Monday, December 12, 2005

An Escalating Metro Race

The broken Rosslyn Metro escalator was empty when I boarded this past Thursday morning so I cruised down the left at about 60% normal speed. It was a lovely stroll until I heard…the footsteps. The footsteps telling you trouble is on the way. Someone's in a hurry to catch the Metro and nothing's getting in their way. I knew the sound well, having made it a few times myself, but my gut told me this Metrorusher wouldn't have the courtesy to say "excuse me" on the way down.

My fellow Metrogoer would soon pass me, probably with a nice shove for good measure. I had a 20-step headstart, but I didn't want to get passed by any horseshoe wearer. I started walking faster at 80% of my usual stepping speed. But then I heard faster clickety-claks. Suddenly she sounded like a thoroughbred. Could she tell I was walking faster to stay in front of her? I wasn’t going to block her way if she caught up to me, but I could at least put up a good fight.

15 steps later she had moved within 10 steps of me. She was still closing the distance. I ramped up to my normal stepping speed that actually equaled her feverish sprinting and maintained a 6-step distance for the middle third of stairs. But the noise of her walking kept my heart racing. She was right behind me. I could almost smell her breath. She could make her move in the next five seconds and pass me before I had a chance to retaliate.

In one motion I looked over my shoulder, through her eyes, and into her soul. I could see her plans for a takeover at 30 steps to go - her loud shoes jackhammering all the way down, getting louder and louder as she neared the finish line. I saw people at the bottom laughing at me for losing a 20-step headstart to Miss Heavyfoot. Someone would probably throw an egg on my head and kids would point. The ridicule would be too much for 6:30 in the morning.

I returned her gaze so she could see the fire within. This was not going to be her victorious day. No, it would be mine. I turned my head forward, grabbed the left rail, and I was off. My soles barely met the steps. Clickety-clak saw the growing distance and knew she had lost. With 20 steps to go I no longer heard her hooves.

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