Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sashay on the left

One of the cardinal rules of Metro is that you stand on the right on the escalators. There are no signs to explain the rule to anyone unfamiliar with the system, because Metro is afraid that it will encourage more people to walk, which will lead to more people falling, which will lead to lawsuits. So Brian and I coach all of our out of town visitors on this important rule, in hopes of keeping our guests alive when they travel on the trains, especially at rush hour, when the locals are rushing and cranky. When I am stuck behind someone on an escalator, I sometimes excuse myself and try to pass them. One of my friends has been known to yell “Stand on the right” on the escalator at the Smithsonian station, when it was full of tourists standing on both sides. I don’t have the nerve to do that, but sometimes, like this morning, I do want to tell the person ahead of me to sashay on the left.

Last year, Brian and I went to see A Streetcar Named Desire at the Kennedy Center. As we came out of the Foggy Bottom metro there were three women on the escalator. They were standing in a group talking, and two of them were on the left. We weren’t in a hurry for our dinner reservation, and there was no one else around, so we didn’t say anything.

We rode up behind these women. They were older, white, probably in their sixties, and two of them were rather heavy. They wore denim shorts, and they all had some sort of American flag pattern, or at least red, white, and blue—on a shirt, a vest, or a ribbon around a straw hat—almost a uniform of a certain class of DC tourists.

Behind us I heard a loud voice yell, “Stand on the right please.” I actually felt a little bad for the women—even with the “please” the loud voice seemed rude. I turned to look and saw an African-American man, probably around my age, coming up the stairs in long strides. He had extremely dark skin, a shaved head, sunglasses, and was nicely dressed. The women moved to the left.

“Thank you, ladies,” he boomed. “We stand on the right here. If you’re on the left, you have to sashay.” He was either flamingly gay, or did a good impression of it, and he continued past them, chanting, “Sashay. Sashay.” The women began to laugh, and Brian and I did, too. We took the opportunity to pass the women, and we turned in the same direction as the man, toward Washington Circle.

“You got to sashay, ain’t that right, beautiful?” I felt a hand rest on my shoulder for a brief moment. Then he passed us, saying to himself, “Sashay, sashay, sashay.”

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