What's up with the escalators?
About a month ago, I was meeting the husband at Kings Cross. We had plenty of time to spare, so he took me to see his new "discovery": an electronic lady who stood at the bottom of the escalators and "spoke" to the passengers. If you had luggage, she warned, you should not use the escalators, but take the lift; and she finished up (as in the picture) with a cheery wave.
Predictably enough, she wasn't having much success. As she couldn't do more than spout her script, she was resolutely ignored (as you can see on the right) by most passengers with luggage. We didnt think much more about it at the time -- except to wonder if it wouldn't have had more effect on changing people's behaviour to have stationed a REAL woman (or man) by the escalators at peak times. She could at least have fixed malefactors with a beady grin and/or helpfully directed them to the nearest lift.
But a couple of weeks later, we realised that there must have been some kind of escalator + luggage safety alert -- because at Terminal 5 at Heathrow there was a large notice urging people trying to get from ground floor/shuttle level to arrivals/departures to take the lifts not the escalators. This was a bit of a blow for us, as the escalators at Heathrow are more inviting, but the lifts much quicker .... yet as soon as everyone is trying to use them, you have to queue to get into the damn things.
We began to suspect a Health and Safety alert (born out by this promotional video). Now in this case I wouldn't knock Health and Safety. I was once on an escalator on which someone tumbled at the bottom. And there was nearly the escalator equivalent of a multiple pile-up on the motorway.
The question is, how do you get the safety message across? It was interesting that the straightforward notices at the airport were having more effect that the electronic lady. Are people just much more obedient at airports?
I didnt think much about it again until I went into the University Library after Christmas. Here I discovered a new twist: we were all being urged not to use the lifts, but take the stairs.
Now I know that the intentions in this are entirely good, and I can see that it is trying to be light-hearted. But for some reason it really brought out the counter-suggestible in me. I found myself bloody-mindedly taking the lift between adjacent floors, and in a donnish way going through endless possible reasons why this stair option might be a very bad idea (should the elderly -- quite a lot of those/us in the UL -- really be pushed in this direction? and anyway if you were carrying a load of 10 large books, couldn't it actually be dangerous?).
Then I started to wonder what kind of behaviour-changing notice might actually work on me (and others like me). Probably, I reflected, something a bit less wholesome -- and with a bit more donnish wit. And in my dreams I thought of scraping together £100 for a little competition for the cleverest "pro-stairs" poster.
Now there's an idea...