Thursday, August 31, 2006


In Japan, the land of orderly efficiency and politeness, there is a universally observed etiquette for using escalators. If you get on and intend to stand, you stand on the right side, if you are going to continue walking, you walk up/down on the left. If you see someone standing on the left, they are a foreigner. The fast Japanese people will start to back up behind the standing person, because they are too polite to tell him to move over.

In Prague, it works exactly the same way, which is great because the escalators to the subway are giants that get you up or down 4-5 flights in one long shot. Once you get further east in Europe, this breaks down. Budapest and Bucharest have the same deep subways with monster-long escalators, but everyone just stands there, even when you hear a train arriving at the bottom. In NYC or SF, once the sound of the train is heard, everyone picks up the pace to try and make it. Not so in Bucharest. You are about 2/3 of the way down, hear the train, and everyone will just stand there. Oh well. In some subways, they even have painted helpful feet, two feet side-by-side on the right side of the step to signify "standing", left and right feet alternating on the left side for "walking", to encourage the Japan/Prague courtesy, but for some reason it doesn't work.


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