I wonder how many minutes I’ve spent on an escalator since I moved to Annapolis. These are the odd thoughts that cross my mind at 6:30 AM as I enter the already-wide-awake city of Baltimore. Well, almost every day that I take the train, I use three down escalators at Lexington Market and the two up escalators at Johns Hopkins. In the afternoon, the cycle is reversed. I don’t take the escalator every time; sometimes opting for the stairs. To be safe, I’d say I take the the escalator four times per day I take the train. Each escalator ride is surely under 30 seconds, except perhaps the huge escalator from the tunnel beneath Broadway into the main hospital, which I only take a few times a month. That one is much longer. Let’s say 60 seconds a day, so 300 seconds a week (5 minutes per week).
The escalator from the subway to the mezzanine level of the Johns Hopkins station smells like disappointment in the morning. Feet shuh, shuh, shuffling across the red tile, now worn to a smooth, soot-y maroon, seem to cry out in desperation for something satisfying. Something joyful. To me that shuffling whisper of several dozen shoes sounds like resignation, disappointment and desperation. I try to bound up the stairs past it, but sometimes my own demeanor pulls me into line with them. I spend the 20 seconds up the escalators paused behind middle-aged women who don’t know that if they don’t plan to climb the escalator, then should stand to the right and allow climbers like me to step past them on the left. Today, I was feeling pretty good, but I hadn’t had any coffee yet, so I wasn’t feeling much like bounding up the stairs two or three at a time as is sometimes my habit. Instead I took my place on the right of the escalator behind a woman who smelled of cheap floral shampoo and whose feet pointed off in different directions, meeting at her heels in a perfect right angle. I spend 20 seconds wondering at the veins bulging from the back of my cold right hand and how they so contrast with my pale, translucent skin, which in turn contrasts with the black, slick hand rail of the escalator.
I had to write about my impression of the escalator. While my Keurig coffee brewed my first of what has now been six cups of coffee today (about twice my average), I wrote this in my notepad…
The shuh, shuh, shuh of shuffling feet and clink of an overwhelmed escalator slowly turning accompanies the moans and groans of men and ladies in varying degrees and qualities of business casual in the most monotonous piece of music ever composed. Why did STOMP! not lull us with this dirge? There is no hi ho, hi ho, for it’s off to work we go and the muttered “f***s” and whispered “ughs” occupy lips too, far too much to leave room for whistling while we work our way two by two into our dollar bill shaded cell.
I am fortunate to like my job. So many people don’t. So many people find the cloud and the silver lining either disappears amidst the gray or becomes a convenient noose. I’ve been victim to this at times, but I try to remind myself that the lining is a swing and all this stuff I’ve accumulated are just things. Work is satisfying if I make it that way. I set goals. I want to be the best at what I do. I’m never going to be an biomedical engineer. Six months ago, I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I can however be the best project coordinator in this company, and because I’m probably not there yet, that is my silver lining; even on the days when I don’t want to get on the train.
This week I’m looking forward to dinner with Becky’s family on Saturday and church on the deck on Sunday!