Thursday, 10 February 2011

Is it just me? Escalators = Panic!

I was enjoying the journey and was quite relaxed on the train from Norwich to London. I'd psyched myself up for the worst part, or so I thought until I got there. I only had to hop from Stratford to London Bridge, it's been a long time since I used the Underground, first thing I noticed was it smells different, it's been modernised just a bit since I was last there, and is it me or are the trains faster?
The worst part of it all though is the escalators, they are huge! Just the thought of them sends my stomach turning and my nerves shaking. Totally irrational I know, but I can't help it.
I got off my train and busied myself with the tube map to delay the unavoidable, my Son was getting impatient pointing out the easy colour codes and obvious route plan and I realised I just had to grit my teeth and get on with it.
As I approached the escalator I dithered as usual trying to get my step just right, knowing if my foot wasn't flat on the step I'd get into an even bigger panic, I watched the commuters in front of me glide onto the moving stairs with ease and tried to compose myself and step on with the same look of confidence and non concern.
I failed!
Hand on moving rail first, bring foot over at same time.. no, my hand has moved up the rail and my feet have taken on a mind of their own and are staying firmly on the solid floor, I break into a sweat and order my feet to move while my Son is giggling like an idiot behind me, really not helping.
I feel the impatient queue behind me and with a rush of adrenalin get my foot on the step and drag myself to catch up with my hand.
It's then I realise I'm on the wrong side, carrying a bag in my right hand, I'd automatically fixed myself to the left side of the escalator without thinking, knowing if I intend to stay firmly on one step I have to move over to the left, to allow other people to casually fly up the right hand side.
So, nerves shattered, I try to release my tight grip from the right hand rail and move over to the left, it takes just a second but stuck in a moment of pure fear it feels like it takes forever, heart thumping, body shaking, I now feel a little more secure as a rush of disapproving tuts from other passengers speed past  after being held up by my blind panic.

My darling Son feels my fear, and as we are halfway up giggles "look behind you Mum"
I carefully glance over my shoulder behind me as I see the floor getting further away and feel sick, he seems to find this even more amusing and just for the hell of it gives me a poke in the back and laughs out loud as I stifle a terrified squeak!

I try to pretend I'm fine and have just a couple of seconds before I have to do the whole silly hand foot coordination dance again as I step off, I brace myself, carefully watch the speed and try to step off in one easy movement, but no it's never easy, I do a sort of leap and pigeon step off and try to look cool and casual, I obviously didn't do very well because my offspring is still behind me sniggering, but I feel quite pleased, my first trip to London via rail in years and I have survived the escalator.

Or so I thought, not another one, but two more to go!
Has it sunk? I swear there was only one many years ago?
With the same palaver and ritual as before I face the next two in more of less the exact same manner I did the first, I cannot tell you the sheer joy I felt at seeing real daylight knowing I had finally reached ground level and that was it, no more moving stairs from hell.

For a few days I forgot I had yet to make the journey home.....

This was worse, the true horror hit me as I got to the Underground, this time I had to go down and face the whole hugeness horror full on and even worse, this time I had another bag with me.
I try yet again to delay the inevitable by studying the tube map like a confused tourist, when in reality I was trying to see if there was another route... any other route would do!
There wasn't, it had to be done, so I brace myself, stomach churning, knowing not only did I have to face going down (for some reason, it's even scarier than going up) but this time I had two bags, and it was busier!

I make a mental note to ensure I step on the right side so I can cling on for dear life the whole way as I near the steps, I swing one bag over my left shoulder and carry the other in my left hand as I make my approach.
I dry my sweaty right palm on my jeans and take a deep breathe trying to ignore the growing crowds of people behind me as I grasp the moving rail, swing my foot and pray I've got the rhythm right as my foot lands on the flat moving surface.
That's fine, but as I carefully rest the bag on the right hand side, the steps start to drop and I realise my foot isn't fully on the step and I do a little shuffle to make myself more secure.
Remembering my Son and his playful pokes the last time, I whisper to him "Do not touch me" as I try to think of anything but where I am as I descend into the depths of my own personal hell.
He's still finding the whole thing highly amusing and I suppose I should be pleased my fear hasn't been passed onto him.
I breathe slowly and deeply, reminding myself it's almost over as I move mechanically down clinging on for dear life as other people nudge me on their way past when I realise I've almost made it, solid ground is within my reach and I get ready for the mad coordinated shuffle as the whole ground control thing becomes mine again, but shock horror!
The bag I'd rested beside me gets stuck in the little grooves on the elevator step, this shoots adrenalin through me all over again as I yank the bag in a panic and nearly smack the person in front of me with it!
Heart racing, controlled slow breathing I find and board my train and try to put this whole silly episode into perspective.

I'll be doing it all over again soon, and each time I will psyche myself up so I'm in high panic mode before I get there and even worse when I arrive.
Stupidly it seems to remove all logic from my brain, I was still in a fluster when my train came to my station, because this one didn't have automatic doors, I stood at the doorway puzzled.
There was no handle, no button to push and my poor brain had done as much thinking as it could for one day on the escalators, so I stand there, gormless wondering how I'm supposed to get off this train.
Son is still giggling, I'm still in a panic and people behind me are sighing and tutting, so I leave that door and escape from one that's already open.
Puzzled, I look back and realise I just had to open the window and release the door handle...

Why do we have these silly phobias? How can a metal moving stairway turn a rational person into a nervous wreck? And why do loved ones find it so hilarious?

Oh it's good to be home! :o)