Friday, May 12, 2006

Stairway to Heaven

A year ago when we first arrived we stayed in a modern, new hotel until our apartment was ready for us to move in. The hotel has a small shopping area and in the evening families fill the cafes both inside and out. Mothers, fathers, aunties, and uncles sit and drink their thimble-sized cups of spresso while the kiddies run around until their energy wanes. It's a classy place and the children are often dressed in their best outfits, just like their mothers. I loved to watch them run around on the smooth floors, stop and look at their reflections in the shiny windows, and run off again, giggling with their friends like children the world over.

In the center of the shopping area are two rather long escalators, the only way up to the second level. The children would approach it with curiousity and caution. For you see (as far as I know), it was the only escalator in the country. Imagine being a child and watching these long, silver, moving stairs going up and down, moving quickly, never stopping.

Do you remember the first time you had to use an escalator? I don't, but I have never felt completely comfortable with them. I struggled to contain my personal fears back in Bucharest when I had to use the decrepit escalators in the old state run department stores. No lights, missing escalator stairs(!), handrails that didn't move at the same rate as the escalator, and holes in the floors at the landing turned it into a very creepy experience. When the Albanian children approached the escalator I could identify with the fear on their faces.

They'd slowly move toward it and watch the adults hop on and move off towards the stars, but most were too afraid to try it themselves. Mom or dad would run over and take them by the hand and pull them to the elevator. The kids pulled back and shrieked with fear. But of course, in this situation the stronger of the two always wins. And so the children would be taken in tow and forced to ride the metallic monster. Some kept on their feet, though they were shivering with fright, and some fell to the ground as their legs gave out. The stairs kept moving and suddenly they'd be at the top (or bottom) and the dreaded end of the ride. Often arms would be yanked and the children were carried back to solid ground. As soon as the colour came back to their cheeks and they caught their breath, shrieks of "again- again" would echo through the air. But this time the children refused the hands of their parents, confident that they could do it alone. And they usually did.

But even more amusing was watching the women in stillettos who, approaching the escalator, also had to face their greatest fears.

15 comments:

Ginnie said...

Ohhhh, I love the symbolism of this. You have captured the total essence of a Stairway to Heaven, indeed. I guess "it" has frightened all of us at some point in our life but when you stop to think of it (like in your wonderful stroy), it really isn't so frightening after all, is it!

hockeyman said...

My first recollection of escallators was at the old Eaton's store in Downtown Toronto...The escallators seeemed ancient, the edges showing the grease and grit and the the steps seemed to be the extra rugged....Its funny how when you are a little kid riding an escallor is a big deal and today in north america you ride them without thinking...

April said...

i really like those moving walkways they have at airports. do they have them there? if you're in a hurry, you just hop on and run or walk. it makes it feel like you are coasting through the terminal. they are the friendlier, more gentle version of escalators.

April said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
traveller one said...

Aha... my North American friends are awake :)
Ginnie... it is great symbolism! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Hockeyman.. I too remember those escalators at Eatons!
April... well the airport here in Tirana doesn't even have a set of stairs yet! But those moving sidewalks are leg savers when you're in one of those immense airports!

Romerican said...

I was probably unsteady first time or two on an escalator, but I don't specifically recall. In Romania, the only escalators I've ridden were from the metro... and I'll be sure to doublecheck should I ever find myself inside a shopping mall in Bucuresti, staring down the barrel of a metal monster. That sounded horrid!

Honestly, what scares me here in Romania are the elevators. Forever breaking, will you be trapped over night the next time?

traveller one said...

Romerican... I'm trying to remember the name of the shops with these old escalators- they're near Unirii. Yeah elevators are far worse in Romania!! Scary!

Milena said...

My first time on an escalator was inside a mall in Israel when I was probabily 8. I remember it clearly. My uncle taught me what to do and I did it so breavely that they (the adults) talked about it all day long. I felt so proud of myself..
However, regarding the women in stilettos, in Tirana they really are amazing and wouldn't give up those heels even if they had to go climbing. ;P

traveller one said...

Milena- I know! I've seen them hiking in those shoes. I feel like such a liberated lady when I run around town in my flat (and safe) sandals!

The SeaWitch said...

I am 39 years old and to THIS day, I still have nightmares about escalators since my father was always telling me stories about kids who had the toes pulled of by them. Normally, those horror stories would have lost their impact on me as I grew older but as fate would have it, a classmate in my junior high school was missing his big toe after his foot was caught in the escalator at Mic Mac Mall. There isn't a time I'm on the escalator that I don't think about Andy his missing big toe. Of course, it doesn't stop me from getting on them...I just make sure I pay attention when it's time to get off one.

Cynthia Rae said...

Too funny. When I was a little kid, I got my shoe string caught at the end of the escalator. My Dad (who was in front on me) jumped off and kept walking, not noticing that I was being eaten alive by the moving steps. Some how I managed to free myself, but thus began my fear of escalators.

On a happy note, I am over it now. heheheh!
Cyn

traveller one said...

Seawitch... MY GOSH... that gives me the heeby geebees!
Cynthia Rae... from now on I'll always check my shoe laces before approaching the dreaded escalator!

hockeyman said...

seawitch..... almost anything weird can happen in Dartmouth... that being said I love the way locals refer to the Micmac Mall... they say it as one word micmacmall that was the first thing I thought of when I read your comment

traveller one said...

micmacmall is really the perfect name for a Canadian mall!

Yakima_Gulag said...

my daughter was on a field trip and a kid got caught in the escalator, he broke his ankle, she was wearing the little pair of cowboy boots I'd bought her a month before, and one boot was mangled but the boot saved her foot from even being scratched. This was in San Francisco and it was not an old decrepit escalator.
I think the injured kid moved wrong and got caughtr.
Anyway I learned from this that field trips were something I should go on too! and cowboy boots are your friend!
:)