Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Sprinting Down Metro's Escalators - A Losing Battle

My name is B and T Crowd and I used to be a spastic Metro downstepper.

I used to think I was gaining precious minutes of my life back one step at a time. By sprinting downstairs I would catch so many trains that the time saved would amount to something, anything.

It amounted to nothing.

When I downsprinted the Dupont Circle escalator last week, pushing an old woman aside, kicking little kids out of my way and seeing them roll down the stairs, and elbowing a just-released GW Hospital patient with broken ribs in the side, I knew I was out of control. I had to stop. Passing other downsteppers just wasn't worth the emotional distress and trauma.

Sprinting up a Metro escalator is acceptable behavior; sprinting down is a worthless activity. I used to be a downsprinter until I didn't see the light of an oncoming train time and time again. My efforts were futile and it showed. I learned life was easier when I let the trains arrive according to my schedule.

Sprint going up, slide going down. That's the ticket!

I'm as big of a fan as anyone for highstepping Metro's escalators, be it for the exercise, to get where I need to go quicker, or because I want to passive-aggressively ram my shoulder into unsuspecting passengers without hesitation. These are perfectly fine reasons to highstep the escalator...as long as you're heading up to exit.

I'm concerned with those who run down the escalator and not those who walk down. Downwalkers are acceptable because for many, it eliminates getting sick from a stationary escalator ride. Looking down Dupont Circle, Wheaton, and Bethesda escalators requires Dramamine unless you keep moving in some rational way. The ultra quick downsteppers are out of control and must be stopped. And once upon a time I was one of them.

Sprint steppers overestimate the value of their energy. Thanks to my double-blind, double secret probation experimental observation, I've concluded that the number of trains caught because of sprinting is so minuscule that it makes sprinting worthless. The number of trains caught is inversely proportional to the square root of time between train arrivals, sprinter's ability, escalator length, and gravitational pull of the mitochondria's endoplasmic reticulum's nucleic acid.

Moving on.

A few factors must be considered when determining the worthlessness of some people's actions (like blogging about the worthlessness of some people's actions (or blogging about blogging about the worthlessness of some people's action (or blo...).

Trains arrive every 3-5 minutes during rush hour so it's unlikely that barely catching a train helps you that much when another train is right behind it. Sometimes trains have even shorter waits making your gain quite small. The value of sprinting increases when you barely make it onto a train during the off-peak schedule, especially when trains run 10 minutes or more apart. But we'll ignore that legit argument for the legitimacy of this one.

The 75 Exorcist Stairs in Georgetown are easy to sprint down; going up, yeah, not so much.

Consider the escalator's length when deciding whether to walk or sprint down. For one, short escalators often let you see if a train is even in the station. If one is about to pull out (that's what she said?) and the escalator is no more than 20 steps, you can probably get on board by walking down. No matter, you'll be able to better estimate the stepping speed needed to get on board.

With long escalators, you can't see the platform, making the sprint down a total crapshoot. Unless you wait to until the train arrival sign tells you how long you have, it's a blind stepdown. With so many delays and emergency track maintenance taking up signage, by the time you wait to find out when the next train arrives it'll have already left the station. Blind stepdowns are pointless because they are the least successful.

It's heartbreaking to watch these sprinting downsteppers at the Wheaton Metro reach the bottom looking for their train only to have it not be there. Meanwhile I saunter past them on the platform with at least a few seconds before the arrival lights even flash, knowing full well their downsprinting was unnecessary yet again. I was once one of them until I learned better. Now I step casually and wonder when they'll learn too.


Will said...

It's so true! For some reason every time a get to the bottom of the escalator the train's gone. Or some frickin' old lady with a ton of bags is in front of me. Love your blog!

B and T Crowd said...

Thanks for the kind words!

Ya know, the old lady will move if you give her a push with your heel. No wait, that's a mean thought that nobody else has ever had, right?

mdlady24 said...

On a slightly different vein, does anyone know how long the Bethesda escalator is (or how many steps). I had to "walk" it the other day when it wasn't running and I'm still sore. I must've needed the exercise!