Mar 26, 2008

A few thoughts on Escalators, Scrambled Eggs, Bosnian Snipers and Teenage Orgies in Parks


In most places with escalators, there are standard stairs next to them. Brilliant! Why?

This is a perfect set up for looking at all sorts of strange human behavior like: Who takes stairs? How do people look at people, who don t take stairs? Some take the escalator to be faster, some do it to talk to others, to be seen, to look at girls. There is always a traffic jam at the end of the escalator, but not at the end of normal stairs etc..

NOW, recently I was standing for 30 minutes at a beautiful escalator/stairs setting at my favorite train station. In fact it was a short escalator, good German quality, but it didn’t work.

NOW again, most people are running towards the escalator, eyes on the floor, serious face, they get to the escalator, they might even take the first step and then...they stop abruptly, sigh, and turn to use the stairs instead.

Why is that?????

I challenge you - all you brilliant, imperialist, "with my optimization methods I can solve any phenomena, just tell me where can I log-linearize this planet and push into the eternal, holy steady state" -ECONOMISTS?

I offer you three sketchy explanations, far from complete:

1. Physically, stairs are easier to walk, maybe less effort. Escalators have a strange stair height and width. I think this is partially plausible. But I made my observations at a 10 meter escalator. There must be a deeper reason.

2. Emotionally, neurobiological etc. it feels awkward to walk on. We expect escalators to be moving. In fact we are very convinced about that. If they don t, our brain is irritated. Our usual automatic behavior, associations, feelings, perception of the world are mixed up. We are lost.
So instead of trying something innovative, we take the classic stairs. And that’s why there are always back up stairs next to escalators.
Note, this feeling is intensified by point 1., these standard stripe patterns and the hollow sound of escalator stairs. I can assure you. I walked up and down 30 times. It does feel peculiar 28 times. Believe me. It s a new stair experience. You really have to get used to it. By the way, for me the pure effort is only marginally higher than using normal stairs. And the greatest thing. You kind of feel drunk and shaky the first times! Try it!

3. Socially, escalators have been invented NOT to walk. In some countries and settings like shopping malls, you get a strange look, when you walk on them. This again causes a feeling of awkwardness.

A propos, I have brilliant controlled experiment to test any of these explanations. Next time at the airport, keep your eyes open for these business people conveyor belts, or endless treadmills. Make them stop and see what happens. For instance, the effort argument can be checked.

Now some serious stuff!

Scrambled Eggs

Why do people use oil, or butter to fry scrambled eggs? Instead put a table spoon of water in the really hot pan. Then do the usual scrambling. These will be your best eggs ever! Heavenly, moist texture. And guys! your girlfriends will be impressed by your fat free cooking. Don’t forget the bacon though. I think this is a real cooking revolution. I read that in some science fiction novel, which I don’t remember the title of.

I think we culturally, historically, socially associate butter and pans, not water and pans. Economically, we would save. I asked my grandparents, but even in war times they would never use water. Water, are you kidding me? It’s like butter and bread, pasta and tomatoes, Rigot and rats...classic combinations.

Bosnian Snipers

Me too, I remember landing under sniper fire in Geneva once....

What is the rationale behind Clinton lying that stupidly? Tell me, please!! Certainly she is not stupid....I can offer no explanation. My observation is that people tend to remember, what did not happen. Because what normally happens is normal. Watching all these exciting action movies and so on, you, me, and Clinton think life is too boring. Then unconsciously you integrate cool stuff, like Bosnian snipers, extraterrestrials, drug dealers, pink bunny suites and so on. It’s human, even economists do it.

An Increase of Teenage Orgies in Chile’s Parks

Salvi told me about this. I have no clue about it. This was just to attract some cheap attention.

By the way, all you macro guys: This is a perfect recipe to finally make people to read your abstracts and papers. Put a title like: "Real Wage Rigidities, Oil Shocks and Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll in a New Keynesian Model"


Pierre-Louis said...

What's this phenomenon going on in Chilean parks? Orgies? What's the story here Dany? or Salvi?

Dany said...

how do you know about the crazy orgies?? I thought was just a local new. It's true, teens are getting crazy. They meet in parks to drink hard cheap alcohol smoke pots and kiss, touch and suck whoever is around. They are divided in diverse urban tribes usually associated with japanimations as pokemon or others, and they look like Japanese cartoons.
My explanation is more political and sociological than based in economics, and could be as bias as Hillary’s memories. We have the Pinochet until 1990, 17 years of repression and lack of liberties. My parent’s generation had no parties, social activities or crazy artistic movements. With the return of the democracy, we have freedom and libertinage, something similar to what happen in Spain after Franco (if not, ask Almodovar). But, I would call my generation “bohemians”, in the sense that we lived the last times of the dictatorship and that was too close to us that we know the value of freedom. We drink and go crazy, but also care about society (sounds a justification, but the blog is free writing!).
But for the new generation, this is history, and all they know is about the consumerist and selfish new society created with the “Chilean economic miracle”. As a response they are nihilist, they prefer to alienate than to go shopping or stay at home waiting for a parents that work too much to take care of them. I’m afraid of this phenomenon, we are becoming a bit gringos in that sense. But the good thing is that also there is a cultural explosion, in music, art, cooking, ideas, internationalization, etc. With democracy, globalization and the supposedly economic success society is getting complex……. Viva Chile mierda!!!!!

Cam said...

I can give a big thumbs up to using water in the pan for making the best scrambled eggs ever.

And as a proud (half) Welshman, I can confirm that bacon is an absolutely essential ingredient of any good 'fry up' - all that yummy and nutritious bacon fat gives adds a certain je ne sais quoi.

Ever since the Kofi Annan lecture the other week, where I found out that Sergio Vieira de Mello's doctoral thesis was called 'Civitas Maximus' (the 'supreme state', for all those Latin buffs out there), I've been looking for ways to 'sex up' my proposed thesis title. Thanks Henri for the tips.