March 29, 2007
I have some advice for the average citizen of the UAE. Just keep walking. Its OK. This advice comes after watching the escalator while eating my Subway BMT at BurJuman Mall in Dubai. I have actually done this before in other countries…well, not sure if I had done it with BMT in hand, but I definitely have watched people negotiating the escalator.
My mother and I noticed another wierd walking trend among a different group of people a few years ago. We were watching passengers getting off the cruise ship we were on heading to buy a load of crap at some hot green port and wondered why we were able to pick the old from the young from 5 stories up when we couldn’t see their faces. We both stared down the side of the boat and one after one, could identify their age just by the way they walked. It turned out the older they got, the more they waddled and wobbled. Imagine a stride when you walk. There is a point when you feet are as close as they ever get in that stride. That distance gets further and further apart as you get older…or at least it does when getting off a cruise ship.
Anyway, back to the escalator. I noticed that the average Emiratii (Dubai-en…whatever the right term is) stops for a half second to figure out whether the escalator is safe or not. I sometimes notice that in western countries but it typically only happens with women. In Dubai, even the men pause, waiting for a full step to show up. But everytime a westerner comes to the same point, they don’t break the rythym of the walk. They just keep going, trusting that the step they need will emerge from under their feet. It always does.
But I am not sure why this is. Its not a money thing. The locals here are all ranges of rich and I noticed some dirt poor construction workers having the same problem. I am wondering if it is more to do with how early in life you first experienced the moving staircase. For me, and for most Americans, the escalator experience was something we mastered at a very young age. And while Dubai is as modern as it gets today, I believe the massive malls are a relatively recent addition to the landscape. So just keep walking. That magical step will appear and the escalator is not something to fear.