had 20+ years on her.