March 26, 2004 - Ed Rides the Escalator
As kids we would wonder if it is possible to climb up a down moving escalator without falling or getting caught by our parents. We also spent time trying to hold back the handrail to slow down the endless forward progress on the magical moving stairs. If you read a description in a book about a boy trying to stop an escalator by pushing all his weight against the squeaky rubber handrail, your literary analysis skills, honed through years of reading Steinbeck and Hemmingway, would immediately recognize the symbolism of a futile battle against time, and the inability of a child to delay his entrance into the adult world full of responsibility and waiting on hold. Ed sees escalators and it reminds him of a traumatic weekend at the Denver Airport.
Yesterday the dedicated staff of edhat.com, adults in our own right, took a ride on the 4 main escalators in town. Not really an E ticket, but hey, edhat dedication can’t always be a thrill-a-minute! And, while our instincts told us to walk or run, we did neither. We got on, turned on our stopwatch, and stood there motionless like turkeys in the rain until our feet had been lifted to the next floor. Then, we turned our stopwatch off.
Once, while two dedicated staffers shared a step on the plush extra wide Nordstrom escalator, a woman actually asked us (politely) to move to the side because she was in a hurry and “wanted to walk”. As she rushed by, we tried to inform her that the whole trip was going to take less than 30 seconds, but she was already many steps ahead, banking her extra seconds for later in the day.
All in all, we found that while escalators came in different widths and colors, they basically all move at the same speed – roughly 1 1/6 steps per second. And, it is our conjecture that the biggest determining factor in how quickly it takes to get to the top (or the bottom) is the height of the floor they are ascending/descending.
So, the faster escalator in Santa Barbara is the shortest escalator in Santa Barbara. And, in our study we found that Sears had the lowest ceiling and therefore it took only 26 steps and 23 seconds to get passengers from down in woman’s wear up to electronics. At Nordstrom and Macy’s, which were built at the same time in the same place, we found a similar number of stairs (30 and 31 respectively) and time (26.5 seconds). Robinson’s, as you may know, has a downstairs area where they sell whites, luggage, seasonal stuff and housewares. The height of the escalators coming and going there were shorter (29 stairs, 24.8 seconds) than the escalators coming and going to the higher floors (32 stairs, 27.2 seconds).
So, the winner of the 2004 Santa Barbara escalator Olympics is Sears! Congratulations to all who are responsible.
In yesterday’s contest subscribers fell evenly on all department stores, and there guesses of average time were all over the board from 8 seconds to 225 seconds. The winner of the contest was Spittle, whose selection of Sears and guess of 26 seconds was the closest to the actual average of 26.4 seconds. We are sending the winner some movie tickets. Gone in 60 Seconds would be a good flick to see.
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