I had just returned my rental car at SFO and was approaching the 3 story escalator that extends from the first floor car rental center to the top level where the “air trains” take passengers to the airport. I turned and took care stepping onto the long moving device. I hate navigating escalators with a suitcase. As I was getting safely on the step with my roller board on the step behind me, I heard a huge commotion and looked up in horror.
A very large woman, about 10 -15 steps ahead of me on the escalator, lost her balance and fell backward. Her travel companion stepped to the side to allow her to fall all the way to the bottom of the 3 story escalator and was yelling at her, “Get up!”
“I can’t! I can’t!” she replied with fear in her voice as she helplessly flailed about.
She was on her back with her feet toward the top of the escalator and her head pointed to the bottom. I braced myself thinking she and her large suitcase, which had also fallen backward, were going to come tumbling to the bottom of the escalator as we all continued to ride it up. Amazingly, she didn’t flip heels over head down the full length of the escalator. I was glad for that because I didn’t think that I, even braced for the likelihood of trying to keep her from going to the bottom, could have stopped her and feared she would cause me to fall and go down as well. This escalator is steep and very long.
Apparently the sheer girth of her body lying flat on her back prevented her from tumbling down. Or, were her clothes stuck in the escalator somehow?1 I was shocked that her travel companion, presumably her husband, did nothing to keep her from tumbling down. He just stood to the side to give her plenty of space to fall if she did.
We all had plenty of time to think about what was happening as the ride to the 3rd floor takes some time. Worried her clothes were caught in the mechanism, or that she would be harmed by the mechanics of the moving device once she reached the top, a young man just ahead of them ran up the remaining steps and found the emergency shut off button. When she arrived at the top, still sprawled out on her back, he shut off the escalator.
Still lying on her back, still unable to sit up, but at least on the level series of final steps, she squirmed her way off the escalator with the young man pulling her by her legs as I came walking up about 10 now non-moving steps. The young man assisted her in sitting up. Her companion did nothing but stand there. Perhaps he was in bad health? Perhaps he didn’t care.
Flabbergasted, she remained seated on the floor as I got to her. She looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry.”
“Are you OK is all that matters.” I said
“Yes. Yes, I’m alright.”
She seemed unharmed by the harrowing experience and certainly will always have a good story to tell her friends. Not wanting to cause her any further embarrassment, I went on to the air train which was just arriving.
Escalators are troublesome devices. We need them, but they have always struck me as dangerous. These exceptionally long, three-story escalators are simply unsafe. At her age, size, and the size of her large suitcase, she should have taken the elevator. Now that I am getting older and less sure-footed, I take great care to be “well placed” on the steps with my bag. When I travel with anything more than one roller board, I always use the elevator.
Thankfully, her hair did not get caught in the steps. ↩