Friday, October 12, 2007

The selfish [and possibly a wee bit lazy] gene - Today's travel digest (2 of 10)


Not too long ago, “people movers” were called “feet”. Though many other mammals scurry about on four, Darwin, Dawkins, Mendel, the double helix and the gang voted unanimously that a pair is enough, provided it is accompanied by some modicum of wit.

Well, several witty bipeds apparently got together and decided that the few hundred meters from the Atlanta airport’s international arrival gate to customs was too far for two feet, and they created a moving sidewalk. It transports those standing on it at ~3mph, about the speed of a Sunday stroll.

A moving sidewalk. (

At the end of the airport's moving sidewalk there they engineered an escalator, a device that preceded "moving sidewalks" and “people movers” by several years. (Climbing stairs, after all, requires more exertion than walking.) The interesting thing about these particular pre-airport-customs escalators was this: There were no accompanying stairs.

My only option for getting from level one to level two was to plant my two feet on the motorized metal platform and wait. (Strange that escalator actually means "one that increases intensity.")

Near the top of the escalator, I ensured that my shoe laces were free so that I would not get sucked into the metallic bowels of the device. After my safe dismount, I noted that there was no nearby moving sidewalk, so I walked to the adjacent men’s room on my own. With alternating feet, I approached the sink to wash my face. When I arrived, I found a faucet without a handle, a soap squirter without a button, and paper towel dispenser without a lever. To my astonishment, thanks to motion detectors, I was able to wash my hands with zero twisting, pushing or pulling.

Like my legs, my arms and opposing thumbs suddenly seemed obsolete.

I never once had that feeling in Swaziland.

Here in the USA, automated effortlessness abounds. Even the security personnel monitoring the passport verification process were riding the thing pictured below. I don't even know what the machine is called...but the riders were not wearing helmets.

If we are no longer going to use our legs and arms, we can at least protect North America's brains until they too are eclipsed by supercomputers.

Only kidding, of course.


Next in this series: why saying hello is a unprofitable waste of time.


At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ryan- I think you are becoming a swazi! ;-)


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