For the most part Montrealers are friendly, law abiding citizens and we have a nifty police force made up of street savvy officers (who have a flair for camo but not much of a sense of humour) to keep us from getting too out of line. But, in a city where we are just trying to get along as we move from point a to point b, there are more than just written laws that we must abide by. There are unwritten rules that as Montrealers we must learn and adapt to over time.
My favourite unwritten rule is a little thing I like to call Keep Right on the Effing Escalator. Busy Montrealers have all been in this predicament: we are coming up out of the packed metro, or shopping in a busy department store, or we’re in any building that houses an escalator and we want to get to another floor quickly but the thing is blocked on both sides by people who have no idea that in Montreal the left side of the escalator, whether you are going up or down, should be left clear at all times.
If you are new to Montreal, or not, here’s a good piece of advice. If you are about to embark upon an escalator and don’t feel like climbing the steps; stay to right, squeeze in and don’t block the other side. It’s pretty simple. If you are two or more and you don’t feel like walking, get on one at a time in single file and put your bags in front of you. Chatting this way is fun and injury free. Doing this during your seconds-long ride of a lifetime will be a pleasant experience for everyone. It will be especially pleasant for the impatient Montrealers who may not have anywhere in particular to be, but they still need to move fast.
If you are in the way, you’re likely to get bumped by a bag, a shoulder or at the very least endure some heavy, impatient, nostril-flared breathing from the people you’re unknowingly blocking. Be considerate to those who may need to be somewhere more quickly than you and you won’t get hurt. Courtesy begets courtesy but absentmindedness could get you pushed out of the way. With that being said, we sometimes have to pay our dues for wanting to get past you at all cost. Our penance for impatience is sometimes falling and tripping up escalator as we stomp past you and this you can enjoy as a win. The shame of defeat and the blood on our shins (and our brand new pair of white slacks) is the price we have to pay.
I am the first to admit yelling a perfectly passive aggressive, teeth grinding “excuse-moi” at the daft twat in front of me who has suddenly stopped in the escalator for no apparent reason. I huff, I puff and I join the growing line of others who wobble like webbles, looking to see how many obstacles we have in front of us as we try to map out the quickest way around them. The seconds wasted behind the person who just-right-now feels like admiring the space around them while the last couple of steps collapse into the floor in front of them could mean the difference between life and death. There’s also the couple of tourists who stand side by side on the escalator looking at a large unfolded map (in 2017!!!) or the couple with the child who insists on walking up the escalator while it’s going down. They stand there cheering it on like it just got tens at the Olympics.
No one is off limits from a passive aggressive glare of death so, if you’re one of (but not limited to) these people, consider yourself warned; Montrealers are friendly people, but stay to the right on the effing escalator.