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Montrealers: Those Who Stand on Metro Escalators (Part II); Those Who Drive

Posted by Trixie / October 2, 2006

S611122_1.jpg[St. Laurent, February 1952; STM photographic archives. ~I wonder, when did all the honking start?]

A little while ago I posted some of my frustrations with the perplexing tendency of Montrealers to stand still and spread out on the metro escalators, so that the left lane is blocked for those who want to actually walk up instead of just taking a leisurely ride. What more could possibly be said on this insignificant topic, one might ask?

Well, this brings to mind an Oscar Wilde quote—“Only superficial people talk about deep things.” And, thus, taking his wise words under advisement, I am going to unabashedly expand on this admittedly trivial rant.

The reason I find this standing-and-blocking escalator behaviour particularly baffling is because it stands in such relief against the phenomenon of the infamous aggressive Montreal driver. Can you imagine these citizens, if encased in vehicles and set upon the road, allowing anyone or anything to block their path for even a moment?

For when it comes to the Escalator Blocker, sure, you can just ask them to let you pass, but usually it’s not just one or two people in front of you who can easily be dispensed with, but a whole line of people lounging freely against both sides. I always recognize a few others like me, others obviously trapped in stasis and twitching impatiently, restless to get a move on. But it seems that most Montrealers entering or departing the metro station are too polite or just couldn’t be bothered to hurry up these stand-abouts, or even to just make them move to the side.

And so, are Montrealers who take public transportation an entirely different breed from those who drive? Because it seems to me that once a Montrealer is driving, the slightest delay will a raise a powerful ruckus.

For it is known that Montreal drivers—like no other drivers that I have ever witnessed, at least, and that includes New York cabbies—will honk with the most miniscule provocation. And honk and honk and honk. Montrealers honk religiously, with wild abandon, with hysteria, with self-righteous passion; they honk as though their self-respect, their very civic pride depended upon it, as though honking might in itself become a magical incantation that could deliver one from heavy traffic, fitful driving, construction-based road blocks—perhaps even from the tyranny of the temporal-spatial realm altogether.

I recently witnessed a junk-box little hatchback honking furiously behind a mighty four-by-four because the truck, instead of making a rapid right turn, had committed the folly of waiting for a woman—with toddlers and stroller in tow—to cross the intersection. Now, coming from Alberta, I couldn’t help but wonder how the fellow in the unassuming little car had the nerve. Back in Alberta, that would be like inviting the driver of the truck to come after you and your vehicle with a lead pipe or baseball bat or some other tough-guy item with injurious potential.

I guess that the hatchback driver has noticed that in Montreal the driver of a pick-up truck is more likely to be a Hasidic man than a redneck. But even so. I just have to wonder: In Montreal is there simply no cross-over between the two realms, that is of public-transportation-user and driver?

And if there is, then what is it that makes otherwise meek, unassuming and unhurried Montrealers (or at least that’s the assumed mode when traveling upon metro escalators) turn into horn-wielding maniacs once they are behind the wheel?

Whew. Musing on such insignificant questions is surprisingly satisfying.
I like to think that Mr. Wilde would be finding me, in all my trivial preoccupation, utterly fascinating right now...



Dave / October 2, 2006 at 10:59 am
Is it me, or does it seem that St Laurent is two directions in the photo?
J Mac / October 2, 2006 at 11:45 am
Totally. I fact, I reckon that's southbound traffic in the foreground -- you can see the Cooper Building (near Duluth) in the background.
Christopher DeWolf / October 3, 2006 at 03:36 am
st laurent (and st urbain too, naturally) was a two-way street until the early 1970s. honestly i think it would be better if the cars could still drive in both directions. it would make it feel more like the main and less like an escape route to laval.

anyway, montreal metro riders are surprisingly meek. in many other cities people pretty much jump over one another to get a spot on the train. and of course in london "stand on the right" is both an official rule and a life lesson for anyone who doesn't wish to be trampled to death.

oh, and montrealers are way too tolerant of public transit mishaps. when i was in hong kong last summer, a rush hour subway train was three minutes late and it was on the news. on the news! it was practically cause for a civil uprising.
serah-marie / October 4, 2006 at 12:13 am
I also get very frustrated with the not staying to the left. I lived in NYC, were you get yelled at for that kind of behavior, and it was annoying when I got back to this city. Since then though, I've noticed that when it get really really busy, like rush hour at Berri, people do follow the rule, most of the time. I think it has to do with volume (ie when there are lots of people moving, standing right behind them, they shove over), and Mtl metro are just not as crowded. But maybe I think about this too much.
golu dolls / March 25, 2019 at 05:39 am
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Kanchipuram sarees / March 25, 2019 at 05:39 am
nice post

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