Q: I love living in DC. I heart the public transit system despite its many problems. However, I can't stand those people (*cough* tourists*cough*) who block the escalator by taking up both sides or standing out-of-sync with the rest of standers. I've experienced this many times as I was rushing to get to classes. What should I do? Tap? Yell? I mean, I'd hate to bother anyone, but it is annoying. Please help!!

One (Certified Public Transport Ninja (emeritus)): I vote for a quick "excuse me," loud enough that it can't be missed, cheerful enough that the idiot in question won't form a lifelong negative opinion of the Urban Elite.  As someone who has probably been on both sides of the proverbial escalator, I encourage extra kindness and patience if the human roadblock is encumbered with one or more screaming children.  

And now for a little inside the beltway jargon: If this is more than a passing annoyance to you, I suggest you take up a cause I've LONG thought wise, but lack the energy to effectively push through the system:  I propose that D.C. prorate subway tarrifs to benefit local commuters and ease congestion by charging a punative premium for use of a paper card during rush hour.  You can't tell me the army of SmartCard commuters wouldn't line up to vote for a measure like that, it might actually make the city money, and no self-respecting vacationer should be out and about before 9 anyway, right...? 

Two (Immovable): I speak for the lowly slow poke, the seemingly deaf, the one who has more bags that she knows what to do with, the hot mess.  Yes, as you charge ahead, I block your way, inadvertently or knowingly.  So, to protect myself and my ever so delicate feelings, I recommend the following:  A friendly, "excuse me" and if that doesn't work, a tap on the shoulder accompanied by a a smile and excuse me once more. 

Three (Commuting Commentator): In honor of this question, I decided to perform a very little social experiment.  I decided not to be sheepish.  I yelled "excuse me!!" and "stand to the right!" to the masses that happened to huddle on the left side of the escalator.  And you know what, even though you know you're doing the right thing, and you're really not being unreasonable at all, folks still make you feel like a B*!<#.  The worst part is that those "folks" include the locals who are clearly just as frustrated as you are, but lack the cojones to ask people to step aside.  Take what you will from this, but I have decided to carry a Barbie doll with me at all times, which I will then throw ahead a few steps and exclaim "my baby!" (scoot forward, gather doll, repeat).  

Four (Right Defender): I don't think saying "excuse me" constitutes as bothering anyone. In my opinion, it's the easiest--and least offensive--way to let those who are blocking your path know that you'd like to get by. If it doesn't seem to work, you can always utilize a nice full body check (I learned how to do them in my ice skating days and would be honored to give you a tutorial), but I guess that only works if you're bigger than the perps....

Five (Elev-/Alig-/Escal-atorphobe): I have a lot of ideas for this one:
  • If the offenders are the innocent, wide-eyed tourists you speak of, a robust posterior-grope should shock them into the other lane of escalator traffic. Probably even a playful butt-tickle would be enough.
  • If you don't like touching people, you could make official looking laminated signs that say "STANDING RIDERS TO THE RIGHT" (mock-up below) and post it on your most frequented escalators. Just be sure that they're laminated. People don't screw with laminate.
  • Rarely do you have the problem of immovable people (or fatal caught-sweater incidents) on the stairs. Take them.
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